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In Australia, it's out with the old in snub to big parties

By KARL WILSON in Sydney | China Daily | Updated: 2022-05-23 09:36
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Anthony Albanese, the leader of Australia's Labor Party, is accompanied by his partner Jodie Haydon and son Nathan Albanese as he acknowledges the cheers of supporters in Sydney on Saturday after Scott Morrison conceded defeat in the general election. JAIMI JOY/REUTERS

Australia's general election on Saturday not only ousted Scott Morrison and his Liberal Party from power and anointed the Labor leader Anthony Albanese the country's 31st prime minister, but it also shattered the two-party political system that has dominated politics in the country for more than 120 years.

"This election result represents a powerful message from the community that we reject fear, abuse of government power, misogyny, racism and neglect," Cassandra Goldie, chief executive of the Australian Council of Social Service, said on Sunday.

Labor party chief Albanese is to represent Australia at the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or Quad, with unease at home as analysts say the real winners were an array of independents campaigning on issues from climate change to women's and indigenous rights.

As counting continued on Sunday, Labor had won 71 seats in the 151-seat parliament, five seats short of a majority. The outgoing Liberal-National Party Coalition was on 52 seats.

The big winners on the night were the Greens and independents, with as many as 13 seats in doubt. The Greens, which had one MP in the House of Representatives before the election, may soon have three MPs and possibly five.

The result is "a clear call to action for the Albanese government to create a more equal community and forge a resilient and brighter future for this and the next generation," said Goldie.

"The rout of Scott Morrison goes beyond the defeat of his government. It has left behind a Liberal Party that is now a flightless bird," said one of Australia's leading political commentators, Michelle Grattan, professorial fellow at the University of Canberra.

"The parliamentary party has had one wing torn asunder, and its path to recovery will be difficult and painful. It has lost a clutch of moderates."

Amy Nethery, senior lecturer in politics and policy studies at Deakin University in Victoria, said one of the most "stunning" features of the election was the rise of the so-called teal independents in traditional Liberal seats.

It needs to be noted that high numbers of postal and pre-poll votes will favor the major parties. So "we will need to watch some of these seats in coming days before the results are confirmed", she commented on The Conversation website. But these results far exceed expectations before polling day.

For his part, Morrison, conceded defeat and wished Albanese well. Despite losing the election, Morrison has given no indication he intends to leave politics and will stay in the next parliament. The question now is who will succeed him in his party.

Liberal Party commentator Tony Barry told local TV on Saturday that "the Liberals have lost their base… It was not a bloodbath, but a teal bath".

The latest study by researchers from the Deakin and Monash universities shows that many voters had been turning away from the Liberal-National Coalition. The Morrison government was seen by many Australians, not only those of Chinese heritage, to be anti-Chinese and wanting to take Australia into a new Cold War.

Worrying stance

This aggressive stance on China is particularly worrying Australian Chinese, researchers found, after examining more than 3,000 WeChat political news stories and associated comments appearing on the Chinese social media platform over the past 11 months. The period includes the election campaign.

"The key findings of the researchers are that the Liberal Party has been criticized for its militaristic position toward China and its alignment with the US, the study said.

However, in an election full of different results and surprises, this block of independents is going to markedly change the composition of the lower house. The precise nature of their role and power will be determined when we know if Labor will rule in a majority or minority, according to Nethery.

Many voters were "turned off" by the petty politics between the parties and felt they had not focused on grassroots issues.

Goldie said the electorate has stood up for implementing the Uluru Statement from the Heart (an initiative that seeks constitutional change to recognize the First Australians "through a Voice to Parliament"), addressing poverty and inequality including gender equality, acting on climate change and taking a more humane approach to refugees and people seeking asylum.

"The strong influence of so many women in this election marks a new era," she said.

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