Saturday 21 May 2022

Four Points on the Australian Election

If you want to glimpse the future of British politics, there's a school of Westminster thought that says we needn't look across the Atlantic. It's Down Under that's our portent of things to come. And looking at the results so far from the federal election, it's difficult not to read British politics, particularly what's happening in England, into the outcome. One cannot avoid how strikingly similar the position takings and the dynamics involved are to what's going on here. This in mins, here are four quick points.

1. The Coalition doubled down on everything that won them office in 2019. There were the lies about their opponents, the pretence that Labor presented an existential threat to Australia (backed, as here, by the Murdoch press), and they put Scott Morrison at the front of the campaign. Thinking he was an asset, after three years of ducking responsibility over increasingly fierce (and frequent) bush fires, absent on climate change, and blundering over Covid vaccines, it was a gamble almost guaranteed to fail. What the Coalition campaign did was emphasise his "strong and stable" qualities thanks to tough lines taken on Ukraine and China. But in the end, for all the pundit talk about his right wing hold on the working class (where have we heard that before?), inactivity on inflation and indifference to the main issues facing Australians helped show him the door.

2. With no programme apart from keeping things as they are and staying in office, the Coalition and their press helpers were enthusiastic wagers of the war on woke. Fooled by foolish commentators and pollsters that they triumphed three years ago because working class Australians recoiled from the social liberalism of Labor and progressive politics generally, the right kept banging the drum with anti-China dog-whistling, with all the racist impacts this has on Chinese Australians, and anti-Green polemic. This was too much for enough Coalition voters in their wealthy seats and, like Tory remainers and constitutionalists here, their votes went elsewhere. Labor enjoyed direct transfers, as did the Greens, but significantly so did the so-called Teal movement - a loose alliance of independents grouped around a desire to take climate change seriously and to clean up politics. They targeted safe Liberal constituencies and were able to pull off several stunning victories.

3. Labor had concluded that its previous manifesto was too expansive and promised too much, which Morrison and the press relentlessly attacked while promising little but "competence" and tax cuts. In contrast the right stood on a minimalist platform that echoed the Tories in 2015, and which they then repeated in 2019. Labor Prime Minister-in-waiting Anthony Albanese ran a tight political ship this time. The four key pledges the party emphasised were making it easier to see a doctor, investing in local jobs, making child care cheaper, and reshoring manufacturing. Throughout Albanese stressed the cost of living crisis, springing a 5.1% increase in the minimum wage midway through the campaign. There was very little here the right could scaremonger about, and because they had no answer to falling living standards Labor's hand was strengthened by its temperate economism. It was enough to take at least nine seats directly from the Liberals, including formerly safe divisions like Tangney, Robertson, and Pearce.

4. Not everything went Labor's way. With some counting still to go, it trails the Coalition in popular vote terms and the Teals and Greens took away a seat apiece, just denying Albanese his majority. That Labor didn't go hard on environmental concerns undoubtedly cost it support, and its general tepid position-taking versus Morrison's scapegoating and woke-baiting did not help either. In other words, left wing and socially liberal-minded voters had somewhere else to go. And they did. Not enough to imperil a famous victory over the right, but one that stymies Labor's room for manoeuvre. Perhaps there's a lesson here.

Image Credit


Alan Story said...

A Facebook post I just did.

I don’t pretend to be an expert on Australian politics or its “ranked ballot” system. And this Wikipedia entry does not yet include the final totals from Saturday’s election.

But these figures reveal that all votes are definitely NOT equal under the Australia’s voting system.

Look, for example, at the Green Party totals. Climate change was evidently a major issue in the election. This is one reason why the overall Green vote went up to 11.9 per cent.

Under a proportional voting system, that would translate into about 18 seats in Australia’s lower House of Representatives of 151 seats.

Instead, the Greens will likely get three seats.

Moral? When we talk about electoral reform, we mean PR and only PR. Accept no substitutes.

David Lindsay said...

Let Anthony Albanese insist on the release of Julian Assange as part of any economic or strategic deal with Britain.

And let his coalition partners hold him to that.

georgesdelatour said...

It’s hard for a sitting government to fight a general election on anti-Wokeness. The pitch has to be “we were too busy doing other stuff to roll back the Wokeness in this Parliament; but vote for us again and we promise we’ll eventually get round to it in the next one”. It isn’t a good argument to motivate anti-Woke voter turnout.

(Plus, everyone who understands how the Woke game is played knows Nadine Dirties’ Online Harm bill will wind up being super-Woke in its effects. Once it’s passed, billionaire-funded NGOs will bring tort law cases to establish ever more extreme Woke restrictions on free speech.)

It’s a different matter in the US. There the sitting Democrat government has to own Wokeness, and can therefore be attacked for it. Anger about teachers teaching that white babies are inherently racist may well motivate people to vote Republican in the mid-terms.