Australia’s Labor party has come to power, pushing the conservative Coalition out of office for the first time in almost a decade. Voters also delivered big wins for the Greens and a group of independents promising action on climate change. Aquí están 10 takeaways for political strategists in the UK to consider.
Well-organised, targeted campaigns on progressive issues triumphed in Australia over negative, dog-whistle campaigns built around conservative leveraging of “culture war” issues. The result on Saturday was a repudiation of the hard right, after scare campaigns on issues such as refugees backfired on Scott Morrison’s Liberals.
sin embargo, la Coalition took 35% of the national vote, and fringe parties – Pauline Hanson’s One Nation and the Trumpist Clive Palmer’s United Australia – managed nearly 10% of the national vote between them.
Safety first proved to be a winning formula for Anthony Albanese, who moderated a lot of his policy offering to avoid a repeat of Labor’s defeat in 2019 when it over-promised on economic and tax reform. Albanese’s low-key, low-risk performances on the campaign trail proved to be more palatable than Morrison’s self-confessed “bulldozer” style.
On first preference votes Labor support dropped from the previous election from 33.34% a 32.8%. The Coalition share of first preference votes fell by 5.64 percentage points but was still higher than Labor.
Gender was another area where the Australian opposition was able to exploit the weakness and shortcomings of the Coalition government. Morrison’s blokey, suburban dad image worked well for a time but his handling of a series of scandals involving his ministers and employees sent his rating among women crashing.
In particular, his failure to deal with the allegation that a ministerial member of staff was raped by a colleague in a government office in Canberra dominated the news for weeks. His tin ear was never more glaring than when he admitted it had taken an intervention from his wife comparing how he might feel about it if it was one of his daughters who had been assaulted to make him understand the seriousness of the situation.
Another hot-button issue on Australian doorsteps was Morrison breaking his promise to set up a federal anti-corruption commission amid growing concern over donations to political parties and the misallocation of public funds.
The success of the so-called teal independents (a little bit green, a little bit blue) offered a template for targeting individual seats with well-focused, local campaigns.
The victorious teals, who are mostly women, had their most notable wins in well-heeled inner-city areas of Sydney and Melbourne where Morrison’s record on climate, sleaze and gender reversed decades of traditional backing for the Liberals.
The defeated rightwing coalition government thought “ordinary” voters in the suburbs did not care about esoteric things such as emissions targets and renewable quotas. But when people were finding that their homes were successively on fire or underwater, they joined the dots and sent a message that this wasn’t the case.
The teal candidates were heavily backed by climate activists in their inner-city battlegrounds, and the Greens won at least three lower house seats, in what has been referred to as a “Greenslide”. General, the Greens took 12% of the national primary vote, up nearly 2 puntos de porcentaje, suggesting environmental politics had appeal beyond university-educated urbanites.
The triumph of Albanese and others was also a defeat for the Murdoch press, which campaigned ferociously against the progressive parties. News Corp Australia controls the biggest-selling papers in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, along with a host of other titles that gave the Coalition the soft-soap treatment while portraying Labor and the rest as unhinged radicals. That it did not work could be proof of Murdoch’s waning influence in the social media age.
Australia uses a preferential voting system that helped maximise the progressive vote to the benefit of Labor and the teal independents. Por ejemplo, Labor’s win in the prized inner-city Melbourne seat of Higgins came despite them losing the primary vote to the Liberals. But when the second preference of Greens voters was counted, Labor leapfrogged into first place.
The Australian election was influenced by a host of local factors but the impact of pandemic politics is particularly instructive. Tough Covid lockdowns by Labor state governments in Western Australia, Victoria and Queensland were heavily criticised by Morrison and his ministers. But if he thought it was a vote winner he was wrong because those attacks went down badly with the public. Western Australia, por ejemplo, historically a Coalition stronghold, swung by 11 percentage points to Labor.