the debrief: issue four

Scott scouts second success

image credit: Eesan1969 (Wikimedia Commons)

In 2019, Labor’s Bill Shorten was surprisingly defeated by the Liberal-National Coalition’s Scott Morrison and Barnaby Joyce. Given that Australia had experienced four Prime Ministers in the space of ten years, a single face for a period longer than a couple years appealed to many voters. With Labor and Liberal party rooms experiencing serial knifings of leaders, having three more years of a seemingly unchallenged Scott Morrison was a breath of fresh air in terms of political stability for Australia.

However, has this breath of fresh air turned stale? Key failures around handling the Covid crisis, botching the vaccine rollout, ditching the French submarine deal in favour of an AUKUS alliance and recently the Novak Djokovic controversy, have damaged the Coalition’s popularity. It’s no surprise that Newspoll, the chief Australian political polling organisation, puts Labor out in front with 56% to the Liberal’s 44%. With Scott Morrison’s hammering at the press club from journalists across Australia, it seems that as we head towards another election, the Labor Party has the upper hand. Considering also former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s accusations against Scott Morrison, that Morrison has a reputation for lying, it’s hard not to see why Labor is slowly gaining ground.

So how is it looking on the outside of the political mainstream? Looking at a new entrant into the political race is Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party (UAP). This party is funded by billionaire Clive Palmer, his biggest proponent is former Liberal Party MP Craig Kelly. Unlike the (in)famous Pauline Hansen’s One Nation Party, which appeals primarily to White-Anglo Australians, UAP could reach out to Italian and Greek 3rd generation immigrants. Palmer has thrown millions of dollars at online campaigning to improve their luck. However, despite the UAP wanting to contend with the Liberal Party, it will most likely battle with One Nation for more seats in Parliament. However, considering that One Nation is a more established right-wing 3rd party, it might be difficult to predict how much impact the UAP will have in reality.

Switching from right to left. What’s it looking like for Australia’s Green Party under Adam Bandt? Campaigning for the Green Party has started this month in Queensland with funding promises already being dished out. The Green Party are looking to push the rhetoric of taxing big corporations as the post Covid virus economic difficulties begin to wrack the world. As another key 3rd party, just like United Australia, the Greens are looking to target Pauline Hansen herself with campaigning being concentrated in her senate seat. With nine senate seats and one seat in the House of Representatives, they are a very successful third party, even more so than the U.K branch that most of our readers will be familiar with.

Furthermore, other 3rd parties which look to maintain their influence in local regions include Bob Katter’s Australia Party. This party has a foothold in the Kennedy region, north of Queensland in north east Australia. This is ultimately an agricultural party which rivals the Liberals in that particular district of Kennedy. The Centre Alliance which is essentially a smaller version of the Liberal Democrats in the U.K, is a centrist party which seems to want to work with both sides in order to find a middle ground in terms of policy.

All of these parties are standing in the way of Scott Morrison achieving a 2nd full term in office. However, third parties are not unusual in Australian politics due to their ATV system which allows voters to rank a range of candidates instead of the standard British system of first past the post. This allows for smaller party candidates to be able to lodge complaints against the bigger parties for their failings. One Nation and United Australia will pick apart Scott Morrison’s poor response to vaccine mandates given the Novak Djokovic fiasco. The Greens, and arguably Labor, will criticise the poor efforts of the government to combat climate change by enforcing net zero by 2030.

So what does Scott Morrison have going for him in the midst of all these challenges? He needs to hold at least two of the nine swing seats in order to push ahead of Anthony Albanese. This means that this election could really come down to the wire at the polls. Questions remain over whether this will result in tactical voting by smaller party supporters in order to remove the Liberals from office or a coalition between Labor and the Greens to fully cement at least a minority government in Australia. Although the right-wing would be more in favour of allying themselves with the Liberal Party. The multiple government u-turns may create challenges for Scott Morrison in corralling his typical voter base, which may drift over to alternative third parties as they feel disaffected from the Liberals.

If you’ve ever watched the comedy duo Clark and Dawe, two Australian comedians famous for their sketch “the front fell off” when discussing a faulty oil tanker, you’ll know that they’ve discussed how similar Australian and British politics are at some points. This couldn’t be truer in this case. With both Prime Ministers having a reputation for lying, incompetency and abandoning of right-wing principles in favour of strict Covid restrictions. It’s hard to see how Scott Morrison can come out of this election alive unless the Liberals can pull off the greatest shock in electoral history.

Pork-barrelling, the unfair funding of safe and marginal government party constituencies over opposition party constituencies, has become a popular issue as of late. The Labor Party is looking to drive home a sense of deceit and misrepresentation of the Australian people by Scott Morrison as Prime Minister. This ultimately boils down to what the opposition parties are all looking to capitalise on in order to form either a coalition or an outright majority. 

Campaigning is slowly ramping up with Pauline Hansen’s One Nation Party producing short but effective videos dissecting the political landscape and highlighting key issues. Anthony Albanese is promising to deliver government initiatives such as a high speed rail (which may sound familiar) between Brisbane and Melbourne, decreasing travel times. However, Scott Morrison has not officially announced an actual election date, so there seems to be plenty of time left for all sides to ramp up their campaigns to inflict maximum damage on each other.

Criticism from right- wing parties towards the Liberal Party for overuse of lockdowns, panicking around Covid and mask mandates, as well as the Greens and Labor wishing to assert more government control over industry to either deliver for the Australian worker more efficiently or to tackle climate change effectively, leaves Scott Morrision with a multitude of condemnations to refute. However it’s unclear how much money the Liberal-National Coalition alliance can throw at this election in order to save the seats they need to remain in power, either as a majority or minority government. Only time will tell. 

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