Long haul: Julia Gillard has made up lost ground in the polls and should go a full term.
AFTER sinking to new depths in the polls, it is hard to call Prime Minister Julia Gillard a winner for 2011; but there is no doubt she finished the year in better shape than she started.
Despite a pounding from Opposition leader Tony Abbott, Ms Gillard has managed to regain a bit of lost ground in the polls, giving her leadership better foundations for the coming year – even though talk of a challenge from former prime minister Kevin Rudd continues.
Her improved polling comes after two significant achievements – the passing of the mining tax and the carbon tax.
Although both taxes were disliked by many in business in Western Australia, the passing of legislation through the lower house make her less of target for Mr Abbott.
Both taxes were painful for Labor to deliver, requiring the Greens and certain independents to back them.
As a result, they have been distorted by horse trading, some of which has had the appearance of US-style deals for individual electorates.
While the resources sector would largely welcome the mining tax concession to raise the threshold at which the tax kicks in, to $75 million from $50 million, there is disquiet about a proposed new federal regulatory body to oversee coal-bed methane developments.
Of course, the House of Representatives is only the first stage and, despite backing the tax, the Greens have threatened to change some elements of the package.
The Greens could also claim to be an electoral winner this year. Not only have they been an integral part of the mining tax’s ascension but Labor’s fear of Greens gains in inner-city electorates is also seen as the reason the federal government reacted so quickly to suspend live cattle shipments to Indonesia after a television documentary made claims about animal cruelty.
The decision to shut down exports was catastrophic for the pastoral sector and appears to have resulted in a long-term decline in the Indonesian cattle trade.
Mr Abbott also ends the year on a strong note, albeit without the momentum he had throughout most of 2011.
Ms Gillard’s survival without a leadership challenge and safe passage of two major taxes have made it more likely that she will contest the next election after a full term.
That has shifted attention to Mr Abbott’s ability to sustain his attacks and convince the electorate he is a viable alternative as the nation’s leader.