Election Outcomes: Anthony Albanese and Labor’s Right Wing Swing

Words by Edgar Daniel-Richards

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The narrative being pushed by both Labor and the Coalition in the wake of the results of the May 18th Federal Election is one of right-wing values, something Australia desperately needs to reject.

The ascension of the ‘left’ Anthony Albanese to the leadership of the Labor Party is having a polar opposite effect, signalling a jag to the right. Despite commentary stating that Albanese is a leftist figure, the now opposition leader has spent the previous two years criticising Bill Shorten from a right-wing standpoint, arguing that he has been scaring away the ‘business community’.

With Labor’s loss in the election, the ALP leadership is concluding that the problem with their campaign was that it was too left-wing and too ‘big picture’.

The ALP’s shift to the right is based on an erroneous analysis of the election outcome, one that only helps the Coalition. This is the idea that the Coalition won victory on the back of a surge of support from ordinary ‘Aussie battlers’, what Matt Canavan calls the “hi-vis revolution”.

However, a Sydney University study shows far from a surge of support from low income earners being inspired by Morrison’s inspirational “if you give a go you get a go” slogan and his promise of “Australia to all Australians”, low-income earners were still far more likely to vote for Labor. The Coalition’s base of support is still amongst the wealthy and middle class. The data from the study showed that those who owned a business were much more likely to vote for the Coalition and those on pensions were still more likely to vote for Labor. This reflects the continuing class-based voting patterns that have characterised previous Australian elections.

Polling continues to show that the majority of people oppose cuts to public services, instead wanting more funding for health and education. On top of this, most Australians want to see action taken on climate change. We can’t sit back and despair about the election result, we need to organise a grassroots fightback against any attacks coming from the Coalition, but also pushing for action on the climate emergency that we are facing across the world.

We need to mobilise the dashed hopes of the #climateelection out onto the streets and raise the politics of taking on the fossil fuel businesses, if we want to see things start to change.

Scott Morrison is not in as strong a position as Murdoch triumphalism might suggest. The Coalition’s total vote was actually lower than the 2016 election, even after the swing towards them in Queensland. That election was widely considered a disaster for Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership. This time around, the Coalition only have a majority of federal MPs in 2 states in the country. The fact that they rely on Queensland for one third of their lower house representatives means that they are very vulnerable if that state turns against them.

Business and industry groups are lobbying the government to go on the offensive against unions and workers’ rights. But these kinds of attacks will be extremely unpopular, and the Liberals undoubtedly still have the experience of Abbott’s 2014 horror budget in the back of their minds. The massive unpopularity of this budget led to Abbott and Co. being unable to get through the majority of items on their agenda.

If current talk from the ALP is anything to go by, we cannot look to parliamentary forces to halt the right-wing agenda of the Coalition. The right-wing stance Labor is going to take in ‘opposition’ is being signalled by the rhetoric from Albanese and other Labor MPs. Albanese has now brought into question Labor’s opposition to Morrison’s regressive tax plan and has toyed with the prospect of helping it through the Senate. Albanese has criticised Shorten’s anti-‘big end of town’ rhetoric and said Labor needs to stop alienating the boardrooms of big business. On top of affirming that Labor is lockstep with the Coalition when it comes to locking up and torturing refugees on far-off Pacific Islands, Kristina Keneally also said she is going to attack Dutton for not being anti-human enough, criticising him for not cracking down on asylum seekers arriving by plane. This is just after Labor had campaigned almost solely in the marginal seat of Boothby against the sitting Liberal MP for supporting the evil, heartless Dutton. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. On the environment Labor is just as bad, with Albanese giving “the market” blessing to decide whether it wants the Adani coal mine, putting profits over environmental concerns.

In Queensland things are even worse. Palaszczuk’s state Labor government has responded to the election by fast-tracking the Adani Coal Mine, opening the Galilee Basin for other coal mining projects, including a mine by Clive Palmer right next to Adani’s. The whole narrative from Labor and some powerful sections of the trade union leadership, is that Labor wasn’t supportive enough of the Adani mine. Labor was never against coal mining of any kind, and Shorten’s proposals to expand coal seam gas fracking would have pushed us further towards climate disaster. Joel Fitzgibbon, leading Labor MP in the party, lamented on Q&A that Labor had lots of pro-coal policies but was just not loud enough about them during the election.

If we want to prevent Liberal attacks on students and workers living standards, we’ll need to organise ourselves on our campuses and in our workplaces. The climate action protests we saw across Australia in the aftermath of the election are a start, but we will need to build on this anger and frustration that young people feel at the lack of action being taken. No, we can’t wait for ‘better’ MPs. Yes, let’s strike for climate. We should look to successful campaigns like the protest movement for marriage equality in Australia as a model for how we can win and, crucially, even under a Liberal government.

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Adelaide University student magazine since 1932. Edited by Nicholas Birchall, Felix Eldridge, Taylor Fernandez and Larisa Forgac. Email us at onditmag@gmail.com

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