Unpopular PM turfed . . .
On Saturday, Australian voters rejected the incumbent centre-right Liberal/National coalition government in favour of the centre-left Australian Labor Party and a handful of socially progressive independent candidates. Voters across the country shunned former Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who elicited the scorn of many with inaction on climate change, resistance on anti-corruption issues, and a host of positions and policies many saw as anti-women – from early cuts to pandemic support for child- and aged-care workers to insensitivity on sexual assault and gender-based violence. The country’s new prime minister is Anthony Albanese, who describes himself as the son of a single mother disability pensioner who grew up in public housing. Labor last formed government between 2007 and 2013, with the Liberal/National coalition holding power until last weekend.
The rise of ‘teal’ independents . . .
While Labor is currently one seat shy of the 76 required to form a majority government, with five seats too close to call, the result hinged on voters choosing progressive options while repudiating an unpopular prime minister. Of particular importance was the rise of independent ‘teal’ candidates – all women, who combined fiscal conservatism (blue for the Australian Liberal Party) with support for the environment and climate action (green). Six were elected in formerly safe Liberal seats, including unseating former Liberal Finance Minister Josh Frydenberg, seen by many as a likely future Liberal prime minister. Some observers are suggesting a historic electoral recalibration with the Liberal/National and Labor’s percentage of primary votes dropping to 35 and 33 per cent, respectively, and other parties and independents attaining 32 per cent of primary votes in the country’s preferential voting system.
Albanese already active internationally . . .
Prime Minister Albanese wasted no time immediately investing in important international files, flying to Tokyo for meetings of the Quad – leaders of the United States, Japan, India, and Australia – only a matter of hours after being sworn in as prime minister. In Tokyo, the new prime minister affirmed his government’s commitment to the Quad, taking action on climate change, and building a resilient Indo-Pacific region, especially in opposing China’s efforts to gain more influence over countries in the Pacific. In response to a congratulatory message received from Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, Albanese issued a riposte to China’s sanctions against a range of Australian agricultural exports, calling the sanctions unjustified and demanding they be removed. On the China file, there appears to be little difference between Albanese and his predecessor.
- The Canberra Times: Albanese steadfast after China outreach
- The Guardian: Australia election: conservative government voted out after nearly a decade
- The Sydney Morning Herald: Liberals at lowest proportion of seats since party’s first poll in 1946