Conservatives ousted in Australia after a decade

ByKausar Fatima

Works in an international audit firm and writes for magazines


June 1, 2022

Conservatives ousted in Australia

Kausar Fatima reports quite an upset

In a major political upset, the Labour Party of Conservatives ousted in Australia dislodged the Conservative Party that was in power for almost a decade. The voters of Australia delivered a stinging defeat to the ruling conservative coalition in what amounted to a personal rebuke of Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s abrasive brand of leadership. Australians faced a stark choice between the combative conservative incumbent and the progressive challenger who promised a sunnier style. Polls suggested that Morrison’s pugilistic approach to governance had exhausted Australians, hampering his Liberal-National coalition as it aimed to reach a decade in power. Morrison, who took office in 2018, admitted before the election to rubbing some people the wrong way. He compared himself to a bulldozer. It is however noted that the handful of independents and Green members of parliament may hold the balance of power.
The result has paved the way for opposition leader Anthony Albanese to become the next prime minister. Anthony Albanese, nicknamed ‘Albo’ was rushed to hospital last year after a four-wheel-drive slammed into his car. At the time, his Labour Party trailed behind the conservative government in opinion polls, struggling to cut through during the Covid-19 pandemic. It is reported that the near-death experience changed his life and he recovered on all fronts: shrugging off rumblings of a party leadership challenge he revamped both his and his party’s image. As part of this change, Albanese’s suits went from baggy to tailored, his bookish wire-framed glasses switched to black full-rims.
Albanese was elected to parliament in 1996 and in his first speech thanked his mother, Maryanne Ellery, for raising him in tough circumstances. His parents lived in public housing in Sydney during Albanese’s childhood and his single mother often struggled to make ends meet. He was the first person in his family to go to university and has said his working-class roots shaped his worldview. Albanese says his mother, a Catholic, decided to take his father’s name. He was raised being told that his father had died till 2000 when on the occasion of the birth of his son Nathan, Albanese met his own father with only a photo to help track him down. His parents were able to reconcile in his father’s Italian hometown, Barletta, before Carlo Albanese died in 2014.
The aspiring politician joined the left-wing Labor Party in high school and later became deeply involved in student politics at the University of Sydney. In the 26 years since Albanese was first elected to parliament, Labour has only held government for five years during the tumultuous terms of Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard. Albanese first became a minister after Rudd’s 2007 election victory and rose through the Labor ranks, finally taking over the opposition leadership after the party’s crushing loss in 2019. Despite his long public career Albanese stumbled at times on the campaign trail, including forgetting the country’s unemployment and main lending rates.
The election contest came at a tense time for Australia as the land of no worries’ has become, well, worried. Australians, normally among the most optimistic people on the planet, have grown increasingly dissatisfied with their lives and concerned about their future. The world’s 13th biggest economy is going strong, as exemplified by former PM Morrison’s gleeful announcement that unemployment had dropped to the lowest level in half a century but inflation, equally strong, meant many Australians are effectively earning less by the day. However, issues such as an increasingly assertive China, the war in Ukraine and the cost of living crisis were leveraged by Morrison trying to create an overall atmosphere of uncertainty that could only be tackled if Conservatives were retained in power.
However, those warnings did not appear to gain traction as polls consistently showed Labor with a lead going into the election. A year ago, Morrison, 54, appeared to be cruising toward reelection thanks to Australia’s early success in keeping out the coronavirus but a slow vaccine rollout and outbreaks of the delta and omicron variants renewed criticism over his crisis management, a subject that first flared when Morrison went on holiday during devastating bush fires in 2019 and 2020. When questioned about his absence, his reply — “I don’t hold a hose, mate” — fed into criticism that Morrison is slow to act but quick to dodge blame. Those complaints resurfaced in March, when the prime minister waited more than a week to declare a national emergency over historic floods. Morrison also faced credibility issues as only just last year, French President Macron accused Morrison of lying over a scrapped submarine deal. Then came a flurry of attacks from within his coalition government including leaked text messages describing him as a “horrible person” and “complete psycho.” The election result has made Morrison to step down as party leader and Defence Minister Peter Dutton — a former policeman from Queensland — was shaping up as favourite to lead the Liberals. TW

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Kausar Fatima works in an international audit firm and writes for magazines


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