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Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Saturday, May 21st, 2022

Australia’s right wing government falls: Scott Morrison concedes to ALP’s Anthony Albanese

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.

New Zealand’s Labor gov­ern­ment says that Prime Min­is­ter Jacin­da Ardern has spo­ken to Albanese and is very much look­ing for­ward to col­lab­o­rat­ing.

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.

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