A bonus on our trip has been observing the electoral process first hand in Australia. On April 11, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced an election would be held on May 18, 2019. There were 36 days of campaigning.
High marks to Australia on this point. Campaigning was covered every night on the news and by the 30th day everyone had had just about enough of all the candidates. Scandals were uncovered, old tweets forced some candidates out of the race, all the usual campaign mud was slung–but it only consumed six weeks of everyone’s life. The US could learn something from this approach. It’s a much more humane process. It would put a lot of polling and campaigning consultants and companies out of business in the US. Would that be a bad thing?
The overall race was who will become Prime Minister. The incumbent, Scott Morrison of the Liberal Party, came into office in August 2018. The present election is the first time Morrison will be actually running for office as Prime Minister. He has to keep his elected seat as well as making sure his party wins the majority of seats in Australia’s House of Representatives. Employment prior to politics: Department of Tourism. Three things about Morrison:
- As Minister of Immigration he upheld Australia’s policy that bans any refugee landing on Australia illegally from ever being granted a visa.
- Under his leadership, the gigantic new Adani coal mine was approved, intended to produce 20 million tons of coal per year starting in 2020.
- He admires Trump and has political detente with Clive Palmer of the Australia Party (Their slogan: Make Australia Great Again).
The challenger, Bill Shorten of the Labor Party, has been leader of the opposition since 2013, and has held several Cabinet level posts related to labor, finance, and pensions. Employment prior to politics: Labor organizer. Three things about Bill Shorten:
- He acknowledges the role of women in his election successes and supports LGBTQ rights.
- In his campaign, he supported action to combat global warming, including reducing greenhouse gases and phasing out the use of coal, a huge Australian export.
- Another campaign promise was to raise taxes on the wealthy.
The election boiled down to whether people want the status quo or change. Despite many TV commentators and pollsters indicating Shorten would win, he did not. Humans are most comfortable with the status quo, even when they know change is good for them. Australia has mandatory voting, and it is my own opinion that voters who arrived at the polls without much election awareness voted for the status quo. In Australia, you vote for a local candidate, not directly for the Prime Minister. The two major parties have deep historical roots and an undecided, uninformed voter is likely to go with the party they voted for in the previous election, or that their parents voted for. It is not a big surprise that Scott Morrison’s party won, despite what commentators said.
I’m glad the process took only 36 days, though Australians have to live with the outcome for three years, or perhaps less. Elections must be held every three years, but can be called when there is a no-confidence vote on the leadership, which has happened several times during the last decade.