The new leaders of Australia have not yet been sworn in after Labor’s victory on Saturday, but the country is already gearing up for what appears to be a major policy shift.
After nearly a decade of conservative leadership, voters rejected the ruling coalition, supporting those campaigning for more action against the climate changes greater gender equality and political integrity.
For much of its history, Australian politics have been dominated mainly by two parties: the centre-right Liberals and the centre-left Labor parties.
But this election changed the division of forces in the country and many people who were tired of the two-party system voted for candidates from smaller or independent parties.
Australia is on the brink of a climate crisis
Election results showed a strong bias in the country towards independent candidates who campaigned on issues related to the climate .
The candidates, many of them political newcomers, advocate cuts in emissions of up to 60% – more than double what the ruling Conservative coalition has promised (26% to 28%) and also more than Labor (43%).
Known as blue-green candidates, they sought to win traditionally liberal (blue) seats with greener policies.
“Millions of Australians have put climate first. Now, it’s time for a radical redefinition of how this great nation of ours addresses the climate challenge,” Amanda McKenzie, CEO of the Climate Council research group, said of Saturday’s election results.
Australia has long been known as a “lucky country”, in part due to its wealth of coal and gas, as well as iron ore, which have fueled generations of economic growth.
Now, however, the country is on the verge of a climate crisis, and the fires, floods and droughts that have already scarred the nation are only expected to become more extreme as the Earth warms.
The ruling Conservative government has been called “resistant” to the climate fight by the United Nations Secretary-General (UN ) after outlining a plan to reach carbon neutrality by 2050, creating massive new gas projects.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he would support the transition from coal to renewable energy but had no plans to halt new coal projects.
Labor Party leader Anthony Albanese has vowed to end the “climate wars”, a reference to the infighting that has thwarted efforts to push for stronger climate action over the past decade and even cost some prime ministers their jobs. .
Labor has committed to achieving zero carbon emissions by 2050, in part by strengthening the mechanism used to pressure companies to cut emissions.
But the Climate Analytics research institute says the labor plans are not ambitious enough to keep the global temperature rise to 1.5C, as described in the report. Paris Agreement .
Labor policies are more consistent with a 2C rise, the institute said, slightly better than the current coalition’s plan.
To accelerate the transition to renewable energy, the Labor Party plans to modernize Australia’s power grid and launch solar power plants and community batteries.
But despite its commitment to zero carbon emissions, the party says it will approve new coal projects if they are environmentally and economically viable.
Women are being seen and heard
Morrison’s popularity with women plummeted after several scandals involving his ministers.
Morrison himself was accused of lacking empathy when he responded to a sexual assault allegation in Parliament, suggesting that his wife, Jenny Morrison, made him realize the gravity of the charge.
“She told me, ‘You have to think about this as a parent first. What would you like to happen if you were our girls?’ Jenny has a way of clearing things up. She always had,” he said.
Thousands of women marched across the country calling for stronger measures to ensure women’s safety – which turned into demands for greater gender equality.
The independent candidates were mostly older women who might otherwise have joined the Liberal Party.
Albanese gave good political reading and promised to improve gender equality. He was even endorsed by his former boss, Australia’s first and only prime minister, Julia Gillard, who famously criticized her liberal rival: “I will not take lessons in sexism and misogyny from this man.”
Gillard took to the press the day before the vote to say he was “very confident” that an Albanese government would be a “government for women”.
Aboriginal voices will be amplified
Among the first words that Albanese uttered as he took the stage to claim victory on Saturday was a pledge to enshrine the voice of Aboriginal peoples in Parliament.
“I start by recognizing the traditional peoples of the land where we find ourselves. I pay my respects to the elders, past, present and emerging. And on behalf of the Australian Labor Party, I commit to the Uluru Heart Declaration in full,” he said.
Aboriginal groups across Australia are calling for the Constitution to be amended so that they are formally consulted on legislation and policies affecting their communities.
That would require a national referendum, which needs political support before a “yes-no” question is asked of the Australian people.
The Albanese Labor government said it supported this initiative. The last time Australians voted in a referendum on Aboriginal rights was in 1967, when 90% of the country supported their inclusion in the population census.
Albanese said during his victory speech that “we should all be proud that among our great multicultural society we have the oldest continuous culture in the world”.
Australia prioritizes Asia and the US
One of Albanese’s first tasks will be to go to Tokyo to meet with leaders of U.S , Japan and India at the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) summit.
At his side will be the new Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong, a seasoned Labor politician of Asian descent who has long been a respected voice in the Senate.
The new Labor government promises to forge stronger ties with the Asia . Albanese said one of his first destinations after Japan will be Indonesia, which he said “will become a substantial economy in the world”.
“We live in a region where in the future we will have China, India and Indonesia as giants. We need to strengthen this economic partnership and one way to do that is to also strengthen interpersonal relationships,” she declared.
“Indonesia is an important nation, for our economy, for these social relationships as well…We really need to strengthen the relationship with Indonesia and that is why it will be an absolute priority for me”.
Analysts say Australia’s new prime minister faces a tough challenge regarding China – especially after a bitter election campaign that put the Chinese president Xi Jinping and their intentions at the center of the discussions.
Australia’s relations with China have deteriorated under the current ruling coalition – which began at the same time as Xi’s rule.
The situation worsened even further in 2020 when the Australian government – then led by Morrison – called for an investigation into the origins of the disease. Covid-19 . China responded with sanctions against Australian exports, including beef, barley, wine and lobster.
China’s reaction hardened public attitudes in Australia and led Canberra to lead the charge against China’s coercive actions.
The coalition has suggested that Labor will be soft on China, but on paper the party’s stance on Beijing looks little different from that taken by the Conservatives.
Labor says it is committed to the AUKUS security pact, the deal Morrison made with the United States and the United Kingdom , to the detriment of Australia’s relations with France. He also expressed strong support for Quad.
Money doesn’t buy votes
One of the big losers in this election was Clive Palmer, the mining tycoon who reportedly spent around $100 million on advertising for the United Australia Party and got almost no results.
The man Palmer had heralded as “the next prime minister,” Craig Kelly, a Liberal Party renegade who was reprimanded for spreading misinformation and conspiracy theories about Covid-19, lost his seat in Parliament after securing just 8% of votes in the primaries.
Palmer, who has been dubbed “Australia’s Trump”, campaigned on the freedom issue and opposed mandatory Covid-19 vaccine.
This isn’t the first time Palmer has tried to win elections with big money. In 2019, he spent millions campaigning during the federal elections but failed to win a single seat.
Source: CNN Brasil