Australia‘s Tory government and prime minister Scott Morrison have been humiliated in an election result that has left the party in disarray. The vote is a repudiation of the right wing Coalition’s sexism, anti-trans bigotry, and failure over climate change and the cost of living.
Since the last election in 2019, Australia has seen record bushfires and floods, as the impact of climate change starts to hit. Morrison took a holiday to Hawaii at the height of the fires, replying “I don’t hold a hose” when confronted about why he’d done nothing to combat the disaster.
He has poured government money into opening new coal mines and gas fields and failed to announce any plan to meet the net zero by 2050 target that he belatedly adopted. Instead of funding renewable energy, he is paying to build a new gas-fired power station.
Women turned against the Tories, after a series of sexual assault scandals in parliament, where they failed to act.
Labour has taken enough seats to form a government, but the result is not a decisive embrace of its agenda.
Labour’s primary (first preference) vote actually fell by 0.5 percent, to its lowest level in Australia since 1934. It only managed to win government as a result of preferences from minor parties and independents, and may have to negotiate with them to form a minority government.
Labour promised very little change. It has pledged modest increases in funding for aged care and childcare.
With the cost of living surging and inflation at 5.1 percent, Labour leader Anthony Albanese declared that he would “absolutely” support increasing the minimum wage to match inflation. Scott Morrison attacked this, and there finally seemed to be some clear difference between the two parties.
But Labour then walked this back, refusing to say whether it would put a figure on its recommendation to the industrial relations court. Albanese says wages should rise across the board but offers nothing to achieve this and is keeping anti-union laws in place.
Albanese made much of his background growing up in public housing. But his plan to build 30,000 new public houses in five years is a drop in the ocean compared to what is needed.
Labour agreed with the Coalition on its warmongering over China, and had only marginal differences on refugees and industrial relations. It is promising a higher climate target than the Coalition, but this is still lower than what big business has supported.
This helped The Greens get their highest ever vote at 12 percent, winning three lower house seats.
The Tory vote also fractured. Centrist independents have taken at least nine seats from the Tories in wealthy areas.
The Tories had shifted too far right for some middle class voters who wanted action on corruption, climate, women’s rights and less cruelty to refugees. Without these heartland seats, the Tories will struggle to ever win an election in Australia.
Some of the anger at the election also went to the far right, with the United Australia Party getting over four percent, and Pauline Hanson’s racist One Nation almost five percent. In some working class Labour seats in Melbourne the right capitalised on anger over prolonged Covid lockdowns.
It is both welcome and overdue that the Tories are gone, but Labour isn’t promising serious change. To kick out the Coalition’s policies we need more struggle.
We need a response that says no to warmongering and the punishment of refugees, for renewable energy and public housing. We also need a union fight for above inflation wage increases to deal with the cost of living crisis.
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