The Australian Election: Climate change redraws the electoral map, ousting Scott Morrison
At the weekend of the 2022 federal elections, the Australian left-leaning party crushed the ruling Liberal-National coalition. The terminal collapse of the Liberal party means the centre-left Labor party is finally back in government after nine years spent out in the wilderness. In his victory speech, Labor leader Anthony Albanese hailed a new era for Australia promising a change of direction for the nation and its politics: “I do want to change the country”.
Scott Morrison and the Liberal-National coalition were crushed on all sides in an electoral rout that is set to redefine Australian politics. The ruling coalition was eaten alive by the Labor and minor parties in every corner of the nation. In Western Australia, Labor decisively flipped seats from the Liberals after an 11 per cent point swing towards the party – the largest national swing of election night for them. By the end of the night, Liberals in Western Australia had been decimated in countless safe seats; they were left with just 5 seats down from the 10 they had heading into the election. As the count continues, Labor, ahead in 78 seats, appears on course to pass the 76 seats needed for an outright majority in the House.
Elsewhere, other parties obliterated the Liberal party for inaction and delay on climate policy. The ‘teal independents’, backed by the Climate 200 group, relentlessly targeted Liberal party candidates in countless heartland seats over their equivocation on climate action. On election night, those independents pummelled the party – winning at least five seats from self-styled moderate Liberals, including the Treasurer and the Assistant Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction. Independents also commanded strong support in Sydney and Western Australia, making historic gains in both areas at the expense of a Liberal party bereft of climate policy.
On top of Labor’s and Independent’s victories, the Greens made significant gains in both the House and Senate. In Queensland, the party has done exceptionally well, routing both major parties in inner-city Brisbane seats (in one seat it took out Labor’s shadow Environmental Minister). Success came after the party made the ambitious 2030 net-zero target a central campaign tenet and continued its never-ending campaign cycle, knocking on over 90,000 doors. The sheer success the Green party had can be seen in its primary vote share which surged from 1.9 per cent to 12.3 per cent.
With the left obtaining seat after seat from the moderate Liberals, the ruling Liberal-National coalition that has endured for years has finally imploded. The scale of the loss is profound. The coalition has been in power for almost a decade and has reshaped politics into a harsher, more vitriol-focused endeavour – this election ends that damaging project. The coalition's grip on power has been loosened in its entirety as progressive majorities prepare to enter both the House and the Senate. Those majorities are set to undo the politics of the coalition: bring integrity back into politics, strengthen climate targets, reinvigorate anti-corruption policy, and enshrine the long-overdue Uluru statement in full. To say it is a stinging rebuke of the past would be an understatement.
The coalition is in tatters and must come to terms with its electoral collapse. Scott Morrison has been driven from power by voters, but many within the coalition are still willing to regress further towards unpopular opinions. Peter Dutton is expected to assume the leadership of a new more radical Liberal party and whip fierce opposition to climate targets, doubling down on a position that costs the party and the planet. Meanwhile, the National Party is entering a bloody ‘leadership spill’ after its leader, unexpectedly stated the party could renege on its net-zero pledge. To add to the turmoil, the Nationals have maintained the possibility of splitting today’s coalition apart. However, much to our relief, such an extreme move is yet to be seen.
While the coalition fights over climate targets and its future direction, Labor’s Albanese is promising to build the future through consensus. His leadership style will replace Morrisons' bulldozing’ style that voters have come to abhor. Albanese, who assumed the premiership a mere 48 hours after the election in one of the fastest transitions, faces oncoming economic headwinds, geopolitical instability in the region, and the tough task of cleaning up nine years of conservative rule.
The 2022 federal election was supposed to be a campaign focused on the pertinent issues that have gripped Australia in recent years. Instead, voters largely felt abandoned by the major parties on the issues that have come to dominate their lives – nowhere was this more apparent than the issue of climate change. As a result, the two-party primary vote is down, and safe seats have repeatedly collapsed across the nation. While Labor may have swept to power, the Greens and Independents have helped them on the way, crushing the coalition from all sides. Labor, now unshackled from the shadow of its shock 2019 election loss, has the chance to change Australia for the better.
Image: Flickr/ Alpha