Reimagining Australia: On Anthony Albanese’s Labor government

Mr. Albanese's decisions in the next three years will have far-reaching consequences

Updated - May 27, 2022 02:49 pm IST

Published - May 27, 2022 12:10 am IST

After nine years in the opposition, the Australian Labor Party, under the leadership of Anthony Albanese, is back in power. When 74.6% votes were counted, it won 75 seats in the 151-member House of Representatives; the conservative Liberal National Coalition secured 57 seats. More than a victory for Labor, which is still one seat short of absolute majority, this election will be remembered for the rout of the conservatives, who had 77 seats in the outgoing Assembly. The polls also saw a sizeable section of the Australian electorate voting for the Greens and independents, who campaigned on the planks of better environmental standards and anti-corruption policies. In an election where inflation and climate policy dominated the agenda, Scott Morrison, the conservative leader, failed to understand the public pulse. Even when the annual inflation number hit 5.1%, a 20-year high, the Morrison government took comfort in the argument that the unemployment rate was low. Mr. Morrison was also criticised for his inaction on climate challenges even after Australia witnessed repeated bushfires. His government’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis, with stringent lockdowns, and inaction over allegations of rape and sexual assault within Parliament and even within the Cabinet also triggered widespread public resentment.

Mr. Albanese, on the other side, tapped into this anger by running a carefully crafted campaign. On climate, an issue which 29% of the voters identified as the most important one, Labor made a slew of promises. It vowed to raise the share of renewable energy to 82% of the grid by 2030. Mr. Albanese is planning to reduce emissions by 43% this decade. He has also promised to index the minimum wage to inflation. Another key promise is to call a constitutional vote to set up a representative body to advise Parliament on legislation affecting indigenous peoples. Running a successful electoral campaign is hard, but heading a government that meets the campaign promise is harder. Besides tackling inflation and coming up with an ambitious plan to address the climate challenge, the Prime Minister faces a huge foreign policy challenge too. Mr. Morrison had given up Australia’s traditional middle path on China and joined an American-British alliance (AUKUS), specifically targeting Beijing’s influence in the Indo-Pacific. Mr. Albanese will have to decide whether he should follow the path laid out by his predecessor and take on the China challenge head on or take Australia back to the old school pragmatism and coexistence. The decisions he makes — domestic and foreign — over three years would reshape Australia’s position in the Indo-Pacific region.

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