As the world struggles with the fallout from Brexit, another political decision is looming, which New Zealand is going to find itself having to pay attention to in the next few days. For nearly two months now since Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull called a double dissolution election to deal with the inability to pass workplace legislation, the Labor Party and its Green allies have been fighting the Liberal National coalition for the votes of Australians. Now with election day looming, will Australia benefit from the re-election of the Liberal Party?
In a word: No.
The last 10 years in Australian politics have seen a period of considerable turmoil in both the Liberal and Labor Party of Australia. The infighting in both parties has been as damaging to Australia as it has to the Liberals and Labor, with an astounding lack of communication about policies and their implementation amongst senior Ministers and Members of Parliament in both camps.
Despite being marred by infighting, Labor to its significant credit managed to get some good things done:
- It made an historic apology to Aboriginal people acknowledging the wrongdoings of previous Governments, the existence of the Stolen Generation of Aborigines forcibly plucked from their homes and placed with foster families
- It acknowledged that climate change is a problem and passed a carbon tax into law
- In 2012 the then Prime Minister Julia Gillard took a stand against misogyny in a speech that was widely reported around the world
In 2013, the Australian people voted to get rid of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd who had just reclaimed the leadership from Ms Gillard (who then retired from politics). He was replaced by Liberal Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
In the slightly less than two years that Mr Abbott was Prime Minister, his Government caused widespread embarrassment amongst Australians, perhaps best reflected in the media polls showing plunging support for his Liberal Party. The polls plunged so low that just days before current Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull toppling him in a backroom coup, the Liberals would have been decimated had an election been held that day. His gaffes are too many to list here, and many were actually caused by slip ups by his Ministers – notably first Minister of Immigration Scott Morrison and his successor Peter Dutton, Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop, his Attorney General George Brandis and Minister for Environment Greg Hunt. Mr Abbott’s Government appears to have the following priorities and nothing else:
- Repeal the carbon tax – this was done within the first hundred days of his tenure, and since then the Abbott Government has steadfastly denied climate change is a problem, going so far as to deliberately open new coal mines despite a significant drop in demand
- Stop the boats bringing asylum seekers and refugees – this has been done to the tune of non-stop fear mongering that refugees will come and take Australian jobs; that asylum seekers will make Australia a more dangerous place; that human rights organizations have no right to advocate for refugees
- To shirt front nations that try to hold Australia to account – a play on the language Prime Minister Tony Abbott used when confronting Russian President Vladimir Putin over the downing of a Malaysian Airlines flight over Ukraine with a missile probably fired by a Russian anti-aircraft unit
- Acquiring the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter at a cost of $24 billion despite the significant cost overruns in the United States and questionable performance of the aircraft
The polls have narrowed somewhat since that one just days before Mr Abbott was dumped. This is a shame because a clean out might be the best thing that has happened to the Liberal Party in decades. And Australia.