Election 2022: Prospects for a New Multidimensional Era?

By Denis Bright Election 2022 is more than a Labor victory. It opens…

The Great Teal Tsunami: Arise Australia’s Independents

Rarely in Australian history has a governing party suffered such loss in…

The day after, and the days ahead

A few matters to say the day after the 2022 Federal Election. Firstly,…

A New Start: The 2022 Election

Prologue: The Result It is done. The former regime under which we have…

Australian Disinformation Wonderland: The Federal Election 2022

All elections are filled with the half-truths, mistruths and full-fledged lies. Victory…

Fly against the wind with me when you…

What comes around once every three years and leaves us washed up…

All that remains is for you to cast…

An emboldened Scott Morrison would be a disaster for Australia. A vote…

Teal Revolutions and the Crisis of the Liberal…

By Melissa Marsden The outcome of Saturday’s federal election will have widespread implications…

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Category Archives: News and Politics

Election 2022: Prospects for a New Multidimensional Era?

By Denis Bright

Election 2022 is more than a Labor victory. It opens the parliament of Australia to new voices from the Greens, Teal Independents and others who can rattle the political foundations of post-1949 Australia with around fifteen members on a progressive cross-bench.

Current projections show that the result is still in doubt in at least ten seats as shown by the ABC News Graphics.

Don’t be surprised if there are more round-abouts as the vast tally of pre-polling and postal votes are considered with about one third of voters now drawn to minor parties from across the political spectrum.

This time the far-right agendas of some well-resourced far-right parties have been more than challenged by the rise of progressive members from the Greens and Teal Independents.

Remarkably, the Scott Morrison was prepared to concede defeat and to welcome the ascendency of Anthony Albanese just five hours after the closing of the polls.

Next week Anthony Albanese will have been sworn in as interim leader to meet the other global heads of state at the AUKUS Meeting with our foreign minister Penny Wong in Tokyo.

Despite a swing to Labor in Queensland on both primary and two party preferred votes, Labor might be unfortunate enough to lose the seat of Griffith and to fail to make it across the line in the potentially winnable seats of Leichhardt, Flynn, Longman and Brisbane. The situation in Griffith might change as counting of pre-poll and postal votes continues (see chart on Queensland two-preferred estimates on ABC News).

Results in Griffith are so close that Terri Butler could retain her seat if the LNP vote slips from second to third place as the LNP is directing its preferences to Labor ahead of the Greens (see chart on ABC News).

With Labor so close to majority government, it should be possible for the Albanese Government to attract good-will from the progressive crossbench members. Even a slender absolute majority for Labor offers the luxury of being able to pick and choose from a range of alternative progressive agendas.

Since 2019, Labor has learnt to develop a more pragmatic sustainability agenda. The future emphasis is on the importance of employment diversification in industrial and coal mining seats like Flynn and the Hunter Valley.

Regrettably, the swing to Labor was not enough to unseat the National Party’s political dinosaur in Flynn despite an improvement in Labor’s primary vote of 7.6 per cent (ABC News):

 

With the current size and enthusiasm of the progressive crossbench, it will be quite difficult for a more hardline members of the LNP coalition to wield control of the parliamentary agenda at least in the House of Representatives. The progressive independents can be an asset in strengthening the change agenda with the new resources available to savvy pragmatic members of the cross-bench and staffers who have little empathy for that old conservative populism at home and militarism abroad agendas which have been such a feature of the post-1996 era.

The LNP will of course strive to cling onto old agendas. In Queensland, the LNP has allocated its surplus quotas to assist in the re-election of Pauline Hanson until 2028.

Australia has changed since the more predictable days of the old two-party system. This time Labor obtained swings in heartland urban and regional areas which did not translate into the defeat of LNP members in both Tasmania and Queensland.

Hopefully, the Green support base will not perceive Labor as the enemy and work co-operatively with the Albanese Government to implement a change agenda. The olive branch of responsible political consensus was contained in Anthony Albanese’s victory speech:

I want to seek our common purpose and promote unity and not fear and – optimism, not fear and division. It is what I have sought to do throughout my political life. And what I will bring to the leadership of our country. It is a show of strength to collaborate and work with people, not weakness.

I want to find that common ground where together we can plant our dreams. To unite around our shared love of this country, our shared faith in Australia’s future, our shared values of fairness and opportunity, and hard work and kindness to those in need. And I can promise all Australians this – no matter how you voted today, the government I lead will respect every one of you every day. And I’ll seek to get your vote next time.

Having steered Australia through the life and death struggles of the worst years of War in the Pacific, the bespectacled John Curtin made a similar speech to that of our incoming prime minister to open the 1943 election campaign. This time Labor did not overlook the contribution of Indigenous Australians while continuing John Curtin’s commitment to a more independent foreign policy:

“We can answer its patient, gracious call for a voice enshrined in our constitution. Because all of us ought to be proud that amongst our great multicultural society we count the oldest living continuous culture in the world. And I acknowledge Australia’s next Indigenous Affairs Minister, Linda Burney, who is here…

… On Monday morning, arrangements are in place to have these people sworn in as members of my team. To enable Penny and I to attend the important Quad leader’s meeting in Tokyo, with President Biden, Prime Minister Kishida and Prime Minister Modi. And I want the leaders of the economic team to start work on Monday morning as well.”

Empathy for political change in Australia has already extended to global media networks particularly in the USA and Britain (Rod McGuirk in the Washington Post 20 May 2022):

Asked at the National Press Club in January to explain who he was, Albanese replied he was the son of a pensioner mother who had grown up with the security of a local government-provided house.

Albanese said he was 12 years old when he became involved in his first political campaign. His fellow public housing tenants successfully defeated a local council proposal to sell their homes – a move that would have increased their rent – in a campaign that involved refusing to pay the council in a so-called rent strike.

The unpaid rent debt was forgiven, which Albanese described as a “lesson for those people who weren’t part of the rent strike: Solidarity works.”

“As I grew up, I understood the impact that government had, can have, on making a difference to people’s lives,” Albanese said. “And in particular, to opportunity.”

Our Man for All Seasons-A Younger Anthony Albanese with his mother Maryanne in Camperdown in 1992 to celebrate his 29th Birthday.

In the rough and tumble of A Grade Politics, co-operation between Labor and progressive independents and Green members can write a new era in Australian political history to ensure that our future is not highjacked by voices from the far-right of conservative populism as in much of the post-1996 era.

 

Denis Bright is a financial member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). Denis is committed to consensus-building in these difficult times. Your feedback by using the Reply button on The AIMN site is always most appreciated. It can liven up discussion. I appreciate your little intrusions with comments and from other insiders at The AIMN. Full names are not required when making comments. However, a valid email must be submitted if you decide to hit the Reply button.

 

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The Great Teal Tsunami: Arise Australia’s Independents

Rarely in Australian history has a governing party suffered such loss in the face of an opponent unable to claim complete victory. It said much about the disillusionment, and plain disgust, from that nebulous centre of the country’s politics. That centre roared on May 21, consuming sitting government members and inflicting a bloody reckoning.

That reckoning was made in traditional inner-city seats that have never known anyone other than conservative members. It was part of a “teal” electoral tsunami, comprising candidates who would not necessarily wish to vote for Labor or the Greens, but who had found the Liberal-National government of Scott Morrison impossible to stomach on matters ranging from gender equality to climate change.

In the Melbourne seat of Goldstein, held by the Liberal Party’s Tim Wilson, former ABC journalist Zoe Daniel stormed through. It was a showing most fitting: the electorate is named after Vera Goldstein, feminist and women’s rights campaigner who, in 1903, was the first woman to stand for election in a national parliament. “She ran as an independent several times,” Wilson said in a telling reminder, “because she was so independent that she couldn’t bring herself to run for either of the major parties.”

In the same city, the treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, was overwhelmed by Dr Monique Ryan in Kooyong. (Postal votes are currently being tallied, but it does not seem likely that Ryan will lose.) This loss for the Liberals will be keenly felt, given Frydenberg’s leadership aspirations.

The story was repeated in Sydney, with the same narrative directed like a dagger at the Morrison government: You, fossil fuel devotees, mocked climate change, disregarded gender equality, and sneered at policing corruption in federal politics. Wentworth went to businesswoman Allegra Spender, who had, during the course of her campaign, managed to assemble an army of 1200 volunteers.

Spender’s team, comprising a number of company directors, many women, is a revealing sign that movements can take root in the arid soil of caution that is Australian politics. “You said you were standing for the community, not the party,” she told supporters, “for taking responsibility, not blaming, for compassion, not division and for the future, not the past.”

In the seat of North Sydney, held by the mild-mannered Liberal Trent Zimmerman, a victorious Kylea Tink reiterated the laundry list issues that had motivated the teal revolution. “The majority things for me,” she told Crikey, “are climate action, integrity and addressing inequality.”

The victory of the various independents was the Liberal Party’s version of the Trojan Horse, one that had found itself parked in their heartland seats and released on election night. It was a triumph of community organisation, not rusted party politics, despite Wilson’s fulminations about sinister external forces at work. It was the apotheosis of a movement that began with Cathy McGowan, the Victorian independent who won the rural seat of Indi in 2013.

This was also an election which delivered the highest Greens vote ever. Queensland, almost always the deciding state, may well furnish two, possibly three Greens members in the House of Representatives. The Greens leader, Adam Bandt, put much it down to the turbulent, vicious weather of recent times. “We’ve just had three years of droughts and then fires and then floods and then floods again and people can see that this is happening.”

Remarkably for the group, they managed to win the Liberal-held seat of Ryan in the process. They are also on the hunt in the Labor-held Melbourne seat of Macnamara. “We are now on planet Greensland,” exclaimed the Greens candidate Elizabeth Watson-Brown on realising her triumph in Ryan, “and we are taking it forward.”

While the Labor opposition have good reason to cheer the prospect of forming government in almost a decade, other facts are impossible to ignore. The Greens continued their now established historical trend of eating away at Labor’s vote in inner suburban areas, notably in Queensland.

Across several states, the party actually suffered, along the Liberal National coalition, a precipitous fall in the primary vote. To form government on such a low primary return is staggering and says much about the loss of appeal of the established parties. “It would be an unusual win for Labor,” noted a sour editorial from the Australian Financial Review, “with no grand policy ambitions or sweeping difference from the incumbent Coalition government.” Only Western Australia, keen to punish the Morrison government, arrested that tendency, and may end up giving Anthony Albanese a majority.

Labor also bungled in the previously safely held south-west Sydney seat of Fowler, where Kristina Keneally, who had only lived in the electorate for a brief spell, missed out to local grassroots independent, Dai Le. The swing of almost 18 per cent away from Labor shows that Keneally, when she suffers defeat, does so in grandly catastrophic fashion. The story of this debacle is also salutary to major parties who parachute heavy weight politicians into seats as part of party and personal ambition, rather than the interests of voters.

While the bruised LNP will lick their wounds and rue their ignorance of the community movement that gathered pace under their noses, Australia’s major parties will have to consider a new phenomenon: the non-career parliamentarian, one who enters parliament, not for party allegiance and faction but for voter representation and change. For the Westminster model of government, this is indeed a stunning novelty.

 

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A New Start: The 2022 Election

Prologue: The Result

It is done. The former regime under which we have lived for the last nine years is no longer in power. Despite the corporate cheerleading, despite the blatant bias and propaganda from the media, the Australian Labor Party will form the next government. All the king’s monkeys and all the king’s propagandists could not reinstall (off a floppy disk) the LNP. The rise of the Independents and Others (Greens etc) means that a minority Labor government is likely. That says much, does it not? The two times in the last generation that the party of the workers has been allowed to form a government they were in a minority? Granted this is not settled yet, but it does look likely.

The ALP and Political Courage

Prior to getting into the policies I hope the new government will implement, it is necessary to consider how they will govern. You may recall that very early in the Abbott government’s term, they established an institutionalised witch hunt into ‘union corruption’, which discovered precisely nothing. The Royal Commission, which had a political appointee (Heydon) overseeing it, was very much designed to find dirt on Bill Shorten. The political courage (read balls) it took to use a public institution for such brazen political purposes was remarkable. The sheer level of ‘try and stop me’ arrogance and pigheadedness underlying that Royal Commission was amazing. The LNP simply did not give a sh*t: they were going to do this so get used to it.

The ALP, in its new government, needs that same attitude. Mr. Albanese and his troops need to take that ‘No. This is the right thing to do, and we are going to do it. Try and stop us’ attitude. The difference will be where they apply it: to what ends. If you combine conservative self-assuredness (arrogance) with ALP policies, you have a potentially quite effective combination. The ALP also needs to learn how to play politics with issues, but I want to look at this in the context of specific policies. The point, for now, is that Labor cannot be timid in how it governs. The media and the LNP will both be gunning for them. The ALP cannot show weakness or timidity.

The Most Important New Government Policy: The Integrity Commission

The most important policy, one that should be put in place when political capital is greatest, is the Integrity Commission. Since corruption molds government opinion, and government opinion informs policy, this is the first issue to address. The fish stinks, as Senator Fierravanti-Wells said, from the head down. If you do not first address corruption, any and all policy is compromised. To use an analogy, purify the water before distributing it to the villagers.

In a previous paragraph I mentioned playing politics with issues. On the issue of integrity, the backlash against this is likely to be severe. But you cannot show weakness, Mr Prime Minister-elect. If the LNP and the media dismiss this Commission as a partisan witch hunt you must be ready to fight. The way you fight is simple. You ask ‘Why would the Leader of The Opposition oppose an anti-corruption Commission? As the former Prime Minister Mr Morrison used to say, if you have done nothing wrong you have nothing to hide’. Yes, play it like that. No party with a clean record would oppose such a Commission. Is this dirty? Possibly, but it is for the right reasons.

A brief comment on the nature of this Commission: it must be retrospective, it must have teeth (including subpoena power) and its funding must be in ten year blocks chained to inflation. Any and all former MPs, Senators, consultants, lobbyists, or donors of any party are not eligible to become Commissioners. The Commission would appoint fresh Commissioners for each investigation, with an overarching Chief Commissioner appointed for two years. The time has come to clean up Australian politics. If that makes the corrupt politicians screech and cry, so be it. Having a non-corrupt government and opposition matters more than some politician’s feelings and especially their bottom line.

A Looming Threat: The Media and Operation Restore Legitimate Government

The hostility of the media toward Anthony Albanese and the Labor Party was clear throughout the campaign. But the new government cannot ignore the media. In a previous post, I suggested that if Labor won the election, the media would start Operation Restore Legitimate Government the next day. The media (read Murdoch) gets to decide who governs the country, don’t you know? Oh the peasants might technically ‘elect’ the government, but we tell those peasants what to think. But they did not follow our instructions. They had the nerve to elect the other party. Well, we cannot have that. We need to get the party of legitimate government back into power.

You cannot ignore this, Mr Prime Minister-elect. The media will be gunning for you, particularly the partisan monkeys in the papers and on commercial television. The ABC may change its tune though (hear me out). The ABC is, always remember, government funded. For the last nine years, that government was the LNP, and so the ABC was little more than LNP propaganda. However, the ABC knows where its bread is buttered, and so its tune may well change. Let us be clear: I would be mortified if the ABC did the same as they did under the LNP but with a different partisan slant. But you might find that, now that it is a different government giving the ABC its funding, a slight tune change may occur. But back to Operation Restore Legitimate Government.

The peasants cheated the media. So, they will just have to try harder. If you thought the media was hostile to Labor during the campaign, just wait.They are bitter and angry that their preferred party is no longer in power. They want revenge. How do you deal with this? Continue the strategy of not taking the media’s crap that you used in the last two weeks of the campaign.

Conclusion: A New Start

The new government, under the leadership of Anthony Albanese, has a grand opportunity to reform Australia. Restoring Medicare, NDIS, public school funding, cleaning up corruption, action on climate and so much more. The floor, and the parliament, is yours, Mr Prime Minister-elect. If you cannot form a majority in your own right, I encourage you, Sir, work with the Independents and Others. I am not of the cynical Sam brigade which suggests that the Independents are merely Liberals in cheaper suits. You may find that some are, but go in with an open mind and seek common ground. As one of the Independents said in 2010, negotiating is in Labor’s DNA. Use this to your advantage, Sir, and form a strong, cohesive working majority if this is how government is to be formed.

Good luck, Mr Prime Minister-elect.

 

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Australian Disinformation Wonderland: The Federal Election 2022

All elections are filled with the half-truths, mistruths and full-fledged lies. Victory is rarely bought on a platform of complete honesty. But the road to the current Australian federal election has been potholed by more deception than most. This is bound to happen when policy platforms are weak and rickety, leaving the opponents large scope to undermine each other. The personal prevails over the substantive; ideas play little to no role.

Much of the influence of misinformation and its more aggressive twin, disinformation, is given a legendary status ahead of time. Commentaries abound about how to spot “fake news” from outlets that have themselves been prone to promote counterfeit material.

A study commissioned by digital security and privacy company Avast filled electors with little confidence about either the content of news or their talents in spotting irregularities and fictions. 38 per cent of those surveyed revealed they were not confident in identifying fake news online. The age group between 18-24 were said to be the least confident.

Misinformation has a tendency to multiply and amplify in the wildfire environs of the Internet. “In recent research,” claimed Avast security expert Stephen Ko, “our AI team found that 17.9 per cent of hyperlinks of misinformation sites link to other misinformation domains. If users visit a misinformation site, the risk is higher that they end up in a rabbit hole of misinformation sites.” His advice, resembling those cautionary words of an impatient parent to an inattentive child, is to check such matters as the publication date. News should, he remarked, be “current”.

The Australian Electoral Commission has also gone out on a limb in establishing what it calls a “disinformation register”. Doing so comes with a caveat. “The AEC is not the arbiter of truth regarding political communication and does not seek to censor political debate in any way.” A fine objective, except that the AEC is also authoritative in pointing out that, “when it comes to the election process we conduct, we’re the experts and we’re active in defending Australia’s democracy.”

A list of “prominent pieces of disinformation” follows, though the actual source is not overly specific beyond the platform. The first example: “The AEC has sent multiple copies of unsolicited postal votes to a single voter proving voter fraud occurs.” The unsurprising source: Facebook.

Others include claims that First Nations people “have been wiped from the electoral roll without their knowledge”; that applications for postal votes “are being submitted and processed for deceased Australians” and “Dominion voting machines will be used and will be ‘rigged’ to favour one of the major political parties.” That old favourite – that the AEC is itself politically aligned – also features.

Various ethnic groups have been the subject of interest in disinformation strategies. The ABC has reported instances of Liberal Party supporters using the WeChat platform to spread falsehoods about a number of Labor supporters and critics of the Morrison government.

Not to be outdone, some Labor supporters have targeted the incumbent Liberal member for the seat of Chisholm, Gladys Liu, the first ethnic Chinese woman to serve a term in the House of Representatives. According to a Facebook page hosted by an ALP branch located in the Queensland electorate of Wright, Liu’s loyalties were malodorously suspect. A post from April 19 insinuated that Liu was potentially linked to a Chinese plot to infiltrate the Australian parliament.

A particularly aggressive campaign of media disinformation has also blown through some seats where independents are running against threatened incumbents. Earlier this month, the New South Wales electorates of Mackellar, Warringah and Hughes woke up to a number of posters with independent candidates branded with the Greens logo. A statement from the Greens leader Adam Bandt made much of the deception, suggesting that there was “a good chance that whoever is behind this has also committed a criminal act.”

In the Melbourne electorate of Kooyong, a simmering campaign alleging the hidden allegiances of independent Monique Ryan has also been marked by the stain of inaccuracy and mistruth. Stickers have emerged at points claiming that a vote for Ryan is a vote for Labor. This has not been helped by an aggressive campaign waged by the Liberal Party and the Murdoch-News Corp cheer squad alleging much the same thing.

Zoe Daniels, running against the Liberal Party’s Tim Wilson in the Victorian seat of Goldstein, expressed dismay in a tweet about voting strategies set to undermine her candidacy. “In a new low, ‘people’ on social media are spreading the lie that it’s only necessary to mark me number 1 for the vote to be valid.” This was a matter of “orchestrated DISINFORMATION,” she capitalised in anger, “designed to cause informal voting.” Every box, she fumed, had to be numbered.

In its response to the message from Daniels, the AEC expressed its own disappointment. “Formality rules are very clear – in addition to them being printed on our ballot papers, our staff will also walk voters through what’s required.” In some cases, it will take more than just a walk through to dispel the miasma of falsehoods that will mark this election as voters cast their ballots.

 

 

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All that remains is for you to cast your vote… but think before you do

An emboldened Scott Morrison would be a disaster for Australia. A vote for Anthony Albanese would bring new hope for better leadership and a more egalitarian society. Whilst the wrongs of the past decade would not disappear immediately, many would. Others might take two terms of Parliament.

Should he be triumphant, the tasks of a new Labor government would be enormous. Still, an Albanese-led government can accomplish much with a leader who has experienced life from bottom to top and believes that good government comes from the delegation of authority and not one individual.

I’m all for the recreation of a new and decent society that is inclusive and caring.

My society is a collection of people who desire to express themselves in every human endeavour: A collective who has aspirations of conducting their humanity, labour, learning, aspirations, spirituality, art, poetry, play and exploration with the most extraordinary possible diversity and at the very centre of my society would be empathy instilled in their learning, and the common good would be at the centre of their politics regardless of ideology.

I mean that equality of opportunity for all would be enshrined in its constitution by the common good.

My kind of society is one where one’s sexual preference or, indeed, one’s gender wouldn’t be the determinant by which one’s character is judged. One’s skin colour would say nothing about anyone other than perhaps their geographical origins.

My society would advance the individual’s right to pursue whatever they desire, including the pursuit of economic success, which would only be regulated by the principles of the collective common good and in consideration of everyone’s entitlement to an equitable share of society’s wealth.

People would be guaranteed freedom of expression, including the right to disagree but be reminded that debate is not necessarily about winning. It is an exchange of many things. Facts, ideas and principles. All have a place. But when broken down, it is simply the art of persuasion in its purest form.

In my enlightened society, the suggestion that we must legislate one’s right to hate another person would be considered intellectually barren.

Access to health and welfare would be guaranteed and access to treatment assured.

Most importantly, the principle that we should treat others in the same manner, we expect them to treat us would be indelible in every citizen’s mind.

My society would have a healthy regard for science over myth and mysticism but simultaneously recognise that each individual has a right to express their spirituality in their way so long as it doesn’t corrupt the aspirations of ‘commongoodism ‘.

My society would be judged by its welcoming and treatment of its most vulnerable citizens, including the aged, the homeless, the poor, and those seeking asylum.

Accessibility to the law, regardless of stature or wealth, would be available to everyone.

Transformation would be part of the very fabric of our existence. It would be a progressive society. One that wouldn’t resist change on the foolish assumption that we can make permanent that which makes us feel secure.

My ideal society would acknowledge that a democratic group mentality advances society better than dictatorial individuality.

In democratic societies, our herding instincts are realised by electing quality leaders who form the government.

A fitness to serve stipulation would seek a clause in our constitution to as much as possible guarantee that the most expert help in our Parliament.

Individual or collective ambition can only happen within a social structure built and controlled by a sympathetic government.

If we live in a democracy, then it must be the elected officials that decide and regulates society’s advancement and who provide the environment in which to do so.

Therefore, every parliamentarian must abide by the principles of a constitution independently devised by the people and a bill of rights under a newly formed republic.

In reality, very little is done in the name of progress that cannot be credited in some way to the government.

I get somewhat tempestuous about the decline in our democracy and the corruption accompanying it.

Amid the angry voices intent on doing over one’s opponent, there must be people who have a genuine desire to change our democracy for the better. There has never been a better opportunity than now.

A vote for an Albanese led government could bring about a better system of government, resulting in a better society. Whilst retribution might be on the lips of many, I fervently believe that a new government needs to address only those wrongs that would lead to better governance.

My thought for the day

The common good should be at the centre of any political philosophy. However, it is more likely to be found on the left than on the right.

 

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Teal Revolutions and the Crisis of the Liberal Party of Australia

By Melissa Marsden

The outcome of Saturday’s federal election will have widespread implications for Australian democracy.

The increasing number of ‘Teal’ candidates threatening marginal Liberal held seats has meant the ‘two horse race’ between Labor and Liberal can no longer be guaranteed.

Sydney Morning Herald journalist David Crowe has suggested the wave of moderate liberal political-leaning women, supporting issues ranging from climate change to the successful marriage equality campaign, has played an essential role in electing female teal candidates.

These issues, having over the past two decades being the primary wedges within the Liberal Party have spilled over to fertilise this new teal phenomenon.

However, the rise of Teal independents may not be as positive for the parliament as some have thought.

In a recent panel discussion on the upcoming election, held at The University of Adelaide, Associate Professor in Global Security Tim Legrand said he was expecting a “Teal revolution” to sweep across the country at Saturday’s polls.

The issue with revolutions is, they have very rarely been successful, and when they have, rarely has the new reigning political power been a more positive alternative.

In addition, these new regimes rarely last long, the gloss of ‘independence’ soon making way for power plays and conflict much like the once powerful political elites once opposed.

A search of historical revolutions found few actually succeeded in ousting the reigning regime, and even fewer manage to wield any lasting power.

On a smaller scale, even the rise of reactionary right and left-wing political parties and candidates across the world have rarely managed to entirely reshape the political landscape.

Pauline Hanson’s One Nation rose to power in the Australian parliament during the 1990s on a reactionary right winged, populist, economic rationalist and anti-globalisation platform however has since been unable to garner mainstream support.

More recently, 2013 saw the rise of Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party on a similarly reactionary populist platform aimed at “disenchanted Labor supporters” and the election of Glenn Lazarus, Dio Wang and Jacqui Lambie.

The Coalition constantly attacks Labor for its reliance on independents and minor parties during the Gillard years, (and warns of history repeating itself) however both the evolution of the United Australia Party and that of the Teals are far more indicative of a crisis in the Liberal Party than anywhere else.

Now the political sphere is being divided once more, with the new Teals joining the rabble of blue, red, green, and what I refer to as the grey and rosé independents (the latter two being unaligned and Labor-leaning).

Of course, this is not to suggest the Teals are akin to the likes of revolutionary apparatchiks, and indeed some have supported fair and much needed legislative reform.

Former Member for Wentworth Dr Kerryn Phelps helped campaign for fairer treatment of asylum seekers.

Member for Warringah Zali Steggel runs on a platform of gender equality, affordable and accessible healthcare and a federal ICAC.

However, there is a risk.

Whilst a Teal revolution may be beneficial to the overall parliament, with the nation’s house representing all sides of the political spectrum even those not so easily defined as blue or red, the loss of moderate Liberals will ultimately lead to the Liberal Party shifting further to the right.

In a lecture last week hosted by the University of Adelaide Politics & International Relations Association, Emeritus Professor of Australian and European politics Clement Macintyre has said

“The danger is the loss of moderate Liberal seats to Teal independents will lead to a less broad church” within the federal Liberal Party.

The implications of this erosion of the broad church has been highlighted as a significant threat to the Liberal Party for some time now.

All we need do is look back to Malcolm Turnbull’s time as Prime Minister and the Liberal Party’s determination to quash any moves towards progressive policy to see the toxicity that an overly loud hard Liberal Party can have.

Turnbull himself has called out this “shift to the right” within the Liberal Party.

With an increasing number of Teal candidates emerging, will we see the collapse of the Liberal Party’s moderate faction, particularly as young candidates shift away from the traditional two-party system and join the teal revolution?

Will the shining light of the Teal revolution super nova form a black hole in the Australian political system, sucking the Liberal Party in and quashing their so-called ‘broad church’?

Whilst the outcome of the election may not be known until days after, Scott Morrison and the Liberal Party’s political relevance hangs in the balance.

 

Melissa Gillian Marsden is a passionate advocate for social justice and a self-confessed political junkie.

It was almost destined that from the moment I was born I would forever have a lot to say. The Granddaughter of a proud Yorkshire woman and fellow Leo zodiac, I would always retain the ability to “talk under water with a mouth full of marbles”. Likewise it was unsurprising that from an early age I was instilled with a fierce sense of loyalty, protectiveness of loved ones and a love of arguing my point (even if it ended in tears).

After being diagnosed with a life long, life threatening medical condition six weeks after my birth and suffering a traumatic brain injury at the age of six years old leaving me with low vision and short term memory loss, I suppose I knew from the beginning that fairness and equality are notoriously contested and complex issues. I was also taught that not everyone views people with disabilities as ordinary people- capable of great success and failure, strength and weakness that can be (although admittedly not always) completely irrespective of that disability.

Now as a 25yr old university student with degrees in politics, international relations, history and currently journalism I have come to the conclusion that perhaps my love of understanding why the world is the way it is and the tools I have developed whilst at university can be used to shine a light on issues of injustice whilst allowing me to have a good rant at the debates raging in public and political discourse.

* * *

Melissa runs her own blog, Framing the Narrative, and can be followed on Twitter @MelMarsden96.

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A walk down memory lane

A walk down memory lane, with a cast of all too familiar characters.

Saved for prosperity.

We begin:

Our Prime Minister

Our Treasurer

Our Defence Minister

Our Attorney General

Our Minister for the NDIS

Time to bid this rabble farewell.

 

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Final Thoughts After The Long, Long Campaign…

When Morrison started campaigning in 2019, most people expected him to lose. Even more people expected him to stop campaigning after the election, at least for a few weeks. But Scotty being Scotty, he couldn’t afford to stop apart from a brief holiday in Hawaii.

I guess that’s what he found so perplexing when he copped all that flack about: the next election is ages away and if I don’t take a break now, when will I get the chance? I mean, it’s not like I can actually do anything to help. When told that Prime Ministers normally did things like go to the affected area and offer moral support he was off before you could say photo opportunity. Unfortunately, he wasn’t prepared for the video showing him forcing someone’s hand into his: it was meant to be a still shot and we’re out of here!

The fear for me is that Morrison is like Covid. It was a terrible thing that upset lives and people just didn’t know. how to deal with it, so after the horror of all the ways it changed what we perceived as normality, a lot of people decided that the best thing to do was ignore it and hope it didn’t affect them personally.

The Coalition government – which stretches back to 2013, no matter how Morrison tries to tell us that they’re just warming up and good government starts next term – have made so many mistakes that the election will be over by the time I list them. Yet somehow they manage to obscure what they’ve done by talking about Labor.

Take Robodebt! The various defenders suggest that the practice of income averaging had been around for thirty years. This is true, but in the past, it was just a way of identifying which people needed to be examined more closely. This would be like the police getting a description of a suspect, then arresting the first person they found over 190cm tall with brown hair and holding them in custody until they could prove their innocence, and then arguing that all police use descriptions to identify suspects.

Yet after Robodebt, Morrison was happy to assert that Christian Porter was “an innocent man” because of the well-accepted idea of the presumption of innocence. Of course, Mr Porter is entitled to this presumption, just as those receiving Robodebt letters were.

Tomorrow people will be voting and the polls are tightening and I know that a lot of people are thinking, “We’ve seen this movie before and we find it all a bit too predictable and silly. I mean, why does that person run into the one place where there’s no help?”

So, here we are again. Last time Labor were ahead in the polls and the betting markets. The party that was elected to get debt and deficit under control have doubled the debt and have produced nothing but deficits, but wait: Good news! Next year we’re back in black. Awesome, we told you we were good economic managers.

This time we have a similar scenario, except that it’s unemployment that’s the good news. It has a three in front of it and businesses can’t get enough workers. See, we’re the good economic managers! Let’s ignore the fact that a shortage of workers is a sign of inefficiencies in the economy, just like a shortage of jobs is, but let’s ignore that because look, Labor are going to add $7 billion to the one trillion we’ve racked up. Fiscally irresponsible and you’ll all be broke.

I could point out here that this is the equivalent of me getting very upset with my partner and calling her fiscally irresponsible when she puts two coffees on the credit card after I’ve just spent a thousand dollars on a guitar because I thought I’d like to learn to play one day.

However, I suspect that at least some people are more cynical. I suspect that at least some people are more concerned with the cost of living. I suspect that at least some people understand that the person they thought was a daggy dad is really a snake-oil salesman who turns around and says that he isn’t delivering what you paid for because it wasn’t what you thought it was. I’m thinking integrity commission here, where Morrison promised one, but constantly calls ICAC a kangaroo court which ruins reputations of people by asking them questions publicly and how is that fair when all they’ve done is lie to the public and use taxpayer funds in ways that people would find dodgy. Totally unfair.

Much has been made of the fact that Morrison has steered clear of the so-called moderates and the suggestion has been that he realises that he’s electoral poison in those places, but there is an alternative possibility: He actually believes in miracles and he doesn’t care about these electorates, believing that God will deliver the seats he needs with candidates like Katherine Deves. Actually, after Scotty bulldozed that kid (“fault on both sides” according to Stuart Robert), did anyone ask her if she has a view on men playing sport against little children or is it only transgender people that she has a problem with?

Whatever worries Labor voters may have, they should rest assured after Morrison told us that he didn’t introduce the integrity commission legislation because Labor opposed it. On that basis, it seems that whoever wins the election the only legislation brought before parliament will be things that Labor supports!

 

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Nine Years Is Enough! It’s Time For A New Australia

By Loz Lawrey

That the LNP Coalition is desperate to win this election has been in stark evidence throughout the campaign.

Morrison’s bullying tone at press conferences and the constant anti-Labor fearmongering, scare tactics and verbal assaults from him and his colleagues are testament to that desperation.

But are they desperate to serve the Australian public or simply desperate for power?

Tony Windsor, one of the independent MPs who in 2010 backed Julia Gillard to form a Labor government, recalled that at the time Liberal leader Tony Abbott begged crossbench MPs to make him prime minister, joking; ”the only thing I wouldn’t do is sell my arse – but I’d have to give serious thought to it”.

Clinging to power means everything to these Liberal folk, and a threat to their incumbency and sense of entitlement can make their voices go squeaky.

Is it me, or did Scott Morrison’s “bulldozer” speech sound a lot like a domestic violence perpetrator entreating his victim to forgive his toxic, abusive behaviour and take him back?

“Awww, honey, you know I can be a bit of a… aww gee, you know I can’t help myself. I can change… believe me! Just… take me back…”. There’s a certain cringeworthy tone to it.

Like the 1952 televised “Checkers” speech in which USA republican presidential candidate Richard Nixon, accused of fundraising improprieties, tried to reframe himself in the public’s mind as a trustworthy family man, Morrison is asking Australians to suspend their disbelief in his promise to “change” and begging us to return his government for another term.

The current squawking from Liberals threatened by independent candidates standing for their seats has been loud, shrill and sometimes a little unhinged.

There’s no doubt that there are among these centrist challengers some quality contenders who, whether of a progressive or conservative bent, would likely make fine federal representatives for their local constituents.

Such excellent members of parliament can be found on both sides of politics, well-known in the communities they serve and responsive to their constituents’ needs.

The Liberals are trying to paint the rise of these “teal independents” as some sort of attack on democracy and the Australian “system”.

Both major parties are concerned at the likely erosion of their bases, as votes are lost to these new challengers.

Other Australians, however, firmly believe that the major parties have let us all down and these independent candidates may in fact help to save our democracy, yield greater transparency, force a new government into realistic action on climate change and create a Federal ICAC, among other things.

“Only Labor or the LNP Coalition can form government”. That’s the response you’ll often hear if you tell a friend you’re thinking of voting Green, Progressive or Conservative Independent, or even Loony Right Independent.

At every election, the two main parties and mainstream media send voters a clear message: only a vote for Labor or the Coalition matters. If you vote otherwise, you’re just throwing your vote away.

Yet history tells us that this was clearly not the case in 2010, when both major parties found themselves unable to form government without support from both the Greens and some Independents.

Julia Gillard and Labor won that support and, for the next term, despite an ongoing vile and misogynistic assault from both the opposition and the Murdoch media, ran a very competent and efficient government, proving that independents in government are not a recipe for the destruction of democracy.

Clearly, political parties who win government would prefer to govern in their own right, without having to consult and negotiate with independents or minor parties.

In our changing world however, good negotiation skills are more necessary than ever for the aspiring leader.

It’s been said that “politics is the art of compromise”, but for this government compromise is always a bridge too far.

Why isn’t the Nadesalingam family back in Biloela? Why were they removed from a community that embraced them in the first place? Sheer cruelty.

For the LNP, cruelty seems to be a necessary component of “strong” government.

I can never shake the memory of Morrison’s “on-water matters” announcements and the pride he took in his management of the institutionalised cruelty of the offshore detention system.

Cruelty is a structural component of the Morrison Government’s business model, as it was under Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull. Another memory I can’t shake is that of Turnbull advising Australians not to get “misty-eyed” over the mistreatment of refugees in detention.

Cruelty is certainly a structural component of the Department Of Home Affairs. Just ask anyone who’s tried to assist an Afghan friend under daily threat of torture and execution by the Taliban to apply for a humanitarian visa.

This morning I heard from a young journalist friend I’ve been trying to help. He’s just been caught and tortured by the Taliban for the second time, for simply being of Hazara ethnicity and a supporter of free speech and human rights.

The first time they caught him, he was whipped. I’ve seen the photos of his wounds and they were shocking. He lives on the run, constantly changing address to avoid capture. Now my friend tells me he’s just recovering from another assault. This time one of his hands has been badly damaged.

He’s also run out of funds to support himself and under the Taliban, finding work isn’t an option.

In October 2021 I helped him lodge an application for a humanitarian visa to Australia. We are now in May 2022 and no response whatever has been received from the Department.

One has to ask: does a Department of Human Affairs actually exist in the real world, or is it a paper tiger, a mere semblance of a department?

Is it like some Hollywood movie set, just a false façade to fool the public?

Try calling the Department, if you can find their phone number. They do have one, buried on the department website somewhere. But should you find the number, make the call and wait an eternity for the phone triage system to connect you to a live person, you’ll never get past the “enquiry guy”, who politely tells you he knows nothing, has no answers, can’t refer you to someone who does know, but can send you a website link where you may lodge an email enquiry.

The whole setup seems designed to keep the public at bay and in the dark. Human Services? There’s simply no service to be found there at all.

And if you’re a desperate human seeking assistance from a first-world country that claims to be humane, it’s a great shock to discover that in reality you won’t even get a polite refusal. Home Affairs will simply ignore your application and leave you swinging in the wind, in danger and in fear for your life.

Yes, in the Morrison government, cruelty is entrenched.

One can only hope that a new government (hopefully less cruel, with a leader who won’t require empathy training) will replace it, one with an actual vision for the betterment of our nation beyond simply clinging to power for power’s sake.

That new government may need to negotiate with new independent MPs to form government.

Which brings us back to negotiating and achieving outcomes in the national interest. The “art of compromise” has over time become a lost art, thanks to the wolf-warrior tribalism that infects our system.

For Morrison, politics seems to mean never negotiating and finding compromise, but rather doing whatever it takes to keep up appearances: Bald-faced lies straight to camera, if that’s what he thinks will consolidate his grip on power.

For years we’ve endured Morrison’s shouty carnival-barker style, with announcements delivered in an aggressive bully-boy manner, jaw thrust forward, slightly reminiscent of America’s former president Trump, that master of belligerence and misrepresentation.

One of Morrison’s public nicknames is “Scotty From Marketing” and it’s true that he often sounds as though he’s trying to flog you a mattress or a used car. And those family-handyman, curry-cookin’ footy-boy selfies… ’nuff said.

But I don’t want to “play the man”, tempting as it is…

I have no idea what outcome we Australians will collectively choose on voting day.

My fervent hope is that this time we’ll opt for change and a new direction.

Of course, that’s what I hoped last time and I was stunned to see the Morrison government returned, so… I’m not holding my breath.

I was stunned to see Australians reject a raft of nation-building policies that would, had Labor won government then, by now be well in place and yielding positive outcomes for our country.

Yet where are we now? A failed three-term government is relying on Australians being politically disengaged sheep with short memories, who will simply cave in to an avalanche of spin and re-elect them.

“Better the devil you know” as it were.

Morrison talks of refusing pay rises and imposing ongoing poverty and misery on so may of us, all in the name of that old trope “the economy”.

I can see the people, but I can’t see the economy. Is it imaginary? Is it just theoretical? I’m just joking, of course. I know that “the economy” is a synonym for “the machinery of capitalism”.

That economic machine, founded as it was on slavery, was never originally intended to benefit us all equally, but in these days of democracy it surely should, shouldn’t it?

But it doesn’t. It’s broken and out of balance. There is a huge gap between “haves” and “have-nots”.

If the very workers whose lifelong daily efforts create and maintain “the economy” can’t meet their own costs of living due to galloping inflation and wage stagnation, then capitalism has failed in its mission to benefit us all and remains true to its roots as a system that didn’t serve the people, just an elite few.

Morrison’s “the economy” mantra, wielded like a bat whenever wage rises are mentioned, elevates business and commerce above the people.

In that paradigm capitalism doesn’t serve most Australians, rather we simply exist to “serve the economy”. We the people are subservient to it, apparently.

It’s time to vote for candidates who want the economy to serve us all.

I dare to hope that this time Australians will choose a better option. I believe it’s time for change, but then I did at the last election, and the one before that.

Instead, we’ve had another three years of ministerial scandals and aimless, indifferent, lacklustre government.

If there’s an independent running for your seat and you feel their policy agenda reflects your values and priorities, why not give them a go?

Whoever you decide to back, please, please, please vote this government out.

 

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No, Josh, the Covid downturn was not Australia’s greatest challenge since federation

By Alan Austin

First the Covid crisis was “worse than the global financial crisis”, then it was “thirty times worse”, then it became “the most significant crisis Australia has seen since the Second World War.” That’s according to Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg. Now, as their messaging appears to be flailing, “the country has been under the most stress since federation itself”.

The implication of these ridiculous claims is that the Coalition faced a much greater challenge – thirty times greater to be precise – than Labor did in fending off a recession.

Recessions since federation

Since 1901 there have been six major global downturns. The most severe was the Great Recession in the 1930s. Second worst was the global financial crisis (GFC) from 2008 to 2013. Others, in order of severity, were the early 1980s global recession, the 1970s energy crisis, the early nineties oil price shock and the Covid downturn of 2020.

Of these, the last was clearly the mildest. It was much shorter, impacted fewer countries, cost far fewer permanent job losses, and caused much less damage as measured by property loss, bankruptcies and suicides.

Quarterly GDP growth

Through the GFC, only two of the 36 developed members of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) avoided a recession – defined as two quarters of negative growth in gross domestic product (GDP). They were Australia and Poland. (Australia also avoided widespread job losses. Poland didn’t.)

Through the Covid downturn, however, more than twelve major economies averted recession. These include OECD members Ireland, Japan, Poland, Chile, Lithuania and Turkey. So did Romania, China, India, Croatia and others which are not OECD members.

Annual GDP growth

Through the GFC, only one OECD member country averted a negative quarter of annual GDP growth. That was Australia. Israel experienced one negative quarter and Poland just two. Chile and South Korea copped three. A majority of 27 nations suffered between four and 14, while four economies endured more than 14. See GFC chart, below:

 

 

The longest recession was Greece’s which lasted six years. The average was more than two years. In contrast, the Covid recession was over within a few months for all OECD members except Austria. Austria’s recession lasted nine months. See Covid chart, below:

 

 

Yes, the negative quarters in the Covid downturn were deep. But the snap-back was rapid. France, for example, suffered a 13.5 per cent quarterly decline in the 2020 second quarter, the worst in recorded history. But it recovered fully next quarter with a thumping 18.6 per cent gain, wiping out the losses instantly. Even Austria which went backwards in three quarters in 2020 and two in 2021 restored all lost income with a strong positive result in the 2021 third quarter.

Job losses then and now

Norway’s jobless rate is now 3.3 per cent, which is much healthier than the 3.8 per cent recorded in December 2019, before the pandemic. It has now restored all jobs lost in 2020 and added an extra seventy thousand. Gratulerer!

But here’s the thing. Norway has not yet restored jobs lost through the GFC. Nordmenns still have a lang vei to go to get back to rates below 2.7 per cent they enjoyed from 2006 to 2008.

This is true of another 15 developed economies, mostly in Europe, including France, Sweden, Denmark, Italy, Greece, Spain and Austria. All these have easily regained the jobs lost during Covid but have not yet fully recovered from the GFC.

Suicides the critical indicator

Suicides escalated dramatically as the GFC intensified worldwide. A British Medical Journal (BMJ) analysis of 54 European and American countries found an estimated 4,884 more suicides in 2009 than expected based on previous trends. Suicides rose 4.2 per cent in Europe and 6.4 per cent in the Americas, mostly among men. The study found the increases were “associated with the magnitude of increases in unemployment, particularly in countries with low levels of unemployment before the crisis.”

In contrast, Australia experienced a decline in suicides in 2009, down from 2,281 to just 2,130.

A more recent BMJ publication confirms that during the Covid-19 pandemic suicides in developed countries “remained largely unchanged or were lower than expected”. Australia again experienced a drop in the suicide numbers in 2020, down from 3,317 to 3,136.

Mismanagement thirty times worse?

Clearly, the Covid recession was a puny adversary compared with the GFC. It is arguable, however, that Australia’s management of the 2020 crisis was much less effective than in 2008.

Evidence for this includes budget deficits relative to GDP, government debt added, the decline in national net worth, jobs lost at the lowest point, productivity declines, real wage declines, business failures and rates of GDP growth. All these were much healthier in Australia during the GFC than during the Covid downturn – both in raw numbers and global rankings.

On annual GDP growth, for example, Australia had the OECD’s highest growth rate in 2009 and was in the top eight for most of Labor’s term. In contrast, Australia ranks 27th today.

The ultimate difference, of course, is that Australia averted recession through the GFC. It didn’t through the pandemic.

The list of independent economists, global leaders and other authorities who have credited Australia with the world’s best response to the GFC now exceeds 160. The list of accolades for Australia through the Covid downturn is much smaller, with just two entries – from Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg.

Media connivance

As the election approaches, perhaps Australia’s Covid crisis will escalate further in ministerial rhetoric to the worst disaster since Noah’s flood. Or maybe the greatest catastrophe since that meteor wiped out the dinosaurs. We shall see.

The mainstream economics writers know full well all this is nonsense. Their failure to factcheck this furphy whenever it appears reflects poorly on their competence and integrity.

 

 

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Take The PM To The April Sun In Cuba…

Recently I received a letter from John Howard telling me that he’d known Josh Frydenberg for twenty years and what a great chap he is and how intelligent and hard working he is. It was like one of those references you write when you don’t know the person very well but you know them well enough that it’s hard to refuse so you resort to generalities because you can’t remember anything specific that they’ve done.

It went on to tell me that if I vote for an independent there’s a chance that Josh won’t be elected. Imagine that, a former PM thinking that the electorate is so stupid that they might not understand that the person they vote for might be elected and that they certainly aren’t voting for them in the hope that they actually are.

Still it is Kooyong. You know the seat that Menzies held. I read recently that his 93 year-old daughter would hate to die with someone other than a Liberal in the seat. Well, there’s an easy way to stop that happening… But did whoever reported that story think that someone would say, «People sleeping in their cars, but I’d hate to risk electing a different government because that poor daughter of Menzies would be unhappy.! »

Anyway, I’m led to believe that the polls are tightening and this is giving Labor votes a sense of déjà-vu. I’ll wait and see and not tempt fate too much but remember that there are more young people voting in this election because they’ve turned 18. And I have a sneaky suspicion that they’ll be more concerned about climate change than Menzies’ daughter and John Howard’s references.

When younger people are doing parodies like this, I suspect that Morrison won’t limp over the line again.

April Sun

 

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COVID Brain Fade at the Australian Elections

It’s the last week of an election between the uninspiring and the unspeakable. Australia’s conservative incumbents – the unspeakable ones – are even desperate enough to concede to a lack of popularity. Dislike us, but for heaven’s sake, vote us in. The times are wretched, the cost of living is rising, and we are going to look after you in the spiral. The opposition, in contrast, is being stingy on detail and sparing on scope. Memories of 2019 continue to traumatise the Australian Labor Party.

Scouring the election platforms, statements, and town hall debates, is a glaring absence of one particular field of policy. Virtually no candidate or major political party is mentioning that troubling issue of COVID-19 and the global pandemic. That was the dark past, and, like released jailbirds, voters find themselves preoccupied with other matters.

Sporadically, mention is made about the Morrison government’s tardy ordering and supply of COVID-19 vaccines – at least in the initial phase. At that time, Prime Minister Scott Morrison, rather infamously, dismissed the slow rollout. This wasn’t, he opined, a race.

In his first campaign video, Morrison burnished his own credentials as a warrior against COVID-19, having been responsible for saving thousands of lives. (The States and Territories, all far more engaged in the matter than Morrison ever was, are ignored.) But the primary message was that of, “A choice between an economic recovery that is leading the world, and a Labor opposition that would weaken it, and risk it.”

Despite Australia’s enviable record, the emergence of the furiously transmissible Omicron variant and a death toll this year surpassing the combined figures of 2020 and 2021, have seen a departure from previous policy. As Raina MacIntyre of the Kirby Institute remarked in January, Australia “swung from one extreme in pandemic control to the other – having great control of COVID, to now having the world’s highest rise in daily cases.”

Scenes of chaos ensued. The vulnerable had to queue for hours as testing centres were overwhelmed. A number of such centres were also closed, often without good reason. The Commonwealth and State governments tinkered with definitions on eligibility regarding testing, all the time refusing to expand capacity. MacIntyre was distinctly unimpressed. “There was no planning for expedited third-dose boosters, expanded testing capacity, rapid antigen tests, hospital in the home, opening of schools or even guidance for people to protect their household when one person becomes infected.”

None of this has made a difference in the political platform, nor, it seems, in voter interest. The COVID brain fade has well and truly set in. According to data generated by the ABC’s Vote Compass, a mere 1 per cent of Australians consider COVID the most important issue in this election. Vulnerable members of society are being seen as “collateral” to the overall scheme. Living with the virus has also meant suffering and even perishing from it.

The only party making much of COVID-19, and not from the perspective of praising vaccines and sound pandemic management, is the United Australia Party. Bankrolled by the quixotic mining magnate Clive Palmer, millions have been spent on media campaigns that have seen no discernible shift in the polls.

By default, health officials and experts have become crying Cassandras and the concerned oracles. Virologist Stuart Turville has observed, with exasperation, that the federal election campaign has been afflicted by “a case of COVID Fight Club. Don’t talk about it.” Future policies on the subject are virtually absent. “What will happen if we don’t get our third or fourth dose?” wonders Turville. “Will we see the death rate creep up from 40, to 60, to 80 before we start to talk about this again?”

Another figure of some woe and worry is Burnet Institute director, Brendan Crabb, who claims that politicians and governments have resolutely kept their “heads in the sand”. There was a dangerous sense of “COVID now”. Continuing high rates of transmission was “bad for business”. The longer health impacts were also being neglected. “How many of the 350,000 plus active cases in Australia right now will have chronic impacts? Overseas data suggests 20 per cent of them.”

Epidemiologist Nancy Baxter, based at the University of Melbourne, is another who can always be relied upon to deter any emerging complacency. “We’re at a point,” she gravely states, “where COVID is now one of the major killers of Australians, and probably by the end of the year is going to be one of the top three.” She adds further lashings of doom. “And with increasing case numbers, new sub-variants [will be] coming in. This may drive it even further, which would have a bigger impact.”

If the current mood prevails till May 21, we can expect little purchase from such attitudes at the ballot box. Fiscal responsibility, the consumer price index, climate change and the China bogeyman, are likely to feature ahead of the most disruptive pandemic in a century.

 

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Partying in 2022

By John Haly

Climate change takes centre stage in Australia’s election” was proclaimed in 2019, but then the party of Climate scepticism took the stage. The polls failed to predict the election outcome on the 18th of May 2019, and “climate” wasn’t on the agenda. Even more of a climate denialist than Tony Abbott, denialist Scott Morrison held all the Aces and dealt Bill Shorten a knockout blow few saw coming.

Here we are in 2022. The French are casting an eye across the Indian Ocean, where once submarines they might have manufactured were to travel to their final destination in Australia. France 24 proclaims, “Australia’s federal election: Climate change becomes top concern for voters“. They noted, “The environmental crisis is high on voters’ minds, and smaller parties and independents are gaining momentum by riding a wave of disillusionment over the conservative coalition’s lack of climate action.” But, after suggesting minor parties succeeding and hung parliaments are the future of the Australian parliament, one must wonder, do these minor parties really have the policies that could shake the foundations of our nation?

Single issue agendas

It is easy to find articles that review how the major parties will address Climate change. But perhaps less so conspicuous is the position of all the parties. But pick an issue that you rate as necessary, such as Queer Rights, and you can find a particular interest group ready to “dish the dirt” on your favourite issue. So, is there someone in your circle of associates prepared to do it on various topics? If you are looking for that someone, you have come to the right article and the correct author.

Multiple Parties and Issues

 

The political Compass reading of Australia political positioning in 2022

 

Think again, though, if you thought one should give any credibility to the ABC’s vote compass. I have previously addressed the errors of the ABC tunnel vision in my “Voting values” article. I refer to the international perspective from “The Political Compass“, which does it for every national election in western democracies. They represent their analysis of the classic Right-left / authoritarian-progressive abscissa and ordinate graph. Their results for Australia in 2022 came out recently. They placed the main parties in that two-dimensional framework for any party that has previously received a seat at the political table.

These evaluators did not look at every party that sought a guernsey at the political table (irrespective of their likely success).

The AEC informs us that, fundamentally 37 registered parties are seeking to place candidates into parliament. When the Morrison government introduced legislation that lifted the membership threshold for registering a federal political party from 500 to 1,500, some 40 parties found themselves in trouble. Some parties ceased to exist, such as the Australian Workers Party, which I evaluated as having the best range of progressive policies in 2019. Other parties (Science, Pirate, Secular, and Climate Emergency) deregistered their original name and formed their own coalition as the new Fusion Party. Others like the TNL (The New Liberals) went on a successful membership drive. So just like the last election, I began the long task of assessing the policies of 37 parties, some of whom did not exist when I last devoted myself to this task. Some old parties developed new guidelines there were no signs of three years ago, and others dropped policies I had assumed were entrenched from 2019.

In this election, I evaluated 24 specific ideological premises, starting with Climate Change mitigation and ending alphabetically with Worker’s Rights. The list of issues I evaluated from each party was:

  1. Climate mitigation
  2. Drug Reform
  3. Economy
  4. Education
  5. Employment
  6. Energy
  7. Environment
  8. Gender equality
  9. Government accountability
  10. Healthcare
  11. Housing and cost of living
  12. Immigration & refugees
  13. Indigenous
  14. Industrial relations
  15. Infrastructure
  16. LGBTQ rights
  17. Media Management
  18. Monetary principles
  19. Poverty and inequality
  20. Public transport
  21. Security/ Foreign & Domestic
  22. Social justice
  23. Superannuation & pensions
  24. Worker’s Rights

 

The ABC’s Overton Window on politics in 2022

 

Some of these issues came from a list of policies generated by ABC’s vote compass analysis of what participants were interested in from back in 2019. I then added a few other policy agendas or, in some cases, split issues. For example, I split climate issues into direct mitigation separate from environmental issues.

I documented how I defined each of these with a series of questions about each issue and assessed the contents of each party’s policies. You can find that at: http://auswakeup.info/issues/election-issue-2022.pdf.

Another table was created with columns for 37 parties with 24 rows for each issue. From this, I began writing notes or abbreviating the lists of policy positions each party gave to that issue. That took a good while, as parties don’t necessarily neatly describe their policies in the categories I generated. In some cases, they had policies whose classes I didn’t evaluate. The PDF for that is at http://auswakeup.info/issues/party-comments.pdf, but you will have to zoom in to get all the detail. Don’t try examining this on your tiny smartphone screen. It is important not to mislead you. I have not listed all the party’s policy positions, and I may have missed some. Some party’s policies are very comprehensive, and when I realised I had enough to make a reasonable assessment, I moved to the next issue. It took me over a week to do what I have done, so I did not wish to get bogged down in extraneous detail.

As I completed the assessment to the point where I had a broad summary for each party, I scored the results and moved to the next party’s website.

Pecuniary Interests Register

First off, I should address my allegiances. As a Journalist, I am a current member of a registered political party that, while still in existence, has no stake in the federal election. I am a founding member of the Arts Party. They voluntarily deregistered from the national sphere well before Morrison changed the rules. They are still registered at the State level, where the executive decided to focus their efforts. I also spent two and a half years on the executive of the Real Democracy party developing and building it. It was a social democratic party that based its economic policy on Modern Monetary Theory. In 2019 we gave up on the hope of ever getting it registered.

My philosophical framework

I would consider myself a socialist, although the family that brought me up, would be better described as “Small-L” liberals. When at 18 I went off to vote for the first time, my Father, after telling me how they voted for the local Liberal candidate, asked me for whom I voted? My disrespectful reply was, “Well, at least I cancelled out one of those votes!” My Father was aghast but fortunately loved me enough not to disown me.

This is the lens through which I evaluated and scored each party. You can take my notes and re-evaluate how you might score them per your own principles.

Scoring

I rated each party’s position on the 24 issues from minus one to three.

  • -1 : my assessment of the party’s position is that I hold it is deleterious to our society, economy and country. For example, climate denial/recalcitrance always got a minus one, as did evident anti-vaxxer ideologies and support for the crime of offshore refugee detention positions.)
  • 0 : means no policy was mentioned on this issue or was either relatively insignificant or aspects were so mixed between deleterious and reasonable as to cancel one another out. For example, Katter’s lousy policy on creating a new class of Blue Card that applies only to Indigenous communities. Still, he also has an excellent approach to inalienable title deeds issued to First Australians.)
  • 1 : represents the bare minimum or basically a reasonable approach but nothing to write home about. For example, Kim for Canberra says, “religion should not be used to discriminate against others in any context” which, while good, is the bare minimum for Social Justice issues)
  • 2 : it means good but needs improvement or doesn’t cover the entire scope of the issue. The Reason party has good pro-renewable energy policies and divestment from fossil fuels. Still, there are no specific strategies around subsidisation, phasing from one to another, and energy security, which is a commonly missing aspect.
  • 3 : a great set of policies for this area, perhaps complete or so little missing as to suggest the party would likely progressively fill any gaps in the future. For example, the comprehensive policy for Indigenous people comes from the Indigenous Aboriginal Party of Australia.)

Integrity

Evaluating a policy position has to assess the integrity of the claim. If the party lacks integrity or has a record of lying to gain a political advantage, that has to discredit their claim to a policy. So, for example, when the Liberal party claims to have a policy to “back small businesses with tax incentives”, I have noted that is not so if they are removing the Low and middle-income earner tax offsets. If you want a good laugh at Josh Frydenberg trying to spin it, watch Richard Denniss disassemble his claims on YouTube.

An alternate example might be the new housing policy for young first time home buyers to use 40% of their superannuation. I noted in my matrix that Morrison had already “allowed superannuation depletion by 3 million people” when he permitted people to access these funds during Covid in lockdowns rather than funding them through Job Keeper. Now Morrison suggests taking even more out of superannuation to support the housing crisis. Which even the “Investment Magazine” thinks is a bad idea. They expressed their concerns in their article “Deposit dipping into super not the answer to housing crisis” Sufficient to say, despite what Morrison claimed was a good policy, on the issue of “housing and cost of living“, I awarded the Liberals a negative one rating.

Weighting the results

In addition to direct scoring, I have weighted my scoring also. I have doubled my initial scores for four policy areas I believe are crucial for this election. Those four areas are:

  1. Climate mitigation.
  2. Economic monetary principles (MMT).
  3. Corruption and accountability management.
  4. The Rights of the Working Class.

This should be the climate election; 2019 was not. Catering to the neo-liberal economic principles based on the Monetarism theories of economic models developed by Adam Smith, Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman and promoted by Alan Greenspan, Robert Murphy, Paul Krugman and Jonathan Hartley is deplorable. It fails to recognise that we are an economically sovereign nation that issues our currency that everyone else uses. Instead, we should be following the post-Keynesian theories based on John Maynard Keynes and regenerated as the Modern Monetary models promoted by Prof Bill Mitchell, Stephanie Kelton, Pavlina Tcherneva and Warren Mosler. Books to read on this include “Doughnut Economics” as espoused by Kate Raworth, Stephanie Kelton’s “Deficit Myth“, “Reclaiming the State” by Prof Bill Mitchell and “Job Guarantee” as written by Pavlina Tcherneva. Corruption in politics costs society and business, and a Federal ICAC with teeth and divestment from corporate political donations are research subjects my wife specialises in and about which she has written extensively. As for Worker’s rights, well, I am, after all, a socialist, so I think that is important. However, while no Australian party declares the workers should seize the means of production as they did in Spain in 1936. Some of us see the value of a less violent uprising that might achieve that goal.

My results

So now that all my caveats, preferences, prejudices, etc., are loudly proclaimed, here are my resulting scores. Presented both with and without my weighting, which is published in the PDF located at http://auswakeup.info/issues/party-policy-scores.pdf.

You can print it off, and using the data in http://auswakeup.info/issues/party-comments.pdf, you can restore it in accordance with your own values. (Note: you will need to print the latter on A2 sized paper for it to be readable)

Preferences

Some results were unexpected. Parties I scored highly in 2019 have dropped better policies for poorer ones, by which I was disappointed. But then parties that were fair before have lifted their game in 2022. Due to this exercise, I have changed my mind about which parties and the sequencing I will vote for them. “What gets measured, gets managed“, as my small-liberal voting Father often said. He was right in some things, and I honour his memory by respecting that advice.

 

Use the power of preferential voting

 

The last warning or advice from this article is, for heaven’s sake, Australians, stop being so lazy as to abdicate your choices to party preferences, and choose your own preferences – number all the boxes. Understand how preferences work and use them to your advantage. Even if your best choice doesn’t receive a place at the political table, they might get enough funding from the AEC to keep going. Your preference vote will move to the next party in your choice of preferences until it settles on a winning party. That is the power of preferences, so don’t buy into this propaganda that you can’t vote for minor parties because this is a crucial election (they all are). It is not necessary to vote first for a likely winning party as that constitutes bandwagon voting and diminishes the power of your Australian preferential vote. Your vote will still get to that party! With all the potential corrupt corporate donations, the duopoly of Labor and Liberal doesn’t need the AEC money, but a smaller party with better policies does.

Summary

My three highest-scoring parties, irrespective of my weighting (but also including it), are TNL (The New Liberals), Socialist Alliance and the Reason Party. Conversely, the three lowest scorings, all of which have accumulated a negative score over 24 areas of evaluation, are Pauline Hanson’s One Nation, the Nationals and the Liberal Party.

Saturday the 21st of May 2022 is upon us this week. Choose wisely!

This article was originally published on AUSTRALIA AWAKEN – IGNITE YOUR TORCHES.

 

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Election 2022 pledges on Science and Technology

Science & Technology Australia Media Release

Australia’s political parties and independent candidates at the 2022 election have pledged their support for science and technology investments in the next term.

Ahead of the 2022 Federal Election, Science & Technology Australia invited political parties and independent candidates to respond to the 10 election priorities of the science and technology sector.

The sector’s priorities identify major science and technology policy settings and investments needed for Australia to seize crucial opportunities for the country.

The Liberal National Coalition response highlighted an investment of “$93 billion in the science, research and innovation sectors…to support hundreds of thousands of highly-skilled Australian jobs to keep Australia strong and secure our economic future.”

“In these times of global uncertainty, the Morrison Government believes science and technology play an increasingly important role in making Australia more resilient, more competitive and more able to deliver jobs for Australians,” it said.

In its response, Labor said it “believed Australia can be a global STEM superpower” and vowed to work with industry and the research sector to lift Australia’s R&D investment “getting it closer to 3% of GDP achieved in other countries”.

The ALP also made clear its support to legislate the Australian Economic Accelerator as part of the University Research Commercialisation Action Plan.

“An Albanese Labor Government will prioritise science and technology with our comprehensive plan to create jobs, boost vital skills by investing in education and training, bring industry expertise back onshore and supercharge national productivity,” it said.

The Australian Greens advocate investing $17.8 billion in the science, research and innovation sector over a decade, alongside a commitment to put the country on a pathway to investing 4 per cent of GDP in science, research and innovation by 2030.

“Investing in science creates jobs, makes our economy stronger, and allows Australia to overcome the challenges we face as a nation,” the party said.

Key independents who responded included:

  • Zoe Daniel, whose team said she “is a strong supporter of STEM” and would be a strong advocate for stronger funding of the tertiary sector and science.
  • David Pocock, who said he would “advocate for more longer-term certainty in research investment … on par with other OECD countries” and “oppose undue ministerial interference in allocation of research grants and funding”.
  • Dr Monique Ryan, whose team said she was “strongly supportive of the aims of Science & Technology Australia to make Australia a STEM superpower” and boost both public and private investment in research commercialisation.
  • Allegra Spender, whose team said she “strongly supports” an aspiration to make Australia a global STEM superpower as a key part of her economic agenda – and wanted to seek deeper investments in R&D.
  • Zali Steggall, whose team highlighted her policy platform pledging to “support research and development” including boosting Australian Research Council funding – and bolstering STEM workforce skills training.
  • Kylea Tink, whose team said she wanted to see Australia in the top ten OECD nations for investment in R&D – including via research grants – and supports a review of funding to ensure “a vibrant scientific workforce at all levels”.
  • Andrew Wilkie MP, whose office declared his “strong agreement with each of the ten priorities.”

The full responses of the parties and candidates can be found here.

 

Science & Technology Australia is the nation’s peak body representing more than 90,000 scientists and technologists nationwide.

 

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The Coalition’s man problem

By Lucy Hamilton

It is becoming a cliché to say the Coalition government has a ‘woman problem’. This is nonsense: it has a man problem. From the ‘big swinging dicks’ posse in parliament to the silence on the disproportionate suffering by women in the pandemic, Australian conservatism is a deeply masculine sphere. The stream of female colleagues lining up to accuse Scott Morrison and his enablers of bullying is shocking, but not a new phenomenon. Women in Australian politics have recorded for years the sexualising, sidelining and offensive ‘banter’ they face, not only from the conservatives in politics. More specifically, however, the political character of the Coalition reflects the degree to which the Australian Right is no longer merely conservative, but part of the worldwide resurgence of patriarchal authoritarian politics.

The latest Jenkins report found 51 per cent of people employed in federal parliamentary workplaces experienced at least one incident of bullying or sexual harassment. One participant in the investigation into Canberra said: ‘It is a man’s world and you are reminded of it every day thanks to the looks up and down you get, to the representation in the parliamentary chambers, to the preferential treatment politicians give senior male journalists.’ The ABC television series Ms Represented recounted an appalling work culture in the first-hand accounts of a range of women who have left politics. Only 31 per cent of MPs are women, and women constitute a mere 19.5 per cent of the ranks of the Coalition. Women are leaving, including possible leader, Julie Bishop, who described the ‘appalling’ behaviour that is taken as the norm. Australia has slid to 50th in world rankings of female representation in parliament.

The Coalition parties seem to have contracted a more serious variant of the misogyny. Most of us recall the Julia Gillard speech recounting her treatment in parliament but some may have missed the appalling trail of abuse, gendered and sexualised, she was constantly subjected to by conservatives. Remember Tony Abbott standing in front of the banner to ‘Ditch the Witch’? Remember the 2013 Coalition fundraising dinner where the menu boasted ‘Julia Gillard Kentucky Fried Quail: Small Breasts, Huge Thighs and a Huge Red Box’? Dr Anne Summer’s ‘Her Rights at Work’ speech detailed the pervasive nature of the sexist abuse.

Over the last decade, this reactionary, often brutal, style of politics has had a significant impact. The treatment of every class of people requiring support has been cruel, with empathy portrayed as a weakness, most especially towards refugees. Women trapped on Nauru were made to line up for each sanitary product one by one, forced to consider exposing themselves in exchange for adequate water to wash, and treated appallingly when they needed an abortion, and worst of all assaulted and raped. The recent scandal over the partisan nature of critical support for those devastated by the NSW and Queensland floods has led to additional stress for family violence survivors, with support workers fearing women would turn to suicide. The 2022 budget was only superficially generous, while actively working to funnel much greater quantities of money to fossil fuel donors than to the emergency response that so many new carbon emitting projects will effectively demand. Tax cuts bent towards the wealthy were cemented, while the end to temporary tax cuts for the Lamington set was masked ahead of the election. Cynical small cheques to tempt voters could in no way address the cuts to Medicare coverage challenging pensioners and the minimal lift in Jobseeker payments still left it disastrously below the poverty line. As always, women are disproportionally affected by this Chicago School-approach to economics.

The lack of empathy inherent in these funding decisions is matched by the inability to express fellow feeling for suffering, despite the expensive hiring of ‘empathy consultants’. The overtly ‘manly’ inability to deal with emotions other than rage is not just a reflection of toxic personalities—male and female—rising to leadership roles: the blokey larrikin manner explored recently by Lech Blaine is a strategy design to project ordinary, supposedly working class values.

A similar performative masculinity is at the forefront of the Republican movement in the US, so often a role model for Australian conservatives. This has given us the routine spectacles of Ivy League graduates adopting the condescending image of a labouring ‘real man.’ In one recent instance, Rep. Josh Hawley, who waved a fisted salute to the 6 January mob ready to ransack the Capitol, spoke about the Leftist project being the ‘deconstruction of American men’ which would lead to the deconstruction of the United States itself. Extreme misogyny is a central ingredient of the Far Right movement that is devouring the Republican Party. The subset of the Right concerned with performative faux masculinity has been referred to as the ‘manosphere’. It combines the patriarchal ideas of Rad Trad Catholics, Evangelicals and Eastern Orthodox Christians with the violent white supremacist ideas of the neo nazi militias. Keeping women in their place unites all of these strands, well represented in Australia’s anti-health policy protests.

The regressive attitude towards women, with additional contempt for women who are queer and/or BIPOC, is prevalent through the American Right. One speaker at a MAGA rally recently pointed to a group of Proud Boys and declared them to be ‘single real men over there looking for housewives.’ This ‘family values’ push to destroy feminism’s impact on women’s choices is part of an international surge in fascist politics that celebrates nostalgic patriarchal roles. Authoritarian nations where far-right nationalism is overtaking democracy celebrate masculinity as strength, and femininity as weakness. This is perhaps most distinct in Putin’s Russia where Orthodox leaders are central to his glorying of a primal, proudly Russian machismo. By contrast, as Yevgenia Albats explains, ‘women have a single role: that of a subservient and silent subordinate who knows her place.’ Putin’s disgust at the ‘infertile and genderless’ West, has been part of the rhetoric about his invasion of Ukraine which, as Emil Edenborg argues, has been presented as a war on homosexuality as much as a war on purported Nazism.

The manufacturing of an existential threat to a normative in-group such as ‘legacy Americans‘ is a classic strategy of fascist politics: in nations where this form of nativist authoritarianism is ascendant, perceived threats to white, straight, male identity are suppressed. In Hungary, the recently re-elected Orban has led a frontal attack on abortion and rights for LGBTQI people. The founder of the Italian League, Umberto Bossi characterised members of his movement as having a perpetual hard-on (the so-called ‘celodurismo’). Britain’s Tories are deploying anti-Trans fears for political purposes. In Brazil, Bolsonaro said he would rather a son die than be gay, as well as characterising the birth of his daughter as a moment of weakness. In the USA, alongside a raft of legislative measures, the language used by Republican politicians and pundits threatens the very existence of trans people and reeks of the propaganda that precedes racial violence. Thought leaders like Joe Rogan push the line that the Woke are silencing men while paid $100 million from Spotify alone to produce around 9 hours a week of podcasts, often fostering male grievance in his worldwide audience of eleven million.

Women, of whichever intersecting identity, share the pain in concrete ways. In Russia, domestic violence was decriminalised, despite the substantial crisis of abuse. Masha Gessen left Russia when a threat to remove the children of her rainbow family was used to silence her. It also manifests in laws such as Texas’s S.B.8 which imposes a bounty on anyone who assists a woman to obtain an abortion after eight weeks’ gestation. These misogynist trends deploy a deeply nostalgic form of (mostly) Christian religion to dictate that the only acceptable societal structure should be traditional patriarchy, and that feminism, and the marginalised identities it seeks to protect, poses nothing but threat to the family, the status quo and the nation itself. Now Amanda Stoker, Assistant Minister for Women in the Morrison government, is doing her best to draw the anti-choice movement into Australian government.

In the 2022 election there have been attempts to bring a new female presence to Canberra. Echoing the Indi experiment with a truly representative community candidate, several climate and integrity-driven independent candidates are standing, mostly women. They have been greeted by the Coalition and media mates with misogynistic dismissal: professional women with a range of accomplishments were derided as ‘doctors’ wives,’ and David Sharma described his independent opponent as on a ‘mid-life frolic’ or campaigning ‘as a hobby.’ Alexander Downer disdained them as ephemeral even in victory, robbing Frydenberg and Sharma of their right to become “truly great men.” This is emblematic of the Coalition’s conception of politics as a male game, which helps explain why it is much less likely to preselect women for safe seats.

Australia needs dramatic change in our politics to make women’s experience as much part of the shaping of the nation as men’s. It will take a thorough overhaul of our political structures to flush this fashionable authoritarian sexism from our government. Watching so many former democracies embrace misogynist authoritarianism shows us that it’s not only the climate at stake. The outcome of this election is critical in every way.

This article was originally published on Overland.

Lucy Hamilton is a Melbourne writer with degrees from the University of Melbourne and Monash University.

 

 

 

 

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