Politics

Federal Election Wrap-Up

20 June 2019

What happened?

The democracy sausages have been sizzled and the votes have been cast, the polls reflected the perceived hopes of the nation and the Coalition roundly smashed these to the ground. Scott Morrison has done the unthinkable, after the disastrous LibSpill of 2018 he has recaptured the support of many Australians to become Prime Minister, once again, although this time through the decision of ordinary voters around the country.

While the polls got some things wrong, they were right on the money with preferred Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, and Bill Shorten didn’t manage to, at least on a mass scale, change that first impression against him. Personality has always played a role in voting but as we see the rise of character-driven politics, particularly in the US, is this something that will become more evident into the future? Only time will tell.

In the meantime, this election saw substantial swings to the Liberals from over-65s who reacted, in part, to negative marketing against Labor’s “retiree tax.” Peter Martin, from the Australian National University, explained through an article on The Conversation that this retiree tax did not actually exist. “The phrase is shorthand
for Labor’s proposal to withdraw dividend imputation cheques from dividend recipients who are outside the tax system.” Understandably there needed to be a simple way of explaining this concept but Labor did not react swiftly enough to the Coalition’s negative marketing and misinformation around this campaign.

Evidently this isn’t the only reason for voting against Labor, but it contributed to the previously predicted winner picking up a measly one electorate: Gilmore in NSW. Other criticisms focused on the need to create jobs to replace industries such as coal to ensure that people are able to put food on the table. Many speculate that until people feel secure that they will have a job into the future, they may be wary of plans to alter entire industries. The pervasive trope that Labor cannot manage money was again bandied about, despite their skilled management of the economy during the Global Financial Crisis in 2008.

Where did Labor go wrong?

While these election results come as a surprise for those following the polls, Professor Bela Stantic, a data scientist from Griffith University, was on the money, just as he was in predicting a victory for Trump in 2016. While commentators have not completely equated these two governments, that is Trump and Morrison’s, climate change activists are decidedly pessimistic.

Morrison says he has always believed in miracles, but activists believe we will need a miracle and a half to combat climate change in the next eleven years to prevent irreversible change. While Labor was also falling short on their environmental policy, the Australian Conservationist movement claimed they were at least promising more than Morrison.

This isn’t the first time negative, misinformation has been circulated around an election. Liberals point to the ‘Mediscare’ campaign Labor ran which claimed that Medicare was in danger under a Coalition government.The jury’s still out on this one, but the Liberals promise that the system will be safe under their Medicare Guarantee Act.

As previously mentioned, Bill Shorten failed to grow on the country and has since resigned as party leader. He had his moments, with the twitter hashtags #ILikeBill and the more organic #MyMum social media discussions after he defended claims about his mum published in the Daily Telegraph. Now, however, the role is up for grabs as the likes of Anthony Albanese and Chris Bowen vie for the leadership.

Meanwhile, in Melbourne the Greens’ Adam Bandt emerged victorious again. While this choice is far from surprising, it highlights the stark differences in policy priorities around the country. Are we Melbournians in our own bubble? Perhaps, although most capital cities vote more to the left than their rural counterparts.

The death of former Prime Minister Bob Hawke came just days before Australians, minus 3 million or so early voters, went to the polls. Some expected this would play out in Labor’s favour, although this didn’t come to fruition. A silver lining for Bob, and no doubt many others, being the ousting of another former PM Tony Abbott, who Hawke previously called “mad as a cut snake” from Warringah in favour of independent Zali Steggall. Meanwhile, other controversial figures retained their seats, including Peter Dutton in Dickson and Barnaby Joyce in New England.

So what can we expect from the Liberals and a Morrison government?

Well, they’re promising a stronger economy and the delivery of 1.25 million more jobs, the maintenance of budget surpluses, tax relief for families and guaranteed increased investments for schools, hospitals and roads. They are also promising a safe Australia with secure borders.

While the Liberal budget announcement was criticised for a $1.6 billion underspend on the National Disability Insurance Scheme, they are working on the largest suicide prevention strategy in Australia’s history and have established the Medical Research Future Fund one of the largest research endowments globally.

Like Labor, Liberal actions on immigration and climate have been labelled inhumane and insufficient respectively by activists. These seem likely to remain hot-button issues into the future. For young workers and students reading, the cost of tertiary education is unlikely to see a reduction any time soon and penalty rates remain under threat. Welfare recipients may also be targets of random drug testing. So certainly some controversial policies heading our way. While some of you will be glad with these results, anyone who is worried about what changes in these disability, welfare or other policies will mean for you, is encouraged to approach UMSU and Office Bearers of areas such as Welfare and Disabilities, for support and advice.


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