Australian Federal Election: Battle-Lines Redrawn

A little over one week ago, Australians went to the polls after one of the most unengaging, bland and elongated political campaigns in our history. After a period of severe political deadlock in the senate due to a particularly unruly crossbench, on May 8th, Prime Minster Malcolm Turnbull called for a double dissolution, a constitutional procedure which results in both the House of Representatives and Senate being entirely dissolved. The following political campaign was so dry and uninteresting, that after witnessing political explosion of the Brexit vote which occurred a week earlier, I almost forgot the election was even happening.

Part of this was due to how similar Malcolm Turnbull is to opposition leader Bill Shorten. Despite coming from different political backgrounds (Malcolm being a successful businessman and former Goldman Sachs banker, and Bill coming from a union background), they agree on virtually everything important. They both support gay marriage. They both support Australia becoming a republic (Malcolm was at the forefront of Republican movement in the run up to 1999 Republic Referendum). Both of them adhere to the “Black Armband” view of history, that Australia was “invaded” rather than settled. (The difference between these terms are of little importance to me. We’re not sorry about it either way.) They both agree on mass immigration, multiculturalism, diversity etc. The only issues they disagree upon could be boiled down to “high taxes vs. low taxes” and “high-spending vs. low-spending” — the usual stock standard political discourse in the modern Anglosphere.

The opinion polls leading up to the election were fairly neck-and-neck, with Labor maintaining a one point lead for a significant period and the Coalition (Liberal-National) edging out with a one point lead the day before the election. Malcolm Turnbull was the preferring leader with his suave speaking ability and cross-spectrum pandering, whereas Shorten was a rather unknown and awkward man.

After Turnbull successfully ousted the supposedly “wildly unpopular” PM Tony Abbott after a leadership spill in September 2015, many commentators were convinced that a Coalition victory at the next election was all but guaranteed. Malcolm’s approval ratings were higher than Abbott’s had ever been, and his opponent was an ineffectual union offcut. What could possibly go wrong?

The results of the election have painted a different picture.

Not only will Malcolm barely scrape a majority in lower house, but he’s been handed a senate crossbench even more hostile than the one over which he called the election in the first place. Many of his key allies in his coup against Abbott have lost their seats, and many of the party backbenchers are now vying for his blood. There are even rumours that conservative Senator Cory Bernadi is in talks with Malcolm Turnbull to lead a conservative break-off party from the Liberals (an action of which the political benefit would be questionable as best). He’s even had to make a deal with the “mad hatter” of Australian politics, hard-line conservative MP Bob Katter from rural Queensland in order to ensure the Coalition’s command of parliament.

What a truly a devastating week for the neoliberal-centrist “cuckservative” cause spearheaded by Malcolm Turnbull. However, as viewed from our political sphere, I couldn’t have expected a more optimal outcome. All with the added benefit of Labor losing as well, ensuring that their policies of gay marriage, refugee hugging, republicanism and broader social liberalism are delayed for another cycle. (However, such a strong showing this time all but guarantees their victory in 2019, although who knows what the world could look like by then.)

There are few who could see this result coming from a mile away. This nation’s recent history of revolving-door Prime Ministers has been a fairly embarrassing one, and also a particularly severe drain on the public’s trust in our beloved “democratic institutions.” After Malcolm assumed the Liberal mantle in September, it was assumed that the conservative base of the Liberal party that had been particularly supportive of Abbott, would follow suit in supporting Turnbull. Unfortunately for him, the result of the election has been eerily similar to that of 2010 when Julia Gillard went to polls as Labor Leader after ousting Kevin Rudd, soon finding herself in minority government. Three years later in 2013, Rudd would then oust Gillard after her party lost confidence in her potential to win the looming election. Ironically, Rudd would go on to lose the election spectacularly later that year anyway.

If anything, this election has highlighted the key division within the Liberal party and it’s electoral base. The division being that of “hard-Right” conservatism and centrist neoliberalism. The latter of which Malcolm Turnbull personified almost perfectly, with Tony Abbott being closer to the former.

Although “Based Tones” has received praise from nationalist circles for his “Stop the boats” approach to the illegal immigration issue during his Prime Ministership, his ability as a leader was always rather lacking. His decision to give Prince Philip a Knighthood in early 2015 was an especially silly gaffe among others. And top of this, he did very little that could really be considered “conservative” (a word that means very little these days). He did nothing to decrease immigration and introduced no policies that would incite traditional moral values among the populace. The only thing he adamantly stood for was his long time support for the monarchy, a largely symbolic gesture if anything. Regardless of all this he was still very popular among his conservative base, something which the Turnbullites did not anticipate. The intensely kosher-conservative pundit Andrew Bolt summed it up quite nicely in his open letter to Turnbull.

Perhaps the most interesting development that came out of this election was the unexpected success of former MP and fish n’ chip shop owner Pauline Hanson and her populist One Nation party, immediately resulting in the intense cry of outrage from Leftists on social media and mainstream media alike, which is of course standard protocol at this point as proven by Trump and Brexit. There is not much to say about Pauline. She came from a working class background in Queensland, entering the Lower House in 1996 under a Liberal party ticket (which she was quickly exiled from as her views on immigration and multiculturalism became apparent). She quickly rose to infamy after her first speech to parliament where she described Australia as being at the risk of being “swamped by Asians” due to immigration (something which has undeniably become a reality in many parts of the country). She was voted out in 1998, but remained in and out of politics for the next twenty years. It looks like now she will be back parliament, this time as a powerbroker on the Senate crossbench. Campaigning largely on the topic of Islam and its rising demographic threat in Australia, rather than focusing on Asians immigrants, seems to reflect the wider anti-Islam backlash that is currently spreading throughout the Western world.

Although her policies reflect a generally civic nationalist approach, it seems that she still stands by her comments on Asian immigration that she made in the 1990s. While not an eloquent speaker, and definitely not an adept or ideal politician, her bravery is to be commended. Her presence on the political stage is a useful thorn in the establishment’s side, and her electoral achievement is without question of great significance as it is a sign that the nationalist sentiments rising across the West are slowly reaching our shores.

Race Discrimination Commissioner, Tom Soutphommasane (a very Australian name if ever I’ve heard one) has come forward in severe criticism of Hanson, suggesting that “licensing hate can lead to serious violence and ugliness in our streets and our communities” and that Australia has “rightfully” never had the same freedom of speech that has been protected under the law in America. Such comments aren’t surprisingly coming from someone who essentially acts as an agent for a growing foreign subversive element in Australia. A fifth column, as it were. The fact that many Australians buy into such blatant trickery is what’s particularly tragic. Head of the NSW Islamic Council Khaled Sukkarieh has said that “Muslims have been in this country for over 150 years, they helped build this country.” in response to Pauline’s comments about Islam. Of course, Mr Sukkarieh, Australia has been blessed by its extensive history with Muslims. Although, I find it hard to believe that they helped build this country, seeing as they were essentially barred from entering for most of its history.

What can we make of all this? A few things.

  1. Neoliberalism is dying, and it’s dying fast.
  2. Anti-immigration sentiment (particularly anti-Muslim immigration) is now truly a consistent trend in many Western countries including Australia.
  3. People are looking to alternatives to major parties, as is indicated by the 22.8 percent vote for third parties, the highest it’s ever been.

Whether the “alt-right” will help fill the void is unclear, but if Brexit, Trump and this election has proven anything, it is that the rules of politics are changing. And it seems that nowhere, not even an isolated southern continent bordering the extremities of Asia, will be immune to this change.


3 thoughts on “Australian Federal Election: Battle-Lines Redrawn

  1. Quite enlightening, I confess I know next to nothing about Aussie politics. You have that crisp and direct style which lends itself perfectly to journalistic pieces like this Octavian.

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