It was one of the most shocking results in decades. Labor appeared poised for victory but a coal mine in Queensland played an outsized role in the Liberals maintaining power in Canberra, reports Catherine Vogan.
By Catherine Vogan
in Sydney, Australia
Special to Consortium News
Not unlike the 2016 U.S. presidential vote, there’s been another surprise election result, this time in Australia. One week down the track the post-mortems are numerous on “what happened”; or rather why it happened. Every pollster and book-maker in the country had predicted an easy win for the left-wing Australian Labor Party (ALP).
Instead it was a Blessed Day for Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his incumbent conservative Liberal National Party (LNP), which has won a predicted 77 seats to Labor’s 68 after 86.5 percent of the votes have been counted. The Liberals will form a majority government by one seat.
It was one of the most shocking results in decades. Labor appeared poised for victory because it had pledged to increase health and education spending, improve welfare services and act on climate change and renewable energy.
On top of what seemed good for most Australians, confidence in a Labor victory rested on years of Liberal Party losses in public opinion polls, including 30 straight defeats in polls that asked who the nation’s favourite leaders were.
The Liberals were also wracked by factional in-fighting between its bitterly divided moderate and conservative elements, the latter of which continued to champion the fossil fuel industry.
Many Australians perceived the Liberals’ policies in government as detestable and dangerous policy.
(Written & created by Giordano Nanni for The Juice Media)
Led by a devoutly religious Morrison, the “Coal-fondler in Chief”, the Liberal government appeared to be in ruins after the demise of its two previous prime ministers, Malcolm “Political Mistake” Turnbull and Tony “Coal is Good for Humanity” Abbott.
There had also been an exodus of senior members from the party – including three of the few females– so Morrison had to campaign alone. He did so as the barely credible, chummy “ScoMo”, wearing, like Trump, the mantle of a baseball cap, and a grin, while uttering his true blue, albeit de-braining, one-liner: “If you have a go you’ll get a go.” Surely not, many said, but elections move in mysterious ways.
“His only promise to reform is to cut tax for the wealthy,” said retired Australian diplomat Tony Kevin. “His rhetoric is windy and empty, an Australian mimicry of Trump’s Make America Great Again slogans of the United States. A professed evangelical Christian, his surprise victory will inspire right wing activists on causes like abortion and free speech for religious fanatics.”
The Liberals pursued what appeared to be a widely unpopular conservative agenda. That included much of the party campaigning against marriage equality. Its former attorney general, George Brandis, declared that “people have the right to be bigots” in an attempt to remove sections of the Racial Discrimination Act.
Morrison’s relentlessly harsh treatment of refugees had contributed to former Prime Minister Turnbull losing his seat altogether in a 2018 by-election to Independent candidate Kerryn Phelps, who had promised more humane treatment of refugees and action on climate change.
The Liberals had reduced welfare spending on the Medicare health system, social security and unemployment benefits and heavily stigmatised welfare recipients, at a time when there was only one full-time job available for every 12 job-seekers.
They had introduced an “Earn or Learn” system and raised the age of eligibility for unemployment benefits from 18 to 22, forcing many young people to live with their parents and take on government loans for ‘work-ready’ courses.
The Liberals had implemented “Work for the Dole”, which forced the unemployed of all ages into unpaid labour, up to 30 hours per week. The “Newstart” allowance they received in return has been deemed seriously insufficient for assuring basic needs. University of New South Wales researchers point out that the dole hasn’t risen in two decades to match the soaring cost of housing.
As the gap has widened between rich and poor, the Liberal Government was soft on multinational tax evaders, but harsh on welfare recipients, and misleading with employment figures. During the six years of Liberal rule, 60 percent of Australians joined the “precariat,” as part of a “gig economy” workforce that lacked predictability and security.
As the neo-liberal blueprint predicts, these workers were obliged to undertake extensive unremunerated activities to retain access to jobs and to decent earnings. The Australian economy grew, but the average Joe’s slice of the pie shrunk…
(Written & created by Giordano Nanni for The Juice Media)
Climate Change and Big Coal
Climate change and the opening of a massive new coal mine in the state of Queensland were the pivotal issues in the election.
What worried young Australians and concerned their parents was the government’s denial of climate change. Greta Thunberg’s message at the UN Climate Change COP24 Conference had a big impact in the country as Australian children left their classrooms en masse to plead for a future they could grow up in.
The Liberal government in 2014 had repealed Labor’s carbon tax policy, instituted two years earlier when Labor was last in power. The repeal led to a rise in greenhouse emissions, despite the Liberal government’s inadequate incentive payment to polluters to pollute less.
A month before the May 18 election, the Liberal government approved a new coal and a new uranium mine in Queensland, the large state that takes in the top half of Eastern Australia and lies between Australia’s iconic Great Barrier Reef, the largest coral reef in the world, and the Great Artesian Basin, an unpolluted aquifer which provides water for central Australia’s desert. The assumption of environmental groups was that the coal mines and fracking will pollute and destroy both the reef and the artesian basin.
The controversial new coal mine, approved two days before the 30-day caretaker period leading into this month’s election, is the massive Adani mine in the deposits of Queensland’s Carmichael Basin, which is larger than all of Great Britain. The Adani mine alone stretches over territory comparable to either New York City or London.
The Indian multinational company Adani said it expects its Carmichael mine to produce 2.3 billion tons of coal over 60 years, which, according to the “Joint Report to the Land Court of Queensland on ‘Climate Change Emissions‘” would be inconsistent with the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures.
Although the Labor Party proposed taking strong action on climate change, its leader, Bill Shorten, would not say whether he would review this decision if elected, possibly fearing lost coal mining jobs and lost votes in conservative Queensland.
A Far-Right Surge
A leading Australian political journalist, Bernard Keane, reported on an unexpected far-right surge in Queensland, where the election was ultimately lost for Labor. There one in eight voters chose either the openly racist party, One Nation, or the United Australia Party, led by billionaire Clive Palmer, a man who once robbed Queensland workers of AU$7 million. (People do seem to have short memories).
Keane resisted, however, blaming the shocking results entirely on targeted scare campaigns about job losses, especially at the Adani coalmine, (despite there being more jobs available in the renewable energy sector.)
He also did not blame Labor’s defeat on fake rent increase notices, fictitious mortgage revaluation notices,a false “Death Tax, Death Tax, Death Tax” alert about a non-existent Labor policy, nor on the rest of a long list of the-biggest-fibs-of-the-election-so-far.
A Greens candidate here, an 'independent' there, it doesn't really matter as long as we get Dad elected and we can finally start pulling the strings! Plus, we've got A LOT of favours that will need cashing in
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— Captain GetUp! Official! (@CaptGetUp) April 23, 2019
Doing so would be too simple to explain the Australian story, says Keane:
“… like U.S. progressives insisting that Trump won because of the Russians, fake news and Cambridge Analytica, attributing too much to this role obscures deeper problems with what Labor offered, even if Labor was far more engaged with the discontent of working Australians than Hillary Clinton ever was. When one in 11 Queenslanders, even now, thinks it’s OK to vote for a racist, treacherous rabble like One Nation, there’s something very crook in the political and economic system.”
Some of the deceptions and smears about Labor were initiated by Liberal candidates, but others were funded by Palmer on behalf of his party to destroy Labor’s chances in the election, win his own votes and then pass them on as party preferences to the Liberals.
“Our Shifty Shorten ads across Australia … I think have been very successful in shifting the Labor vote,” Palmer said.
There is no doubt that Morrison received the blessing of the far right parties, but to understand how that won him the election, preferential voting in Australia needs to be explained.
(Written & created by Giordano Nanni for The Juice Media)
Didn’t Tap Concerns
Stuart Rees, an emeritus professor of political economy at Sydney University, pointed to false advertising campaigns creating a culture of fear that prompted people to look after what they perceived to be their own interests. He also criticised Labor for too much detail about their policies, and not enough detail about how they would pay for them. That mistake may very well have opened the way for the Death Tax canard.
Shorten’s lack of charisma bothered Rees, who said the party was over-confident because of the opinion polls. Labor failed to tap into voters’ deep concerns about jobs, global warming, budget surpluses and taxes, he said.
“My verdict on this surprising and so disappointing result is that reforms, in particular regarding policies to address global warming, are unlikely to be addressed by a conservative Coalition,” he told Consortium News. “This spells significant dangers for the planet and for the lives of future generations.”
Julian Burnside, the 2019 Australian Green Party candidate for Kooyong in the State of Victoria, echoed Rees.
“At this critical time in our history, it is vital that the whole world rises to the challenge. The threat to our climate is far too great and too real to lose hope,” he tweeted. “I encourage you all to do what you can while you can… march with your kids in the climate rallies; talk to your doubtful friends about climate change; speak to your representative in the Parliament and ask them to act for the planet, for your kids, and for their kids.”
(Written & created by Giordano Nanni for The Juice Media)
“Despite being in the middle of the 6th Mass Extinction, neither one of the major parties is ready to truly defy the coal lobbyists or their corporate sponsors and accept Extinction Rebellion’s 1st demand: that being to tell the public the truth of their impending extinction and declare a National Climate Emergency,” Tristan Sykes, the Extinction Rebellion state coordinator in Tasmania, told Consortium News.
“An ill-informed electorate cannot possibly vote in its own interest. Extinction Rebellion will not wait another four years hoping for a better result. We must act now to save ourselves and future generations. The only choice now is extinction or rebellion,” Sykes said.
Ultimately Labor’s Own Fault
Brenda the Disobedient Penguin, a bitter cartoon character, blamed Labor for its loss. She declared:
“A mid-level marketing manager who was as surprised as anyone that he won! Morrison had no front bench, no policies, no record to stand on, a government defined by five years of cruelty, chaos and grift and he beat the Labor Party BY HIMSELF. ONE GRINNING PENTACOSTAL IN A BASEBALL CAP AND HE BEAT THE ALP AND THE UNION MOVEMENT ALL BY HIMSELF.*
*And the Murdoch press but people keep telling me the power of Murdoch is waning.”
Indeed it is, but few understand, including heritage media pollsters, what has taken Murdoch’s place. One possibility are political ads, which in Australia are subject to no law imposing truth in advertising. And (thanks to mass surveillance) there is the impact of behavioural micro-targeting with segmented political messaging.
In the good old days, Australia had a media blackout of 24 hours before election day to give voters time to peruse the candidates.
Today, social media never sleeps.
Catherine Vogan is an Australian film-maker and academic at Sydney Film School. She is a contributor to Consortium News.
The most recent Ca election featured credible spokespersons claiming rent control would increase rental costs w/ saturation advertising (a Blatant Lie BTW) The rent control initiative initially favored in polls was defeated!
Is there anyplace in the English-speaking world which is not batshit crazy? New Zealand seems to be trying on the “guns are great” issue, but comparison to the US is a bar so low it is hardly worth a mention. Neo-liberal lunacy reigns supreme, it seems, everywhere. If anyone can point out an exception, I would be much obliged.
How many more absurd election outcomes must we witnesd are before the general public realizes that the easiest thing to do to win elections is to rig the outcome by swapping final vote tallies. Where are the hand recounts that are necessary to verify the vote totals of electronic voting machines.l? For crying out loud, almost all election outcomes are accepted out of hand by the general public of whatever country, even though the vote tallies are counted secretly in almost every country in the world. As such, that alone makes rigging elections child’s play. Hand recount verification of electronic voting machine tallies is essential if we hope to check the fascist neoliberal wave engulfing country after country to achieve total spectrum dominance of the world by the dominant few.
The Australian election was corruptly engineered by the CIA and it’s proxies for the benefit of the Australian Liberal Party, consider:
(A) A millionaire of dubious character, and intention, decided to spend sixty million dollars, to get himself elected, knowing that he had no chance. His advertising simply invented Labour Party Policies which were not true, and he spent millions broadcasting and repeating them. His Party, Australia United, offered no policies, just motherhood statements like, “Make Australia Great”, and others that denigrated the Australian Labour Party leader, Bill Shorten and his taxation plans. The millionaire, Mr Palmer, is openly boasting that the Liberal Party “owes him big time”. Among’st other things, Mr Palmer wants a license to mine coal; something he knew would not be forthcoming from the Labour Party. Sixty million dollars to get such a license would be a good investment. His failed nickel mine still owes it’s workers some seventy million dollars; there are indications that a Liberal Government would meet this debt from tax payer funds. There’s more, but this sets the scene for objective thought, consideration and investigation.
(B) Whispers emerging from unhappy election scrutineers and vote counting staff, are suggesting, that the claimed four and one half million pre-poll votes is an “invention”, designed to delay the final count, in order to facilitate the “planting” of prepared Liberal Party votes, to boost their numbers in electorates not favoring the Liberal Party. This is easily done because once the ballots are out of their envelopes,the counters cannot detect these “plants” because the Australian ballot forms themselves do not carry any means of voter identity or point of origin. The corrupt bundles can be introduced during the night whilst counters sleep. As the official counts proceed this allows for the introduction of regulated numbers of fraudulent votes sufficient to provide the desired election outcome. Which also permits the counts to show and engineer universal Nation wide swings against the losing Party. This helps to explain the four and one half million pre-poll vote requirement; the crooks engineering this election fraud, simply did not know how many “fraud” votes would be required to satisfy the blissfully unaware vote counters.
(C) For three years, all Australian Pollsters had been reporting Australian voter intentions to vote for the Labour Party, there was never the slightest indication this would change; then, on election day, large numbers of electors, simultaneously, changed their minds,in just the right amount of percentages, and voted Liberal instead. If true, a very, very unusual coincidence. And, if true, some four million voters, who voted several weeks early, in the pre-polls, also anticipated this change of intentions. Yet none of the National Pollsters picked that up, and they should have done so considering it’s marked importance, and, if you believe the lies, the fact it was universal, Nation-wide, in lock-step across all electorates, indicates that it is a man made fairy tale, not a miracle?.
(D) The CIA used this election engineering template twice in the UK and once in New Zealand. They try to split the “target” Party, and when that fails they introduce a new Party; in the UK this was the Democratic Labour Party( the leaders of which now all sit in the House of Lords). In New Zealand this was Social Credit Party .
Not to mention the pencils used in the polling stations to mark your vote with. They do that in the UK too.
Thomas W Adam’s. The hints were there. Although Labor polled as the preferred party, their leader was far more more unpopular as preferred leader. Other commenters have also provided valid reasons on why this result is well within the realms of plausibility. What evidence do you have of CIA interference? Pine Gap is theirs regardless of party and either major leader would have made a great and easily manipulated puppet. I think you’re seeing things that just are n’t there.
Ah. The CIA. Should have known.
@ “University of New South Whales”
Surely, that should be “Wales” rather than “Whales.” :-)
Have to agree with the majority of commenters here so far, this piece completely misses the mark and is hopelessly pro-ALP partisan. The ALP lost the election because they were useless and offered nothing positive to vote for. Their plan was to slide into power by a 1 or 2 seat majority just by being not the LNP. The last time the ALP convincingly won an election (with a massive majority – 83 seats) was 12 years ago. In 2007 they went to an election with some clear messages: Stop the wars, close the refugee concentration camps on Manus and Nauru, do something serious about climate change, pull back neo-liberalism a tiny bit, reconciliation with Aboriginal Australia. Australian voters resoundingly endorsed that. But just like “Hopey Changey” Obama it didn’t happen. Vogan’s hero Shorten put a swift end to all of that by running a coup against the winner and replacing him with a US stooge called Gillard. Then later knifing her to re-install Rudd on the condition that he “lurch to the right on refugees”, thereby condemning all the current inmates of Australia’s refugee concentration camps to indefinite misery in island gulags. That’s some “Left Wing” party to be cheering for. This election was Australia’s ‘Trump’ or ‘Brexit’ experience – and it went against the dictates of the “Establishment” media and political class for roughly the same reasons. Lesser evil-ism is dead, offer us something to vote for or go to oblivion, but don’t dare blame the voters (deplorables??) for not taking the faux left choice when the alternative (in this case LNP) is at least honest about what they stand for.
And remember, it was the ALP that abandoned Assange at the earliest time they could have really made a difference to his situation – that can never be forgiven and will never be forgotten!
I think, to be charitable, that Labor committed suicide, by deciding an election Policy winner was to campaign on tax increases , for Pensioners of any stripe. Labor should take note of the idiot that drove the tax hike policy. They would have known that everyone and their dogs, would weaponise it against them.
There hasn’t been a “left-wing Australian Labor Party (ALP)” since 1972-75 under Gough, and even then he was in the ALP Right faction. If there was a left-wing ALP I expect they would’ve won with a comfortable majority and a mandate to get out of coal.
Unless you’re actually referring to the Greens?
The Juice Media shorts that I have seen for quite a few years now have always made me chuckle. I hope that Giordano Nanni can stick around and do these for a long time. Thank you Catherine Vogan.
It really sums up the Political situation in Australia that they had conducted a preferred Prime Minister poll, prior to their Election & the New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinder Ardern got more votes than their own Leaders, Jacinder being from a different Country altogether! Australia like America with HRC & Trump, had the choice of picking from two lousy Candidates with Morrison & Shorten, both with personality deficits & zero appeal? What’s going to be interesting now, that the Election is over, is how Australia’s Trade Policies toward China will pan out, as Ozzie is a vassal State of American & it’s Foreign Policy? Already the Chinese have had a gutsful of Australia’s negative, anti-China rhetoric in lockstep with the US in banning Huawei & China are already restricting Australian Coal exports, which has directly impacted on the Australian economy? That, along with a tanking economy & a Real estate market in freefall due to overpriced asset bubble popping, Labor is better to sit out this Parliamentary term for the Liberals to stuff things up further? And with China, Australia hasn’t learned the lesson that you don’t bite the hand that feeds you so it will be interesting what happens next with this China relationship!
Far too many biased distortions in this Hilaryous presentation! Quite obviously the MSM was surprised and shocked because they backed the loser. – Just like brexit and Trump.
The identical agenda of both parties in Australia, USA, UK, is becoming ever more obvious.
The real losers in these recent elections (Oz and EU) is this 2 party one agenda “establishment”. The only surprise in Australia was that the LNP lost a bit less than ALP.
The real winners are the Brexits in the UK and One Nation in Australia. I agree that the ON win would have been far greater if this “alternative” vote had not been split by the fat billionaire’s United Australia effort, a very cynical attempt by big business to cash in on this growing sentiment.
Thanks Cathy , I have a different take to MichaelT above , lets not forget that it was the Labor Queensland Government which brokered the Adani mine deal , the real Problem is that Labor are almost indistinguishable from the Liberal-National Party , its center right or extreme right those are the two choices… I wouldn’t use the label conservative for what the Lib Nats are proposing over the course of their next term … Tweedledum and Tweedledee , both major parties have an identical foreign policy content to be tinpot policeman in this region of the Anglo-American global financial Empire..
The Economic , Foreign, Energy and Environmental policies are almost identical… and as with Bill Clinton in the US it was the Labor Government of Hawke and Keating which introduced Thatcherite Neo-Liberal policies here and single handedly stymied and ultimately destroyed the Union Movement back in the early 80’s .
For these and a host of other reasons many people to the left of our moderate centrist Green Party, simply just don’t vote , knowing that it is ultimately ineffectual, dignifying and giving credence to a decaying inert System which bolsters what is in effect a Plutocracy .
Labor didn’t get my vote because I view them as a bunch of feminazi’s who swarm to any minority issue and are overtly anti-male. My vote went to neither of the “big two” as I despise the phoney two horse race that just changes one bunch of corrupt lying on the whole career politicians with another bunch lying corrupt career politicians.
In the weeks running up to the election my letter box received almost daily letters from Labor containing the most pathetic attempts to smear the Liberals, but absolutely no information on the policies Labor was standing for, undoubtedly funded by me as a tax payer. I got letters from the Liberals less frequently, but they were equally empty of policy information. Finding information on policies the parties stood for was not easy. I’m not sure if television covered it as I don’t have a television, the newspapers didn’t cover policies much, just the personality politics.
Australia should drop it’s compulsory voting system. That way they’ll be able to accurately gauge how well the politicians are connecting with the voting public. The current system which forces you to vote under threat of prosecution does not do that. The voter participation rate in the recent EU elections are very informative about the connection rate and give the results more meaning, e.g. http://www.ukpolitical.info/european-parliament-election-turnout.htm which tells you 63% of the UK were uninterested in the EU elections – I wonder which way they’d vote in an “in vs out” referendum? (if at all).
> which tells you 63% of the UK were uninterested in the EU elections
It doesn’t tell you anything of the sort: it tells you they did not vote, but nothing about why they didn’t.
Love those Honest Government adverts!
Keepin’ it real down under.
All the blood would go to my head and
I’d get dizzy if I lived in Oz.
If “Foster’s is Australian for beer,”
what does “bullshit” mean in Aussie talk?
They use it an awful lot.
This author (film maker / academic) is as out of touch as the Democrats were in the USA. Australians are not as one-dimensional as this loopy author would suggest. It is true that the election result was influenced by a coal mine in Queensland. The result of that well-aired debate was that the majority of Queenslanders did not accept that stopping a coal project there would affect the global climate in any positive way but that it would profoundly affect their local economy in a very negative way.
The majority of the rest of Australia found, in addition to that, that an unlikeable, dishonest candidate with divisive policies that pitted the old against the young and put new taxes on the independent elderly, small business, and poor people with some savings invested in shares, and proposed radical environmental policies that would break the bank while pretending to be fiscally responsible was not an attractive proposition. Instead they decided to stick with a guy who has managed to turn the first budget surplus since the last labour government screwed it up over a decade ago. Australia has proven itself to be a bastion of sanity in an increasingly crazy world, by refusing to go the loony ‘progressive’ route.
The result of that well-aired debate was that the majority of Queenslanders did not accept that stopping a coal project there would affect the global climate in any positive way but that it would profoundly affect their local economy in a very negative way.
Dont be so deliberately disingenuous. You know it’s the burning of this coal that is its most serious climate impact not its mining. i am getting seriously sick of arguments like yours.
this argument is a bit better. it’s ok to have an open mind, as long as your brains don’t fall out.
If the coal in Queensland , which is cleaner than that in Indonesia or India, was not mined and sent to India then it would be taken from Indonesia or India or elsewhere – and burned anyway. The fact is that the coal will be burned in India because it is mandated by government. It is necessary to enable electricity to be provided to millions who have none, they who provide heating etc. for themselves by burning much dirtier things than coal. The coal is essential to economic development there.
Stopping the Adanai coal mine in particular would achieve nothing more than having dirtier coal mined elsewhere and burned instead, and Queenslanders know that. For all the waffle of ígnorant people like you on this subject, who either do not know the facts or are only interested in pointless ‘virtue signalling’ the reality is that the result would be to reduce the prosperity of Queensland and achieve nothing at all for the environment.
MichaelT. Great comment. I’m surprised that such a politically biased article even made it into CN.
Another thing that the author fails to mention is that Bill Shorten was the main driver working behind the scenes to destabilise Australia’s democracy in the first place when he replied Kevin Rudd with Julia Gillard only to put Kevin Rudd back into the prime ministership again.
I’d also like to expand on your point about taxing the “independent elderly” via Labor’s proposed tax on franking credits un self managed superannuation (pension/401k) funds. The average middle class Australian wants to retire comfortably at a reasonable age. Our mandatory superannuation system was encouraged by the major parties with reasonable tax treatment to reduce our dependence on the government pension. It’s not just indecent elderly, but also everyday hard workers who punished Labor for even daring to tinker with the superannuation system. Our retirement savings are not there for grubby politicians to help themselves to.