Today’s guest piece is by Lilly Devine. Even though technically Kiwi’s cant fly, Lilly has certainly seemed to master it, as she hasn't stopped travelling since she was 17. She took a semester off her Political Science degree and lived in Australia for 6 months where she ended up hearing a lot of shit about their extremely confusing politics and gaining a bit more understanding than she previously had (which was none). She’s kindly shared this wisdom with us here at SYSCA & as usual, all views expressed are her own.
Considering Australia is just across the ditch, most Kiwis have next to no idea about what happens with our neighbour's politics.
Some people have seen Pauline Hanson wearing a burqa in the Australian Senate, calling for them to be banned.
Others have seen videos of an egg bouncing off Sco-Mo’s slippery head or the perpetrator of a successful egging being punched in the face. Twice.
However, it is uncommon for the average citizen to understand what Australian policies and politicians are like in the grander scheme of things. This is some shit that should be cared about.
Shit You Should Care About… The Sitch Across the Ditch
Like NZ, the Australian political landscape is dominated by two parties. There are minor parties with some clout but they aren’t going to win in the foreseeable future.
On one hand, there is Labor, who like NZ, is a supposedly left-leaning party. Unlike NZ, the parties financial and social ties to trade unions are extremely strong, which can lead to questions about unfair levels of influence and even corruption.
On the other hand, there is the Liberal-National Coalition, a distinctly non “liberal”, right-leaning party. The reason the Liberal party called themselves that, is because its original platform was promoting liberal economic policy. They think that the government shouldn’t decide how wealth is distributed, the market should - its social policy is anything but liberal. Immigration, environmental sustainability and social welfare are either not dealt with adequately or ignored completely to avoid controversy. The coalition, however, is the only feasible alternative to Labor.
What does Labor Promise?
Labor was picked as the winner by a lot of people from the young and/or urban demographic . But it disenfranchised a large, active voter base: the older generation. There has been a convoluted problem that has been a key issue in the election.
The short version is that a lot of people have bought shares in companies and planned their futures and retirements around a system where the company is taxed, but their shares aren’t. Although this system is a wee bit fucked, it is what people relied on. Labor said that if it was elected, it would start taxing these shares, effective immediately. This was supposed to redistribute money from the upper end of town to the lower end. But there are lower-income people who would be affected by this as well (and just because something fucks over the richer people, that doesn’t make it fair). Even Labor supporters admitted that the policy should have been “grandfathered in” and not implemented retroactively.
Recently, Labor has banged out more policy proposals than the average citizen could keep up with. It claimed that it would improve workers rights, hospitals, schools and infrastructure as well as increasing wages, employment, renewable energy, the number of electric cars and lower income tax cuts. To finance this, they plan on stopping multinational tax avoidance and closing up tax loopholes for the well-off. They pledged to reduce carbon emissions by 45% and to make 50% of energy renewable by 2030, which although better than the [Liberal-National] coalition, is still not enough considering the state of the world.
Despite this, the coalition predictably kicked up a huge fuss, appealing to the rural voter base saying their mining industry jobs would be snagged and their precious petrol trucks would be replaced with pussy little electric cars (whether this is true or not is highly debatable). The coalition has been extremely vague with its policy, avoiding making big commitments in key areas. Labor proposed too many big changes in too little time, scaring away the average voter. If it had gone for a “business as usual, but better” approach, Labor might have won.
Australia has had a turbulent recent history with 7 prime ministers in the last 10 years. But whoever the party's leader was had a disproportionate influence on voting behaviours in comparison to the parties policy. Labor’s leader at the time of the election, Bill Shorten, is seen by many (including some Labor supporters) as untrustworthy, “shouty” and a confrontingly angry unionist. His strategy was to target people with money and give it to the poorer people. Some people think that Labor could have been successful if they had a more personable, less belittling leader. It came as no surprise that Anthony Albanese became the opposition leader once they lost.
Scott Morrison, better known as Sco-Mo, on the other hand, is promoted and seen as a “man of the people”. He’s someone that you would run into at a rugby game and feel like you could talk to him and be listened to. Surprisingly, he played up his faith and this did not visibly damage his campaign. He came from the angle that Australia should have more freedom of speech about supporting religion as well as opposing it. This is interesting as he is an evangelical Christian who campaigned against LGBTQ equality, and he was still elected as Prime Minister. His claim that he doesn’t have enough freedom of speech in regard to this issue is therefore questionable at best.
Australian politics around the election has raised the question: what is more important - policy or politicians? I would like to say that it is policy, as this is relatively consistent regardless of political turmoil and the reality TV show that is the discourse between politicians. However, in this election, the rep of the party leader and the drama stirred by the media have caused the swinging voters to slide to the right.
To sum it up, the parties are similar to NZ’s but they're less close to the centre, they have rapid fire leader change, too much or too little policy and stronger ties to institutions like the church and trade unions.
Now you know that Australian politics is fucked, you can pretend you know your shit at the next family gathering you go to. All you need to say is "Neither of the Australian parties are great. Labors leader was relatively shit, and some of the Liberal-National Coalition's policies are arguably morally questionable", and watch the shit hit the fan. Not many people give a shit about politics across the ditch, so props to you mate.
The views expressed in this piece come from being a volunteer around the elections, seeing the inside workings of the parties and hearing people's explanation for why they support that party. A special shout out to Alex Dunn, another politically minded kiwi who has lived in aus and helped out with some relatively unbiased views.