Contributed by Joe Montero
Saturday’s election produced the best result one could have hoped for. The Morrison government, and Prime Minister Scott Morrison personally suffered a humiliating defeat. Labor under Anthony Albanese will form the next government of Australia. It is not clear yet whether this will be as a majority or a minority having to get the support of the crossbench. But even a majority in the House of Representatives will still leave Labor short in the Senate and making agreements with the cross bench will be mandatory.
Scott Morrison the loser leaving a polling both on election day
And there is far more to this election. Soon after the counting started, some important trends began to emerge, which showed that much of Australia is way ahead of most political activists, whatever their political colours. A qualitative shift in what sort of Australia the community consciously wants has taken place, and there is a chasm between this and the political elite.
Secondly, the coming period will be a test for the political system. If it doesn’t delver, the chasm will become more profound as discontent rises further.
No one can deny that there is a deep-seated sense that the political system and those who operate in it do not serve the interests of most Australians. The common wisdom is that political leaders are far more interested in filling their own pockets and lining those of the big end of town. Most people hold that the media barons have too much power over the political process.
Australia sees that life is getting harder for the majority. The cost of living is on the rise. Australia has been experiencing a dismal failure to act on the climate crisis, even when it is already causing much hardship and loss. The verdict is that the economy should be for people and not merely about a return to big time investors.
Australia is not happy about how the Covid pandemic is being handled. Australia wants far more done on the cost of living, action on climate, a fairer society, and better treatment of women. Australia wants an end to hard and soft political corruption.
The Liberal Party has been given a kick in the teeth. Their National Party did not suffer so much because of the isolation of their base but is still under notice.
Despite being able to form the next government Labor is on notice too. This merits close attention. Under 3.8 percent of the primary vote, means a smaller part of the population voted for it than at any time since 1910. Even the Liberal Party had more voting for it, around 35.4 percent for the Coalition. This is another record low.
The seat tally so far is 72 seats for Labor, 52 for the Liberal and National Party Coalition, and 15 for the Greens and independents. In fact, the big winners have been the Greens who have doubled their share of the vote. It is now over 12 percent.
A big 31.8 percent of voters opted out of the two-party system. This doesn’t count those who voted informal or didn’t vote at all. There is tremendous significance in this. The two-party system has been given a battering and may not be able to recover to its former standing.
For now, Labor is under tremendous pressure to deliver from both the cross bench and a population demanding more. This is an incredibly positive development, creating conditions for advance Australia into a better future. The challenge is to take advantage of this. Either the politicians will listen or fall further into disrepute. Time will tell which it is going to be.
Opportunity is here today, to build unity around some priorities.
Working conditions need attention and the wages share of national income must rise. Violence against women must be taken on and the gender pay gap must go. Everyone must be guaranteed a living income. The coal and gas industry must be phased out and a renewable economy built. Australia must protect basic human rights like having a real voice in the decision-making process, an affordable home to live in, adequate health care and education, retirement with dignity. There must be a reshaping of Australia’s relationship to the rest of the world, away from toxic and pro war relationships, to an independent one, based on mutual respect and equality for all nations.
This is an opportunity to move towards the sovereignty and self-determination of the First Nations peoples through implementing the Uluru Statement of the Heart and progressing towards treaties that transform aspirations into concrete results.
The new Albanese government may be starting to take notice on some of this. But it needs a push from below.
Australia has entered an historical juncture, which has opened greater possibilities. These can only be realised through a participating population, ensuring that it continues to strengthen its voice.
A crucial step has been taken in this direction, and the pressure on the political elite, especially the government of the day to deliver, must be maintained. Those who wish to drag Australia backwards must be resisted.