The Australian Labor Party is set to form the next government in the world’s sixth largest country after voters ousted Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his right wing government from power, ending almost a decade of conservative rule.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese is expected to be the country’s next Prime Minister, but because votes are still being counted, it’s not yet clear whether he will have a Labor majority to govern with, or whether he will need the support of other parties to have a working majority in Parliament.
“It was an historic night in Australian politics, with the Liberal party losing not only government, but those touted as its future,” The Guardian’s Aussie team said in its summary of what looks like a seismic event in the country’s political history. “Anthony Albanese captained the Labor party back into power after nine years in the wilderness of opposition; Greens leader Adam Bandt hailed a ‘greenslide’ as the party recorded its best-ever election result; and a slew of independents were swept into power, delivering the largest crossbench in Australian history.”
“There may have been lots of swirling currents but the results of the federal election were overwhelmingly that 2022 was, finally, the climate election,” said ABC’s Laura Tingle in an analysis of the initial results.
“I always believed in Australians and their judgement and I’ve always been prepared to accept their verdicts… Tonight, they have delivered their verdict, and I congratulate Anthony Albanese and the Labor Party and I wish him and his government all the very best,” said Morrison, who acknowledged that he’d been beaten fair and square. Morrison further stated that he believes elections are an opportunity for both the winners and the losers to show humility.
“I say to my fellow Australians: Thank you for this extraordinary honor. Tonight, the Australian people have voted for change. I am humbled by this victory. And I am honored to be given the opportunity to serve as the thirty-first Prime Minister of Australia,” said Albanese in a victory speech.
“My Labor team will work every day to bring Australians together. And I will lead a government worthy of the people of Australia. A government as courageous and hardworking and caring as the Australian people are themselves.”
Albanese’s win was powered in part by a swing in Labor’s favor in Western Australia (WA), which shares an abbreviation with the State of Washington in the United States, where NPI’s physical headquarters is located.
Polling has long suggested that Morrison and his Liberal-National coalition were vulnerable, but Morrison was able to ride to victory three years ago when polling indicated that the ALP might win, and Morrison was hoping to repeat that feat.
But voters said no. Now Morrison is out. He has conceded the election and will step down as Liberal-National leader. Interestingly, he plans to remain in Parliament, at least for the time being. Labor, meanwhile, is out of the political wilderness after spending most of the 2010s as Her Majesty’s Opposition.
ALP’s win, and the ascendancy of the Greens, will hopefully result in Australia taking a more progressive path in the next few years. Morrison and his team, including Barnaby Joyce, simply weren’t interested in implementing policy directions to aggressively tackle the ever-worsening climate crisis.
“An Albanese Labor Government will work to protect the Great Barrier Reef from the threats of climate change and poor water quality,” reads a platform plank / manifesto segment on ALP’s campaign website. “We will work with local communities to restore the creeks and rivers that run through our communities and we will double the number of Indigenous Rangers working to protect some of our most precious places, like the Daintree.”
“Sadly, Australia’s environment is in crisis, but the Morrison Government don’t have a plan to fix it, in fact the Liberals and Nationals have cut environmental protection resources and have abandoned threatened species, leaving the koala without a plan to protect them from extinction, for years.”
Climate advocates are cheering Morrison’s downfall, saying it’s about time.
“Right around the country, we’re seeing those that have strong climate policies being rewarded. Australians have given the new government a mandate for strong action on climate change. It’s time for a radical reset a time to change course,” said Climate Council CEO Amanda McKenzie.
“For a long time, Australia has been a climate laggard. Frankly, it has been embarrassing,” said Andrew Forrest, the executive chairman of Fortescue Metals. “Our children deserve our leadership, our understanding of science, and they haven’t had it. Australia has the highest per capita coal emissions in the G20 – and in the world – at 5.34 tonnes of CO2 [carbon dioxide] per year. The average Australian emits five times more CO2 from coal power than the average person globally, and almost two times as much as the average person in China.”
Reaction from outside Australia to the election results has been limited so far because votes are still being counted.
However, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was quick to congratulate Albanese, even though Morrison’s defeat leaves him as “the only AUKUS leader from the conservative side of politics,” as AFR’s Hans van Leeuwen put it.
In Paris, French officials were celebrating Morrison’s downfall openly. French President Emannuel Macron and his leadership team remain very upset about Morrison’s tearing up of the submarine deal between France and Australia.
“I can’t stop myself from saying that the defeat of Morrison suits me very well,” said departing French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, who is handing power over to Catherine Colonna.
The White House hasn’t yet commented on Albanese’s victory, but it probably will within hours. As it so happens, President Biden is in Asia for a series of events that includes the Quad Leaders’ Summit at the Kantei Palace in Tokyo, Japan.
The Quad consists of the United States, Japan, India, and Australia.
“In the aftermath of the Earthquake off the Coast of Sumatra and Tsunami Disaster in the Indian Ocean, Japan, Australia, India and the U.S. formed a Core Group to lead the international community’s support,” says a website created by Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio’s government.
“The four countries have been promoting practical cooperation in various areas, including quality infrastructure, maritime security, counter-terrorism, cyber security, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, with the aim of realizing a ‘Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP).’ ”
The first in-person Quad Leaders Summit was held last year in Washington, D.C., hosted by the United States. It is now Japan’s turn to host, and consequently, Biden is in Asia to represent the United States and continue the tradition that was begun last year. As a consequence of this weekend’s vote, Albanese will be going to the summit to meet with Biden, Modi, and Fumio instead of Morrison. (In Australia, power is handed over much more quickly than it is here in the United States, where months go by in between Election Day and Inauguration Day.)
Biden and Albanese ought to hit it off and get along quite well, as they have many shared values and challenges. Albanese was very complimentary to Biden after the President was projected to have won the 2020 presidential election in the U.S., offering warm congratulations and good wishes.
Biden’s relationship with Morrison was not strained and the administration stood ready to work with whoever won the Australian election. But on many issues — like climate — Albanese’s progressive agenda is more aligned with Biden’s.
“There was significant frustration with the Australian government’s position on climate in the runup to COP 26 in Glasgow last year and in advancing the 2030 targets. Australia’s commitments did not pass muster with John Kerry, the US climate envoy, and fell short of the aspirations of President Biden for resolute action by developed countries, especially those closest to the United States,” noted Bruce Wolpe in a preelection analysis for Pearls and Irritations.
Australia’s last set of Labor governments (which served from 2007 until 2013) were marred by infighting and leadership spills, which resulted in Prime Minister Kevin Rudd getting dumped and then brought back a few years later.
Albanese is hoping to avoid that kind of disunity, and is striving to build a team that can hang together even in the face of difficult circumstances.