By Richard Shears
When it comes to the crunch: Harry the psychic crocodile makes his choice, by chomping down a piece of chicken attached to a caricature of Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard
It wasn't a snap decision when a 16ft crocodile predicted that Welsh-born Prime Minister Julia Gillard will win Saturday's general election in Australia.
Harry the psychic crocodile was given the choice of munching on one of two chicken carcasses, one of which was tied to an image of the Labour Prime Minister and the other attached to a picture of Liberal (conservative) opposition leader Tony Abbott.
As a huge crowd watched, the 2,000lb beast, which had also correctly tipped Spain as the winner of the World Cup, appeared to give the options some consideration, swimming around beneath the carcasses for five minutes.
Then he stopped beneath the picture of Miss Gillard and leaped from the water to consume the chicken attached to her image.
Scroll down to see the video . . .
After Paul the octopus predicted the winner of the football World Cup in Germany this summer, 'Harry the croc' has been asked to show his psychic prowess by picking the winner of the election by his handlers in Darwin.
And anything that Paul the octopus could do, Harry the croc could do just as well.
'He saw the future and I think he might have something going with Paul the octopus,' said the enormous reptile's handler, Nigel Palmer.
Mr Palmer is convinced that crocodiles and octopuses have been around on earth for so long - both considered to be prehistoric creatures - that they are the wise old men of land and sea.
'After being on earth for millions of years, they must have picked up a bit of knowledge about the way things are going to be,' said Mr Palmer.
Media star: Paul the octopus gained international fame and had visitors flocking to the Sea Life Aquarium in Oberhausen, Germany after his correct predictions at the World Cup
Using crocs to make important predictions is a phenomenon that has been around in the Northern Territory for decades.
They have been used to settle a range of issues, from who should do the chores to which lotto numbers to pick.
If Miss Gillard does win Saturday's election, Harry will be given half a dozen carcasses to chew on as a special reward.
But while Harry is seemingly certain of the winner, the election race is almost too close to call.
Whoever wins on Saturday, Australia will end up with a British-born Prime Minister - Mr Abbott was born in London - and with the polls so close there are echoes of the Coalition.
The incumbent: The odds suggest current Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard will win by a small margin
Ready for change? Opposition leader Tony Abbott has a reputation for being gaffe-prone but he is running Miss Gillard very close
The odds suggest that Miss Gillard, 48, will sneak in by the narrowest of margins, but she might also have to make a deal with the three independents to avoid a hung parliament.
With the election looming, 52-year-old Mr Abbott homed in on the subject of immigration and the influx of asylum seekers on boats from South East Asia.
Labour, he said, had opened the doors to the boat people and he promised that if he was elected he would cut down the number of boats to just three.
Predictions claim that by the end of this year the number of asylum seekers will break all records, with more than 7,000 people arriving in at least 150 boats, which would easily outstrip all-time highs of 2001.
The numbers game: Bookmakers predict a narrow victory for the Australian Labour Party but the odds on Tony Abbott are shortening as election night approaches
Already this year, 4,052 people have arrived in 80 boats - and the Liberal opposition have blamed the high numbers on an 'easy come' policy by the Labour Party.
'If I can achieve three boats a year, as opposed to three boats a week, I think the Australian public would have every reason to be grateful to the new government,' said Mr Abbott, his voice croaky after campaigning through the night.
'I know if we don't succeed we will be very harshly judged by the Australian people at the next election.'
Miss Gillard, who drank a pint of beer with the locals in a tavern north of Sydney on the last night before the nation goes to the polls, said she would be devastated if the nation elected Mr Abbott as a protest vote against Labour.
Labour is unpopular with voters who recite a string of broken promises from the party Miss Gillard has also met personal opposition in Queensland for 'rolling' former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd as his popularity declined.
She began the last day of her campaign targeting the issue of workers' rights, which she said the Liberals were putting under threat.
'People can protest about things they didn't like in the last three years and wake up with Mr Abbott as Prime Minister,' said Miss Gillard, who claimed that would mean cuts to workers' rights, as well as cuts in health and education.
The alternative to the Liberals, she said, was Labour's positive economic plan, which included building a national broadband network - which the opposition intends to scrap.
She also reminded voters about the government's claim to have saved the country from recession during the global financial crisis and to have supported jobs.
Friday, August 20, 2010
By Richard Shears