Australian and world politics has not been noted in posts on this site in recent weeks but it is not as if nothing had been happening – or being analysed by Australian Perspectives. So much has been happening, in fact, that life was a case of juggling news and politics from all over the world and attempting to get longer term perspectives rather than being merely a Twitter-like snapshot of a day-to-day news release. Brexit and the gross failure of May and her terrible MP class in Britain
This post will be a first update on the Australian election campaign, further instalments can be expected as the weeks go on and various angles of interest will be highlighted.
The previous post was a clear summary of my rather pessimistic view of the hopes of the ruling party in the May elections in Australia and now that the campaign has officially started, nothing much has happened (so far) to make me reconsider my pessimistic assessment of their chances in the light of the first ten days. As in all actual campaigns, though, there is always movement of some kind, some direction because the minds of the people really start to focus on the campaign. Of course, the skills of the campaigners, the leaders and their parties, plus the media campaign all help. On campaigning skills, Malcolm Turnbull would have been one of the worst ever. Lazy and seemingly without any natural political judgement, he had to finish for the day at or just after lunch most days, wasted his time with broad, wishy-washy slogans such as “investment and innovation” when the opposition ALP was insisting that the Medicare and health benefits system was failing voters and going to cost them real money.
I am not going to list “policies” – only promises really – of the parties, except in summary because it is the development, ability to stand up to scrutiny and so on that will determine what remains to be absorbed by the voters.
There are some majors which will be in evidence right through the campaign, of course, along with the usual bribes of funds to local parochial projects. However, with all the concentration on and around “energy” and “climate”, that flood of money from organisations linked to international funding groups will ensure that it remains a major reference. The flood of new “independents” funded by climate groups standing against conservative MPs has added new interest to Australian elections and the links between them will be made clear shortly.
The ruling Liberal party has hit the ground with its policy list and whilst generalised so far, the leader PM Scott Morrison of the Liberal Party is campaigning strongly (unlike his predecessor), but starts well behind his opposite number Bill Shorten of the Australian Labor Party.
Shorten and the ALP have their own list of policies and a very interesting promise to pay for certain free cancer treatments – “…cover the cost of seeing a specialist oncologist and surgeon when you have cancer”, which has received pushback from the government with the usual “you have a “black hole in your costings” and competing funding analyses are out there in public already.
The major energy policy of the Labor party was to go to 50% renewables by the year 2030, which has for many months raised arguments about cost, de-industrialisation, massive job losses and crippling of the largest export industry, coal. But the most interesting Big Deal to grasp the pro-climate vote was a promise to get 50% of cars in Australia to be electric vehicles by 2030. This has caused very big push back from the government and interest groups, pointing out large cost differences, draining of presently available power to charge these cars at a time when coal power is reducing, etc, but also because the associated promise was to institute heavy “pollution” costs – taxes – on the (current) emissions-emitting cars. How these competing arguments resonate with the public is still to be seen, but it is early days yet,
Supposed Independents and the groups helping them.
Right now, there is a main group of four supposed “independents” who are all linked together by backing groups, funders and policies, so whilst they are marketed as “centre-right so as to appeal to the conservative-leaning voters for which they are competing, policies and links far from centre-right are in evidence.
Nothing is more clear than the climate change links and the links of the candidates (and their backers) to hard left/Green activist group Getup and whilst individual funders might vary from candidate to candidate, vested financial interests from the renewable energy industry are quite prominent in some campaigns (eg Warringah against ex-PM Tony Abbott) but all the others have renewable energy enthusiasts.
The campaign links are quite transparent and half-hearted attempts to disguise their unified nature merely accentuates that.
It also ties into the seeming sabotage of the overall campaign of the Liberal party by the failed ex-Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull which fell flat after a single day and his family. Turnbull’s wife Lucy was quite prominent in flogging electric cars and when the well-evidenced large time delay in charging electric cars was used as a policy point against the Labor Party, Lucy was very quick into going public about how “advances” were enabling these delays to be reduced. I note that these comments were misleading in that rapid charging was in very expensive electric cars only and ruined battery life if used.
The Turnbull son, Alex, is something else again. By coincidence, a vested financial interest in renewable energy, his hedge fund business was heavily invested in renewable energy which suffered after his father got deposed and taxpayers subsidies were at risk. Just a coincidence, of course. He obviously agrees with renewable energy as a priority, it is just that his investment choices match his enthusiasms. How typical is that, but it gets called out in many other cases.
Alex publicly claimed he was acting against ‘racists’ and admitted to be directly funding independent Julia Banks in Flinders and that a friend of his created her website. It was just a real coincidence, apparently, that this website was virtually identical to all the other “climate scare” independents in Wentworth (Phelps), in Kooyong against Treasurer Frydenberg, Greg Hunt in Flinders and Abbott in Warringah.
State of Play
At the moment, things are in a state of flux, with the ALP and Bill Shorten well in front but faltering on policy detail re electric cars, costings and so on – a shadow minister has doubts about the electric cars plan – but experience tells us not to rely on the current Liberal party to be able to capitalise on this to any extent. Any sudden changes will be reported and future summaries quite regularly.