Scott Morrison’s Loss in Australia

Photo source: Guardian

By Naveed Qazi | Editor, Globe Upfront

When Scott Morrison won an election in 2019, he said that he believed in miracles. In the 2022 election, it seems that he ran out of them. After the verdict, he accepted defeat, and believed in the ‘judgement of the Australian masses’. Among the two major party leaders, Morrison was looked at as more of an experienced image builder. He projected himself as the typical ‘Australian dad’, someone who you can trust, someone who had seen the country through the pandemic, and whose governing Liberal-National coalition had been the better economic manager of Australia.

With time, however, Aussies started disliking him. The image of a trustworthy family man had been eroded over the past three years because they thought that it was not genuine, and not to be trusted. There were many moments in the last three years when his leadership fell short. Many of those affected by Australia’s natural disasters believed that he wasn’t on the ground when he needed to be. They also thought that he was there just for photo ops, and was not listening to people’s concerns. During the Black Summer bushfires, there were infamous pictures floating around about his vacation in Hawaii. When he eventually went to the fire-ravaged areas, he was heckled by angry locals, and videos of people refusing to shake hands with him went viral. In fact, these images will still haunt him after the election. He was also alleged of sexually assaulting Britney Higgins inside a ministerial office in Parliament House. It had been a moment of reckoning, hugely embarrassing for the government.

Economically, the Liberal-National coalition was thrown into major curveballs. There had been a rising fuel cost and high cost of living crises. The Reserve Bank had increased interest rates, which was bad news for mortgage owners and first-time buyers. It was also bad news for Morrison’s campaign. Even though the economy recovered fairly well, especially during the Covid 19 pandemic, many common Australians were still worried about putting food on the table and making the ends meet.

After the election, pundits noted that democracy can stay healthy even if voters are disgruntled. In Australia, it is the fourth time, after the World War, the Labour Party, this time under Anthony Albanese, had been elected to form the government from the opposition.

Morrison lost not only to Labour but also to a group of female independents who adopted the colour teal, a blend of Liberal blue, (to signal they were economically conservative), and green (to signal they were progressives on climate change and the status of women). The teal independents won seats in wealthy parts of Sydney and Melbourne that had long voted Liberal, including that of Morrison’s deputy, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg. The other important factor that came into play was that for years, Morrison’s party had failed to run women for winnable seats. Labour also had a better policy on child care this time around.

According to ABC’s vote compass, the country’s largest survey of voter intentions, a majority of voters also wanted stern action on climate change. That’s hardly surprising in a country that has been ravaged by floods and fires of increasing severity. In terms of media support for elections, it is evident now that Rupert Murdoch no longer calls the shorts, in an era of social media campaigns, and multiplying sources of information. In fact, almost all of his newspapers editorialised in favour of Morrison.

Richard Glover wrote in Washington Post about the fall of the Liberal Party: ‘Labour was like an echidna, the spiky Australian animal that rolls into a ball when attacked. Morrison kept attacking, as if he knew no other mode, even though Labour’s small-target strategy gave him so few opportunities.’

Morrison, as a marketing man, also created snappy slogans that went against him in the end. ‘I don’t hold a hose, mate,’ was his answer when questioned about a holiday in Hawaii during the bushfires of the summer of 2019-2020. And, ‘it’s not a race’ was his reply when asked in March 2021 why his government was so slow in ordering vaccines during the pandemic. But, in the end, it turned out that it was a race, and it became clear that Australians wanted a leader willing to hold a hose.

What separated Morrison from Anthony Albanese, the new Australian prime minister is that Albanese was seen someone of a shrewd negotiator and a careful tactician in the campaigns. E.J. Dionne Jr. wrote in his Washington Post Oped that he is like an Australian Joe Biden, with a common touch and long experience in the parliament. He made Morrison, an unpopular incumbent, the main issue, in a scenario which eventually resulted in his rise.


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