Australia election: 10 lessons UK politics can learn | Australia news

Australia’s Labor party has come to power, pushing the conservative Coalition out of office for the first time in almost a decade. Voters also delivered big wins for the Greens and a group of independents promising action on climate change. Here are ten takeaways for political strategists in the UK to consider.

Well-crafted campaigns defeated rightwing populism …

Well-organized, targeted campaigns on progressive issues triumphed in Australia over negative, dog-whistle campaigns built around conservative leveraging of “culture war” issues. The result on Saturday was a repudiation of the hard right after scare campaigns on topics such as refugees backfired on Scott Morrison’s Liberals.

… but rightwing populism endured

Nevertheless, the Coalition took 35% of the national vote, and fringe parties – Pauline Hanson’s One Nation and the Trumpist Clive Palmer’s United Australia – managed nearly 10%.

A low-key policy offer worked for the center-left…

Safety first proved a winning formula for Anthony Albanese, who moderated much of his policy offering to avoid a repeat of Labor’s defeat in 2019 when it over-promised on economic and tax reform. Albanese’s low-key, low-risk performances on the campaign trail proved more palatable than Morrison’s confessed “bulldozer” style.

… but this was no Labor landslide

Labor support dropped from the previous election from 33.34% to 32.8% on first preference votes. The Coalition’s share of first preference votes fell by 5.64 percentage points but was still higher than Labor.

Major parties’ vote share

The right had a women’s problem.

Gender was another area where the Australian opposition could exploit the weakness and shortcomings of the Coalition government. Morrison’s blokey, suburban dad image worked well for a time, but his handling of a series of scandals involving his ministers and employees sent his rating among women crashing.

In particular, his failure to deal with the allegation that a ministerial staff member was raped by a colleague in a government office in Canberra dominated the news for weeks. His tin ear was never more glaring than when he admitted it had taken an intervention from his wife, comparing how he might feel about it if it was one of his daughters who had been assaulted to make him understand the seriousness of the situation.

Australia election

Another hot-button issue on Australian doorsteps was Morrison breaking his promise to set up a federal anti-corruption commission amid growing concern over donations to political parties and the misallocation of public funds.

Independents broke through

The success of the so-called teal independents (a little bit green, a little bit blue) offered a template for targeting individual seats with well-focused, local campaigns.

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The victorious teals, mostly women, had their most notable wins in well-heeled inner-city areas of Sydney and Melbourne, where Morrison’s record on climate, sleaze, and gender-reversed decades of traditional backing for the Liberals.

The climate crisis weighed on voters’ minds.

The defeated rightwing coalition government thought “ordinary” voters in the suburbs did not care about esoteric things such as emissions targets and renewable quotas. But when people found their homes were successively on fire or underwater, they joined the dots and sent a message that this wasn’t the case.

Climate activists in their inner-city battlegrounds heavily backed the teal candidates, and the Greens won at least three lower house seats in what has been referred to as a “Greenslide”. Overall, the Greens took 12% of the national primary vote, up nearly two percentage points, suggesting environmental politics had appeal beyond university-educated urbanites.

Murdoch’s influence appeared to wane.

The triumph of Albanese and others was also a defeat for the Murdoch press, which campaigned ferociously against the progressive parties. News Corp Australia controls the biggest-selling papers in Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane, along with many other titles that gave the Coalition the soft-soap treatment while portraying Labor and the rest as unhinged radicals. That it did not work could prove Murdoch’s waning influence in the social media age.

The preferential voting system helped progressives.

Australia uses a preferential voting system that helped maximize the progressive vote to benefit Labor and the teal independents. For example, Labor’s win in the prized inner-city Melbourne seat of Higgins came despite losing the primary vote to the Liberals. But when the second preference of Greens voters was counted, Labor leapfrogged into first place.

Local Covid politics also played a role.

A host of local factors influenced the Australian election, but the impact of pandemic politics is particularly instructive. Tough Covid lockdowns by Labor state governments in Western Australia, Victoria, and Queensland were heavily criticized by Morrison and his ministers. But if he thought it was a vote winner, he was wrong because those attacks went down badly with the public. Western Australia, historically a Coalition stronghold, swung by 11 percentage points to Labor.

Bella E. McMahon
I am a freelance writer who started blogging in college. I am fascinated by human nature, politics, culture, technology, and pop culture. In addition to my writing, I enjoy exploring new places, trying out new things, and engaging in conversations with new people. Some of my favorite hobbies are reading, playing music, making crafts, writing, traveling, and spending time with my family.