Australian federal election campaign, 2010

Senator Bob Brown and Richard Di Natale
Senator Bob Brown and Richard Di Natale

The five-week Australian federal election campaign, 2010 formally commenced when Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced on Saturday 17 July 2010 that the 2010 Australian federal election would be held on Saturday 21 August 2010.[1]

Key campaign issues defined and opening statements from party leaders

Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Opposition leader Tony Abbott both stated that the economy, border protection and global warming (current climate change) are key issues issues for the campaign.[1]

“Moving forward” was a theme of Julia Gillard’s address in announcing the election.[2] “Under my leadership, we will move forward, we’ll move forward together with a sustainable Australia; a stronger economy; Budgets in surplus and world-class health and education services and other essential services that hard-working Australians and their families rely on,” she said.

Tony Abbott accused the Labor government of “spin” and “incompetence” at his election campaign launch in Brisbane. “Moving forward is utterly content-free,” Mr Abbott said. “The reason why she is desperate to talk about the future is because Julia Gillard’s recent past is so littered with failures, including the political corpse of an elected prime minister.”[3]

Senator Bob Brown and Greens candidate Richard Di Natale, during the 2010 election campaign.

Australian Greens Leader Senator Bob Brown criticised both Labor and the Coalition for being light on policy and heavy on vilification in their early election press conferences. Senator Brown said both parties had “fallen at the first hurdle” by ignoring the issue of a carbon price. Brown claimed, “Julia Gillard has put it off to the never-never and Tony Abbott has said no, not ever. That’s a failure.”[4]Tony Abbott subsequently ruled out a price on carbon in Australia if the Coalition wins Government and stated that he opposes a carbon tax and an emissions trading scheme.[5]

Both Labor and the Coalition have promised to offset any new spending commitments announced during the election campaign with budget cutbacks.[6]

Abbott is a Catholic and Gillard is an atheist, which has caused discussion in the media and public.[7][8]

Early polls put Labor ahead

The first opinion poll of the 2010 election campaign, the Galaxy poll published in News Limited papers on 18 July 2010, showed Labor leading the Coalition after preferences by 52 to 48. The Liberal primary vote was at 42 per cent, with Labor is below that on 39 per cent and the Greens on 13 per cent. It is the Greens preferences that give Labor its lead over the Coalition. Julia Gillard had a 23 point lead over Tony Abbott as preferred prime minister.[9]

Labor–Greens preference deal

The Greens struck a preferences deal with Labor. Labor will direct its Senate preferences to the Greens, while the Greens will direct preferences to the ALP in more than 50 key/marginal Lower House seats.[10][11] Six marginal seats have been excluded from the deal: Blair, Dawson, Gilmore, Herbert, Lindsay and Sturt.[12]

Julia Gillard and Bob Brown both stated they were not directly involved in the deal. Bob Brown also stated that people had the right to vote as they wished, and described preference arrangements as a “necessary evil”.[13]

Senator Fiona Nash from the National Party criticised the preference deal, stating that “the Greens will be running the country if the party wins the balance of power in the Senate”.[14]

Workplace relations

Julia Gillard criticised Tony Abbott’s statement that the Coalition would not change Labor’s Fair Work legislation in its first term if it was elected to government, and dismissed his pledge that a Coalition government would not reintroduce the WorkChoices industrial relations system[15]

Tony Abbott was then criticised for softening his commitment to not change Labor’s Fair Work Act legislation after he stated on talkback radio that “I can’t give an absolute guarantee about every single aspect of workplace relations.”[16] Later that day Abbott reiterated that Workchoices was “dead, buried and cremated”.[17]

On Day 5–21 July 2010, Labor says the Coalition’s pledge to save $25 million would break their promise never to change the Fair Work Act. Labor claims by forcing unions to reimburse the Australian Electoral Commission for the cost of union ballots would involve a change to the Act. Constitutional law expert Dr Andrew Lynch of the University of New South Wales’s says, “That’s not technically a change to the Fair Work Act” as Labor claims, although he goes on to say, “… but it does bring about an alteration.”[18][19]

Campaigning suspended for a soldier’s funeral

Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott agreed to suspend election campaign hostilities on Thursday July 22, 2010 for the funeral of soldier Nathan Bewes who was killed in Afghanistan.[20]

Disendorsed and resigning candidates

In May the Liberal National Party’s disendorsed sitting member Michael Johnson following allegations he was attempting to broker a coal deal which would have seen him pocket a $12 million commission. Johnson has decided to stand as an independent for Ryan. The LNP have not taken these allegations to the police. [21]

On July 23, Labor’s controversial candidate for Flinders, Adrian Schonfelder, resigned claiming a car accident meant he would be unable to work full-time on the campaign. He had claimed Opposition Leader Tony Abbott’s promotion of conservative and religious views were driving people to suicide.[22]

On July 25, David Barker, the Liberal candidate for the western Sydney seat of Chifley was axed. Barker was reported to have used his Facebook page to accuse Labor of bringing Australia closer to a Muslim country.[23] Barker told the ABC “…I don’t know if we want at this stage in Australian politics a Muslim in the Parliament and an atheist running the Government”.[24] 

While Mr Barker describes himself as “a man of strong Christian faith”, his Labor opponent Ed Husic describes himself as a non-practising Muslim. Mr Barker was replaced as the Liberal candidate by Venus Priest, a 41-year-old small businesswoman with strong Filipino community ties.

On August 9, Family First disendorsed a city-based accountant after revelations he was denouncing many of the party’s conservative values. David Barrow, says he may now align himself with the Australian Sex Party.[25]

Leaders Debate

Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott had a leaders’ debate on July 24, the debate held at the National Press Club and scheduled before the final of the Tens Networks MasterChef. Seven Network’s used Polliegraph monitoring the audience’s reaction.

Ms Gillard clearly performed better among women, while Opposition Leader Tony Abbott performed better among men. The ALP won 53 per cent of the vote ahead of the coalition during the one-hour debate, which mostly swung on gender lines. The Nine Network had two worms , a pink one for women and blue for men, the worms showed women favoured Ms Gillard over Mr Abbott. The Nine Network’s debate worms put Ms Gillard well ahead of Mr Abbott in the final analysis of Sunday night’s leaders’ debate, although Nine’s political commentator Laurie Oakes thought Abbott won. [26]

Citizens Assembly

Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced that a re-elected Labor government would form a new “citizens’ assembly” for climate change advice. The citizens’ assembly, consisting of 100-200 volunteers will gauge feeling of the community on its attitude towards putting a price on carbon, and feed it back to the Government. The government would then hand pick a committee of scientists to advise the citizens’ assembly on climate change.[27]

Cabinet Leaks

  • Julia Gillard went back on her deal to let Rudd stay on for a couple more months to see if he could turn around the polls.[28]
  • Rudd has been sounded out for a top job in the United Nations, working on climate change.[29]
  • Gillard went back on an offer which Rudd “understood” meant he’d be appointed straight away to another Cabinet ministry.[30]
  • A confidential diplomatic cable from the New Zealand high commission in Canberra to the New Zealand government, based on a briefing based on “those close to the conversation which occurred between the Prime Minister and Kevin Rudd MP on Sunday (June 27)” claims Rudd “has apparently conveniently forgotten that the ‘deal’ struck in advance of the leadership spill was that he would stand down immediately.[30]
  • Rudd skipped meetings of the powerful National Security Committee, which includes the heads of defence and spy agencies and discusses security threats, and even sent a 31-year-old staffer to fill in for him.[31]
  • Gillard opposed Rudd’s parental leave scheme in Cabinet and questioned giving more cash to pensioners on the grounds that they were Coalition voters.[32]
  • Gillard also skipped meetings of the powerful National Security Committee, she sent a former bodyguard to attend highly sensitive security meetings on her behalf.[33]
  • Gillard did not consult Cabinet before announcing that Labor would form a citizens’ assembly to consult on climate change.[34]
  • Gillard did not support paid parental leave or an increase to the age pension

Rudd admitted to Hospital

Former prime minister Kevin Rudd was admitted to hospital on Friday July 30, to have his gall bladder removed. Rudd said he would be willing to campaign throughout Queensland once he had recovered.

The media focus on Mr Rudd’s has done nothing to dampen the feeling of unease in the electorate over the way he was replaced as prime minister. [35]

The “real” Julia

After two weeks of campaigning and failing support in the opinion polls, the Prime Minister has indicated she will personally take charge of her campaign that has forced her to stick to a script that has not allowed her to be herself.

“It’s time for me to make sure the real Julia is well and truly on display, so I’m going to step up and take personal charge of what we do in the campaign from this point. “I’m going to discard all of that campaign advice and professional or common wisdom and just go for it. “I’m the Prime Minister, I’m the leader of the party and I obviously take responsibility. It’s about me.” [36]


The Australian Newspoll results have shown that the government could lose enough seats in NSW and Queensland alone to lose the election.[37] This followed a Galaxy poll, on the first weekend of August, which had the government trailing 48 to 52% on two party preferred. A Nielsen poll, released on August 6, 2010, showed that the government was trailing on two party preferred 49 to 51%.[38]

In the latest Nielsen opinion poll, published in Fairfax newspaper on 14 August 2010, had Labor in an election-winning position leading the Coalition 53 per cent to 47 per cent on a two-party preferred basis.

A Newspoll, in The Australian newspaper, shows the Coalition is set to win a number of seats in the states of NSW and Queensland, but not enough to win government. The Newspoll figures suggest Labor could lose up to 12 marginal seats in the northern states, but is still positioned to win the 2010 election by winning Coalition seats in Victoria.[39]


At the election, Labor and the Coalition each won 72 seats, four short of the requirement to form a majority government, resulting in the first hung parliament[40] since the 1940 election.[41]

On the crossbench, four independent members, one member of the National Party of Western Australia and one member of the Australian Greens hold the balance of power in the House of Representatives.[42][43] On Tuesday, 7 September 2010, it was announced that the Labor Party would be returned as a minority coalition government with the support of three Independent members and one Greens member.

Nicola Roxon, Bob Brown and Joe Hockey with Jon Faine on ABC 774 radio on location at Degraves Street, Melbourne


  1. Battlelines drawn for August 21 pollABC, Jul 17, 2010
  2. the leaders’ first day of campaigning unfolded, James Campbell, Sunday Herald Sun, July 18, 2010
  3. Abbott whistles winds of change, Simon Kearney, The Sunday Telegraph, July 18, 2010
  4. Coalition light on policy, says Greens Leader Bob Brown, James Massola, The Australian, July 17, 2010
  5. Abbott says no to carbon price,ABC, Jul 18, 2010
  6. Labor, Coalition look to no-frills campaign, Susan McDonald, ABC, Jul 19, 2010
  7. Poll puts Labor ahead as campaign beginsABC, July 18, 2010
  8. Labor, Greens seal preferences dealABC – Emma Rodgers, 19 July 2010
  9. Gillard denies behind-the-scenes deal with GreensABC, 20 July 2010
  10. Australian Greens opt out of national Labor preference deal – Mark Kenny, The Advertiser, 20 July 2010
  11. Greens do a deal on preferences, Carol Nader, The Age, July 20, 2010
  12. Nationals say Greens will ‘run the country’ABC, Jul 19, 2010
  13. Gillard dismisses Abbott’s WorkChoices pledge, Mark Davis, Sydney Morning Herald, July 17, 2010
  14. Abbott stumbles on IR changes, ABC, July 19, 2010
  15. Abbott repeats WorkChoices mantra, ABC, July 19, 2010
  16. Law expert backs Abbott in IR tussle, Emma Rodgers, Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), June 27, 2010
  17. ‘Hockey grilled on IR stance’ (Transcript) Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) – – “Kerry O’Brien quizzed Joe Hockey on the Opposition’s IR stance during a tense exchange on last night’s 7.30 Report.” (22 July 2010)
  18. suspended for funeralThe Age,July 22, 2010
  19. By online political correspondent Emma Rodgers, 2010-07-29, ‘Ryan: Disendorsed Johnson makes it a three-way battle – 2010 Federal Election – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)’,,, Accessed: 2010-08-08
  20. July 23, 2010 11:05PM, 2010-07-23, ‘Controversial ALP candidate for Flinders Adrian Schonfelder stands down’, Herald Sun,, Accessed: 2010-08-08
  21. Liberals to sack Chifley candidate,Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), July 25, 2010
  22. Sacked Liberal stands by Muslim commentsABC – Jean Kennedy, 25 July 2010
  24. ‘Gillard to ask the people on climate change – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)’,,, Accessed: 2010-08-08
  25. 2010-07-22, ‘Rudd ‘in line for UN climate job’ – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)’,,, Accessed: 2010-08-08
  26. July 22, 2010 12:00AM, 2010-07-22, ‘Gillard, Rudd accused of welshing on leadership deals’, The Australian,, Accessed: 2010-08-08
  27. Lateline 23 July 2010: Rudds suitability for Cabinet questioned‘,, , Accessed: 2010-08-08
  28. 2010-07-28, ‘Parental leave claim hits PM as family comes to the fore’, The Australian,, Accessed: 2010-08-08
  29. July 31, 2010 12:00AM, 2010-07-31, ‘Bodyguard deputised for Gillard’, The Australian,, Accessed: 2010-08-08
  30. By online political correspondent Emma Rodgers, 2010-08-02, ‘Gillard questioned on citizens’ assembly leak -ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)’,,, Accessed: 2010-08-08
  31. 2010-08-02, ‘Rudd continues to recover in hospital – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)’,,, Accessed: 2010-08-08
  33. 2010-08-04, ‘Qld, NSW voters turn on Labor’, The Australian, ,
  34. I’m the underdog, says Abbott Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), August 14, 2010
  35. “Voters leave Australia hanging” ABC News, 21 August 2010
  36. “Australia count begins after tight election race”BBC News, 21 August 2010
  37. Peatling and Heath Aston:It’s good to be Greens, as balance of power tipped, in SMH, July 18, 2010. Retrieved 19 August 2010.
  38. Maher: Greens set to grab balance of power in The Australian, July 18, 2010. Retrieved 19 August 2010.

External links