Key Takeaways from Australia's 2022 General Election
Last week, the Australian people chose their new government for at least the next three years. Contesting at this year's election is the Liberals/National (LNP) coalition led by Scott Morrison and the Australian Labor Party (ALP) led by Anthony Albanese, as well as the minorities party (also known as "the crossbench") consisting of smaller parties like the Greens, United Australia Party, One Nation and independent candidates. Climate change, cost of living, the economy and housing were among the top key issues for Australians in this election cycle. To form a majority government, 76 out of 151 seats are needed. When this article was written, the Labor Party was leading the current seats in the House with 75 seats while the LNP railed behind with 57 seats. Scott Morisson conceded to Anthony Albanese, and the Labor party not long after all news outlets called the election for the ALP. In the same speech, Morrison resigned as leader of the LNP.
How the Australian Electoral System Works
Australia is a representative democracy, every three years, Australians elect their representatives to the Federal parliament based on their constituency for the Lower House and senators to represent their states in the upper House. They're not directly electing the Prime Minister per se; instead, whichever party with the most seats in the Lower House is entitled to form and lead a government, selecting the party leader as the next Prime Minister. The way Australians elect their MP is also different to other countries. If you live outside of Australia, you'd probably be familiar with choosing one candidate or political party you wish to choose, which is not the case for Australia. Each MP is elected using the preferential voting system, where voters have to rank candidates listed on the ballot per their preference, '1' for their first preference, '2' for their second preference and so on. If one candidate gains an absolute majority of first preference votes, they win the seat. Still, If no candidate receives an absolute majority, the candidate with the least number of votes is excluded, and their votes are redistributed according to second preferences. Redistributing votes according to preferences continues until one candidate receives more than 50% of the vote.
The Rise of Independent Candidates
Perhaps one of the most interesting things about this election cycle is the rise of Independents running for office. A substantial number of senior politicians from the major parties faced challengers from independent candidates. They're mostly women, and their movements are primarily grassroots, offering a fresh, accurate representation of the community they represent to Canberra. Many were sceptical at first about their chances of winning since most of the seats are often referred to either as safe Liberal or safe Labor seats for decades. Still, to the surprise of many , a substantial number of Independent candidates successfully won and even beat numerous senior figures from Australia’s major political parties. Running for the Seat of Kooyong, Dr Monique Ryan, a paediatric neurologist, has successfully unseated Scott Morrison's Treasurer and Deputy Leader, Josh Frydenberg. Mr Freydenberg is often seen as the future leader of the Liberal Party and Future PM, but that's not the case now. Another interesting independent figure is Dai Le. Migrating as a refugee from Vietnam to Australia when she was 11, Ms Le has successfully won the seat of Fowler, the electorate has been categorised as a safe Labor seat for decades. The election of Dai Le declines high profile Labor Senator and Former Premier of New South Wales Kristina Keneally's bid to migrate from the Senate to the House by 3,385 votes. When this article was written, there were 10 independent MPs elected to the House of Representatives.
Perhaps another notable takeaway from this year's election is the number of The Green's MPs elected to the House of representatives. Climate change is one of the key issues that matter at this election, especially with the bushfires and floods that happened in parts of Australia. The Greens had only one MP and nine senators in the previous parliament. In this election, the Greens have managed to secure at least one additional seat in the House of Representatives, gaining the seats of Griffith, once held by former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd from Labor and potentially the seats of Ryan and Brisbane in Queensland from the LNP. In the upper House, the Greens have secured at least three more seats.
A More Diverse Parliament
The 47th Parliament of Australia will undoubtedly be more diverse than the previous parliament by increased indigenous and Asian representation elected to the parliament. Australians have voted in at least eight indigenous parliamentarians and six more of Asian descent in the House and Senate. As a reference, only three of Asian ancestry, and six indigenous parliamentarians were elected into parliament in 2019.
Indigenous Agenda at the Heart of the Albanese Government
The newly appointed Labor government aims to put the issue of indigenous affairs and First Nations people at the core of its policy. During Albanese's victory speech early Sunday, he and the Australian Labor party stood committed to the Uluru Statement from the Heart, enshrining an Indigenous voice to Parliament in Australia's constitution. During her introductory message, newly appointed foreign minister Penny Wong also pointed out that Australia will be implementing a First Nations foreign policy in which the department she led will incorporate First Nations identities, perspectives and practices into Australia's diplomatic engagement. Referring to the Labor party manifesto, the Labor government will establish the Office of First Nations Engagement headed by an Ambassador for First Nations Peoples within the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to lead systematic engagement with First Nations communities and leaders and embed First Nations perspectives in Australia's foreign policy.
What to Expect from the New Parliament for the Indo-Pacific
It’s still too early to predict and speculate what significant change will the new Australian government take, especially in regards to the implementation of Australia’s Foreign Policy. One thing for sure is that we can expect Australia to take more action especially in regards to the security and stability of the Indo-Pacific. Judging from Anthony Albanese’s campaign promises, we can expect Australia to be more active in the region by putting more focus on regional security and climate change. In a video message not long after being sworn in as Australia’s 40th Foreign Minister, Penny Wong has acknowledged Pacific Island Nations concern in regards to climate change. For the pacific, the issue of climate change is not just about the environment, it's also the matter of national and existential security. China’s recent behaviour in the South Pacific has also put a serious alarm for Canberra and its allies. Not long after being Sworn in as the 31st Prime Minister of Australia, Anthony Albanese took off to Japan for the Quad summit where later he emphasised the importance of free and open Indo-Pacific to ensure peace and stability in the region.
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