By Syed Atiq ul Hassan, Sydney;
Australia will hold its federal election on May 21. In Australia, political parties, their leaders, and candidates are currently engrossed in election campaigns. No banners are seen on the streets, no rallies are held, and no candidates are seen giving speeches in public places. However, the political parties hold party functions for their members in a public hall during which the workers are briefed on the party’s election agenda and instructions are given for the campaign. It is also common to see party leaders visiting venues of interest to draw supporters to their agenda. Candidate’s pictures, party names, and constituency are listed on a small board outside of polling booths or in front of their homes.
The candidates appear to be handing out pamphlets about their agenda and answering queries at railway stations, shopping centres, and
popular bus stops. Most political parties have fundraising campaigns for their election campaigns, which are now mostly funded by online party funds websites. Weekend fundraising events are the most common. Daytime campaigns are rare. On Saturday, voting is also held at local schools or colleges.
The Australian Election Commission is an independent body that conducts elections. The Prime Minister announces the new election date. It is rare in Australia for an interim government to be formed before an election, but the ruling party and prime minister remain in power until a new election is called. Usually, unofficial results are tallied around 10 pm on election night, and after counting all postal votes, the results are compiled and announced a week or two later.
When the ruling party does not win seats, it congratulates the winning party and announces its departure from power. This is what announces the transfer of power and the formation of the new government and its cabinet.
About 50 political parties are registered with the Election Commission in Australia, but the country is basically holding a two-party system, as it is in the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States. The Australian Labor Party and Australian Liberal Party are the two largest parties in Australia.
Founded in 1893, the Australian Labor Party has been active in all of Australia since 1901. In rural Australia, there is the National Party of Australia. The agenda of this party is in the interest of farmers and rural workers. In 1920, the party was founded. Originally known as the Australia Country Party, the party was renamed the National Party of Australia in 1982. The National Party is traditionally an ally of the Liberal Party. The Australian Green Party is the fourth largest political force in Australia. The party was founded in 1982 by Bob Brown, a well-known politician in the province of Tasmania.
The Green Party politicizes issues such as environmental security, the prevention of deadly weapons, basic human rights, and the fight against discrimination based on race and religion. The Greens are seen as playing an important role in the National Assembly.
The democratic system in Australia is similar to the Westminster system in Britain. In Australia, there is a prime minister who is the leader of the country. A governor-general is appointed by the queen or king of the British royal family and invites the majority party to form a new government based on federal election results.
One Nation is another party founded in 1990 by white extremist Pauline Hanson. The One Nation Party has some popularity in the Western and Queensland provinces, but most Australians disapprove of Pauline Hansen’s partisan politics, and it is not popular elsewhere. No other party is so popular in Australia that its candidates can win elections and form the government except the Liberal and Labor parties.
Labor and Liberal have prepared manifestos for the 21 May election based on traditional issues and concessions. Various concessions for health, pension, education, employment, and housing loan schemes have been announced, but there is no indication that people clearly favour one party over the other.
A successful vaccination program implemented by the Liberal Party to protect Australians from Corona Pandemic has boosted its popularity among Australians over the past three years. Credit to this, the Australians believe the Liberal party will remain in power.
Due to Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s successful policy, Australia is one of the few countries where the majority of the population has been immunized, which has greatly reduced the number of possible deaths compared to other countries. The people also appreciated the care given to patients who had been infected with Coronavirus. On the other hand, inflation skyrocketed in the aftermath of the Corona pandemic. Inflation has broken records over the last fifteen years. The price of gasoline has skyrocketed. Rents and prices for houses have skyrocketed, much to the dismay of analysts. Now the country is experiencing an economic crisis, and the people are fed up with inflation. The government seems helpless to combat it. Foreign policy also frustrates the people.
The farmers and business community are angry about the deterioration of trade relations with China. Australia exports a lot of goods to China. Australia’s economy was heavily dependent on the export of wheat, pulses, corn, cows, sheep, and various agricultural and mineral products to China.
In recent years, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has made defense deals with the United States, Britain, Japan, and India at the behest of the United States, much to China’s displeasure. Additionally, China has cut rebates for Australian traders substantially costing Australia billions of dollars annually.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison chose India over China as a substitute. Free trade agreements are also being negotiated with India. I believe, compared to China, Australia will not be able to enjoy the same level of profitable relations with India. China is one of the most powerful countries in Asia. China’s defense is so strong in the region; hence, Australians are not happy with the defence strategic policy of Scott Morrison’s foreign policy toward China.
Most Australians, I believe, want Australia’s foreign policy to be balanced between the United States and China. Furthermore, Australia should not be part of any superpower’s bloc, including the United States, Europe, Russia, or China. Australia must have its own policy based on its own benefits and the benefits of the specific region.
Recently, the Reserve Bank of Australia raised interest rates after 11 years, causing all banks to increase interest rates on land and housing mortgages. Increasing interest rates are also having an impact on the Liberal Party’s election results.
Anthony Albanese, the leader of the Labor Party, has reiterated that if his Labor Party is brought to power by the people, he will maintain balanced relations with China, the United States, and Europe. Labor Party promises to control inflation, reduce the cost of daily necessities, increase wages, create new jobs, and provide concessions to new and first-time home buyers.
Labor and the Liberal parties are currently campaigning with full potential to secure most of the votes. The results of the May 21 election will determine who wins and which party forms the next government.
(The Writer, Syed Atiq ul Hassan, is an editor for Tribune International, Australia, his email address is firstname.lastname@example.org ).