Australian election: The lessons for Ardern and Luxon in Albanese’s victory

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Australian election: The lessons for Ardern and Luxon in Albanese’s victory

World

4 minutes to read

PM Jacinda Ardern with Anthony Albanese, who will become Australia’s 31st Prime Minister. Photo / Supplied

New Zealand could see a slight softening in relations with Australia now that Anthony Albanese is set to be the new Prime Minister – but it’s too early to tell what a change in leadership will mean for the most contentious issues between the two countries.

Albanese is set today to be sworn in as the 31st Prime Minister of Australia, after his Labor Party secured enough votes in Saturday’s election to oust Scott Morrison’s Coalition and take back power for the first time in nine years.

While the final outcome of the election is still some days away due to a record level of postal votes, it is expected that the large number of new Green Party politicians and climate supporting ‘Teal’ independents will have a significant say over both chambers of Australia’s Parliament.

Australian Associated Press New Zealand correspondent Ben McKay told The Front Page, the Herald’s daily news podcast, that a large number of issues have had a role in turning the tide against Morrison.

“The last three years have been incredibly traumatic and just a very busy time in Australia’s history. Covid hasn’t really been talked about as a factor but Scott Morrison’s leadership, or lack of it, really must’ve fed into the coalition’s cratering vote.

“Bush fires and floods have also played a part, both in terms of low parts of Australia, where that locally hit, we sort of swing against the government, but it also fed into the climate change issue,” McKay said.

“For a long time, Australians have been frustrated with a lack of action on climate change, and the majority of that is going towards the coalition over the last over the last nine years.”

McKay said that a big swing towards female candidates, after a sexual assault scandal at Parliament and Morrison’s poor response to the outrage that followed, has been a major factor as well.

As for what this means for New Zealand, McKay said that Albanese has “softened” in recent days on Australia’s controversial 501 deportee policy, which allows for deportation on character grounds of convicted criminals sentenced to jail, but has grown to target those with gang connections.

The policy has angered successive New Zealand governments as it deports people with New Zealand citizenship regardless of how long they have lived in Australia.

“Australia does deport a lot of criminals across the Tasman to New Zealand, but there has been reporting in the last days of the election that Albanese wants to mend the trans-Tasman relationship on this front,” McKay said.

“I don’t know whether he’ll offer concessions to that policy as it is popular, but he may not push the boat out any further,” which could see the policy being capped as it is or walked back further.

“We do have now Labour leaders on both sides of the Tasman. Will that produce better outcomes for New Zealand? We’re yet to see,” McKay said.

It is also too early to tell if the swing to the left in Australia will be of benefit to Ardern when New Zealand goes to the polls next year. Many world leaders are currently facing a backlash from opposition parties and voters around the cost of living crisis and rising inflation, with McKay agreeing that was one factor in Morrison’s defeat.

“[New Zealand is] beginning to see some of those economic flow-on effects similar to what took place in Australia. So unemployment low, but inflation high and rising interest rates.

“If an election was held today, I do think that Ardern would suffer a lot of those similar things that Scott Morrison has, but there’s just too long to assess that [given how] far away the New Zealand election is to really draw a parallel.”

There are some lessons for the National Party as well. The Coalition had tried to put culture war issues at the forefront of the debate, in a similar way that has worked for right-leaning parties in America and the United Kingdom.

“I do think that getting into those sorts of niche issues that don’t affect the great majority of people’s lives is just so far from the real ballgame,” McKay said.

“But so far, Christopher Luxon doesn’t seem like he’s interested in those sorts of issues, in the way that say Judith Collins started to walk down that path. And I think, for the benefit of a very vulnerable trans community that can only be a good thing.”

The Front Page is a daily NZ Herald podcast, with a new episode released every morning.

The Front Page is a daily news podcast from the New Zealand Herald, available to listen to every weekday from 5am.

• You can follow the podcast at nzherald.co.nz, iHeartRadio, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.

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