Monday, May 23, 2022

The Australian election

Australia went to the polls on Saturday, and while the preferences are still being counted, clearly voted for a change of government. Unfortunately, this being Australia, this meant swapping one coal-loving, refugee-hating racist for another. Which is perhaps why Labor's primary vote share decreased this election, with voters instead turning to the Greens and "teal" independents promising action on climate change and corruption. And hopefully this will mean some big changes in climate change policy. But it all depends on how those last preferences go, and whether Labor gets a secure majority, or whether it is forced into minority government.

(Australia's unfair electoral system is a big problem here. The ALP got ~33% of the primary vote and is flirting with 50% of the seats. Meanwhile, the Greens got ~12%, and around 2% of the seats. This is what Australians call "fair").

Are there lessons for Aotearoa? Unlike Australia, both our government and our opposition have at least pretended to care about climate change, and there isn't the level of high profile abandonment - going on holiday during the bushfires, ignoring the floods - that has driven public anger about Scott Morrison. Unlike Australia, our politicians take their jobs seriously and understand basic public expectations. We also have a very different political system, which makes independent challenges to MPs unlikely (we haven't had an independent elected since 1943, and the highest-profile recent example - Raf Maji - managed a distant second). But with MMP, if Labour is seen as not performing or being an impediment on climate change, people can and will just switch their vote to the Greens to shift the policy balance, and that seems like something that could happen next year. Underperformance by a future National government doesn't have such an easy outlet, however - which is probably something they rely on.