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EDITOR'S INSIGHT: Abbott the Oxford boxing Blue heads for another knockout

The Rudd resurrection has failed and by Saturday night Australia will have a new prime minister, Tony Abbott.

Though still virtually an unknown quantity in New Zealand, he is likely to get on well with John Key and, unlike Kevin Rudd, could help advance CER to single market status.

There are similarities between the two. Mr Abbott is a Rhodes scholar who enjoyed 22 months at Oxford University, where he played rugby (loosehead prop), became a boxing Blue and drank beer.

Other interesting facts about his period there – including his birth in London in 1957 – are detailed in an excellent Guardian profile, which I read while holidaying in London.

It says Mr Abbott made his first appearance in student politics at Sydney University by “leading an aggressive rightwing revolt against the leftwing campus orthodoxies of the late 70s” and continued his pro-conservative activism at Oxford in the early 1980s.

Angered at a demonstration against the sinking of the Argentinian warship General Belgrano, Mr Abbott mounted a counter-demo “bellowing pro-Thatcher slogans.”

This, the Guardian says, received “almost as much press coverage as the pacifists.”

He achieved celebrity status by winning a boxing bout against a Cambridge opponent, with the local paper quoting him as saying: "I just made believe that my opponent was Bob Hawke, the leader of the Australian Labor party." 

The Guardian concludes its account of Mr Abbott’s time in the UK as “crucial to the transition from campus hothead to conventional politician. Oxford also deepened his Catholicism and conservatism.”

The profile also draws parallels with his political hero: “Like him, [Thatcher] seized the leadership of her party. Like him, she was an awkward, aggressive opposition leader whom voters did not warm to.”

On Saturday, Mr Abbott will finally answer his critics. The latest Newspoll, published by The Australian, shows his popularity has steadily risen to overtake Mr Rudd’s after the leadership “spill” in late June.

The poll puts Mr Abbott ahead of Mr Rudd in the preferred prime minister stakes for the first time and indicates a win that could rival then Labor prime minister's Paul Keating’s loss in 1996.

In that election, Labor won only 49 of the 148 seats on offer. Latest betting agencies odds say Mr Rudd's Labor will win just 53 electorates.

While the election campaign has focused mainly on bread-and-butter domestic issues – including illegal migrants coming through Indonesia – outsiders are hoping Australia will turn away from what some have called its toxic political environment.

A new survey of Australian and New Zealand business leaders, conducted by Newport Consulting, has found increasing dissatisfaction with the Australian government.

The respondents cite “government inadequacy” as the number one factor driving their more negative outlook of the business environment.

Newport Consulting’s latest State of Play report concludes by “voicing Australian business leaders’ strong dissatisfaction with the government, offering the following key advice to Canberra ahead of the election: reduce party politics and focus on good policy, practice better economic management principles and adopt a longer-term plan and vision for the country.”

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Comments and questions
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It's interesting to speculate how the Aussie candidates would fare in NZ. I reckon Rudd would beat Abbott on the klutz factor. Gillard would of course be quite unelectable here