If politics is an exam the people often fail, the Australian election of Saturday was a case when most moderate punters could feel they had performed above the normal standards. The primary vote both for the conservative Liberal party and the shapeshifting, slightly self-embarrassed Labor party was down. Both parties were hurt in this case because leaders parachuted candidates into plum seats over the intentions of locals. They were heavily punished for it.
The voters also wanted more movement on climate change now that individual Australians know the exorbitant impact fire, drought, flood and ocean surges have had on our huge continent. Scott Morrison, our prime minister, was going to fool around with coal and gas and carbon capture, and uttered the normal “let the market look after climate” phrases in true neoliberal fashion. The Australians woke up to him, and not only moved the goalposts but dragged them off the paddock. They chose the idea of depending not on gas and coal and carbon capture but voted for a swifter transition. Though a fairly conservative people, they could nonetheless read the signs in the sky.
Women’s status and rights were an issue at which the old-fashioned PM Morrison had failed. At one stage he and his cohorts sought to congratulate us on the fact that Australian women protesters were not shot as were women demonstrators in Myanmar. A number of ministers seemed quite delighted with themselves on that score!
The Labor leader and now new prime minister, Anthony Albanese, a Sydney lad raised tough, nonetheless ran the sort of timid Blair-ite campaign Labor leaders have now – rather embarrassed of their party, terrified of being accused of something preposterous by the Murdoch press, such as favouring gender changes in adolescence. Australians accepted his muttered policies over Morrison’s robust promises about Liberal economic management, which kept wages static except at the big end of town, where trickle down has always gushed up.
Labor has said it will implement the Uluru Statement from the Heart, the modest ambition of the Aboriginal people, who came to Australia at least 80,000 years ago, to have a recognition of that fact – and of the further fact their sovereignty was never ceded – in the constitution. They also seek a constitutionally enshrined right for Indigenous people to advise on legislation concerning them, by way of their own elected body. It is a remarkable and grateful day when the community decides that their legitimacy can no longer rest on denying Aboriginal legitimacy.
An astonishing group of independents, who used the colour teal on their electoral materials, have beaten many Liberals – even in Kooyong, a posh Melbourne seat where Josh Frydenberg, the treasurer and anointed successor of Scomo, was defeated by a teal woman. It was not the only case. These were women excluded from the Liberal party in its concerted drift to the right during this century.
Reading about British convicts who came to Australia, I am fascinated by the fact many were influenced by the doctrines of Thomas Spence, who called Britain The People’s Garden. Whose else would it be? Whose else should it be? We claimed our garden back at the weekend. I would not be surprised if the British did not claim back theirs soon.