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Published: Sunday, 9/12/2010

Up Down Under

It took a while, but after elections in Australia last month produced no clear result, Prime Minister Julia Gillard put together a coalition government with a thin majority last week.

Ms. Gillard showed sharp elbows in ascending the political ladder in Australia, until the August election left her Labor Party with no mandate to rule. She had pushed previous Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd out in June. She then paused only briefly before calling national elections, which she hoped would affirm her leadership of the Labor Party and give her the customary three-year term at the head of the government.

There was reason for her to expect a victory. The Australian economy has come through the global recession in reasonably good shape, in employment and growth. Australia went into the general dive in 2008 with no debt or budget deficit.

China, Australia's largest trading partner, has continued to buy large amounts of Australia's mineral exports. That demand has scarcely flagged as America and Europe have taken an economic beating. Ms. Gillard's Labor Party governed throughout this period.

Ms. Gillard is Australia's first female prime minister. A native of Wales, an immigrant to Australia, an atheist, and single, she would have difficulty becoming a successful national political figure in the United States. Australians come to such matters with more open minds than Americans do.

Ms. Gillard will now be obliged to tackle head on Australia's problems, including mining taxes, fiscal policy, and illegal immigration. There is every reason to believe that as prime minister she will continue to pursue the excellent relations that exist between Australia and the United States. Australia has 1,500 troops in Afghanistan.

Australia's relationship with China inclines it sometimes to cooperate with the Asian giant in international forums more than the United States might like. But its reliance on China to buy its exports is not unlike America's own reliance on China for many of its imports and as a prime lender to cover America's deficit spending.

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