30 June, 2022

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Labor Wins In Australia!

By Laksiri Fernando

Dr. Laksiri Fernando

Although the federal elections took place on 21 May, Saturday, the people had the opportunity to cast their postal votes before. Even during the election day, the Electoral Commission allowed people to vote by telephone. In Australia along with 20 other countries voting is compulsory. Apart from the ‘right to vote’ these countries recognize voting as a ‘citizen’s duty.’ In New Zealand, registration is compulsory, but not necessarily the voting.

Australia is also a federal country. Therefore, regular elections are held both for the states and for the federal government. What was held in May was for the federal government. With six states and two self-governing territories, most of the day-to-day public affairs are conducted by these states with regular elections and stable constitutions. There are clear separation of powers and functions. However, when it comes to economic affairs, international relations, and overall policies of the country, the federal government has the final say most of the time conducted in conjunction with the states and territories.

Background

Australian Parliament is bicameral, with the Hose of Representatives and the Senate unlike Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka’s Senate was arbitrarily abolished in 1971. Australia’s House of Representatives is smaller than Sri Lanka’s parliament, with only 151 members. But the size of the country and the population are bigger than Sri Lanka. Australia is an operational democracy with elections being held peacefully and calmly unlike Sri Lanka. There has been no incident of election violence recorded during the campaign period or thereafter.

Australia’s number of active political parties are only a handful. In the case of Sri Lanka, the active number is three times bigger. Perhaps these facts and figures show that Australia is a stable democratic country while Sri Lanka has considerable instability. Elections are held not in five years but three years. The voters have a reasonable regular say.

There has been a continuous trend in Australian elections where voter preferences moving away from traditional political parties towards third parties or independents. This was visible even at the last elections in 2019. Nevertheless, as a leading political party Labor has been able to muster a clear majority of 76 seats. It might be in the Senate that the Labor may have to depend on the ‘cross bench.’ Given the political culture in Australia, this might not be a major obstacle for the new government.

Since 1987, the Australian National University has been conducting election surveys (Australian Election Study – AES) and following was what they mentioned in the last 2019 report. “Many indicators point to citizen detachment from major political parties, including record low political partisanship, rising voter instability and voter distrust in government.”

The election was held after two years of devastating Covid pandemic affecting economic activities, cost of living, industries, and particularly small and medium scale businesses. There were nearly 9 million cases of Covid and a thousand of deaths. Healthcare or Medicare was naturally a key issue at the election. Australia has been encountering devastating floods and bushfires, one after the other, especially in remote agricultural areas. This is one reason why the global warming and climate change became a central concern of many voters. Renewable energy is considered the promising solution.

Election Results

Labor won the elections almost after 10 years. Between 2007 and 2013, there were two Labor governments, first majority and then a minority government. Since 2013, the Liberal National alliance was running the federal government. At the last elections in 2019, although predictions were indicating Labor win, Liberals with Nationals obtained 77 seats to run a majority government under Scott Morison’s Prime Minister position.

The above comparison of results shows the Liberal defeat, for several reasons, while Nationals retaining their 16 seats. The Labor gained from 68 seats to at least 76 seats under the leadership of Anthony Albanese who has emerged from an ordinary family to lead the Labor party. He was brought up by her single mother who was living in public housing and receiving disability pension.

The Labor party is the oldest political party in Australia founded in 1901. Its roots go back to 1891 when the labor movement founded branches in different colonies, now states. It is considered the oldest Labor or social democratic party in the world with membership in the Socialist International. From the beginning the party preferred to spell the name without a ‘u’ in the name. It is considered a center-left party.

New Trends

At the elections there is clear trend of voters moving away from main two parties, Labor, and the Liberals. In 1950s it was counted that 90% of the voters rotating around the two main parties. However, at this election the number has come down to 60%. Primary votes for the Liberals (National included) have come down from 35.3% to 29.1%. Labor primary votes has come down from 31.9% to 30.5%.

Where have they gone? The Greens have been the main beneficiaries of voters moving away form the main two parties with a primary vote of nearly 15%. In certain electorates, there had been a preference for women candidates whether Independent or party. From 3 seats at the last election, the Independents have gained 10 seats this time.

At the last elections, one of the main concerns of voters has been global warming and climate change. It might be a reason for the voters to select Labor against Liberals although in certain issues even the Labor was behind their expectations. The new House of Representatives has several other new features. Among the elected, women have a prominent place. Indigenous communities also have gained a prominent place with other minorities also getting elected. Multiculturalism is reflected in the new House of Representatives.

Australia’s electoral system is preferential voting both for the House of Representatives and the Senate. Two ballot papers are given to the voters for this purpose. If there are 5 candidates for a particular constituency/seat, voters are supposed to mark 1 to 5 in a preferential basis. When leading candidates fail to obtain more than 50%, then the preferences are counted to decide the winner. This is more or less the same for the Senate where the Greens and the Independents have a better representation. The final counting for the Senate might take another two weeks.

Labor Promises

The new Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, has already been well into his new administration. After taking oaths as the PM, and forming a temporary cabinet, he left for the QUAD leaders meeting in Tokyo on 24 May where he met with Joe Biden (US), Narendra Modi (India) and Fumio Kishida (Japan) for discussions. One obligation fell on Australia was to look after the Pacific. Immediately after this meeting, the Foreign Minister Penny Wong went to Fiji. This is just before the Chinese Foreign Minister’s visit to the region who has in fact failed to put into effect a common agreement with the Pacific nations.

Another instant promise delivered was to release the Nadesalingam family or popularly called ‘Biloela family.’ Under the previous government they were kept in community detention, first in Christmas Island and then Perth. Husband (Nades) and wife (Priya) had come to Australia from Sri Lanka as asylum seekers. They have met here and got married. They have two daughters. As they were very close and working hard in Biloela, a remote community in Queensland, people there were quite unequivocal in fighting for their cause. Now they are back in Biloela on bridging visas until their cases are cleared in the courts.

There are other promises given by the Labor that might take time to fulfil. A full Cabinet will be formed soon. One area which should be emphasized is the Labor’s commitment to Uluru statement. Based on the principles of subsidiarity, it declares among other matters: “Ensuring that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, including survivors of the Stolen Generations and their descendants, lead in developing and implementing policy that affects their lives by resourcing flexible and appropriate Indigenous decision-making structures.” Labor’s commitment to indigenous affairs, aged care, childcare, healthcare, disability communities and people’s wages is firm and enduring.

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Latest comments

  • 9
    3

    As I mentioned in Laksiri’s previous article, author thinks highly of the Australian electoral system (rightly so), but somehow thinks Silly Lankans deserve what they get. As promised the new PM set Lankan family free within 24 hours of his appointment. Two things to note is the promise kept and how much does it matter for a government to do the right thing, regardless of race, religion or color. Also notable is a continent with only 151 seats , whereas Silly Lanka has 225. The election manifesto of Labor indicates how progressive they are in trying to overcome discriminatory barriers. Whereas in Lanka from the time of INdependence (we never had), governments thrived by suppressing minority. I am sure there are retards to jump on random things to deny these facts.

    • 0
      0

      To me australians are the most racists in the world. Just imagine how they treat those boat people. They dont have hearts at all. Current day Germany was human towards to syrian refugees, but australians ?

  • 0
    2

    Laksiri Fernando,

    What was unsaid was much more important than what was said. The indigenous people were either annihilated or assimilated and only a manageable minority remains.

    After a genocidal past, Australia along with USA, Canada and New Zeeland had become office bearers of democracy and human rights and all Asian , African, Latin American Countries listen to them in apt silence with due respect and obedience.

    The recent European immigrants are in control with talks of democracy and human rights and it is the western civilization that rules the globe.

    Labour is victorious in Australia! Long live Socialism.

    Let us look at Australia with admiration!

      • 0
        0

        LF
        “Even Latin America was colonized”
        More than once. The last round was most deadly.
        It is very slowly getting free of the clutches of the US empire. the process has been painful, and still saddled with burdens of the past.
        There was a 40 year gap between Revolutionary Cuba and Bolivarian Venezuela.
        Both withstood US imperialist punishment wit courage. But things are changing faster.
        *
        Not all Australian Immigrants are ‘progressive’. I know of several politically successful conservative Sri Lankan immigrants.
        The attitude of most Asian immigrants towards the indigenous people is worse than white racist attitudes at times.

      • 0
        1

        Genocidal past was not touched on! How convenient!.

        What is election manifesto and elections.

        The strategy adopted is to convinced the other that we are the good guys, genocidal past was not a significant cause to be talked during elections when far more important issues for the voters are on the table.

        The human mind is conditioned to put aside uncomfortable past behind conscious mind and indeed be a decent god fearing gentleman to the world at large.

        • 0
          1

          Colonial past may be over and it is uncomfortable, not to worry, we have neo-colonialism. It is better and much more efficient and effective and economical too.!

  • 4
    3

    “This is just before the Chinese Foreign Minister’s visit to the region who has in fact failed to put into effect a common agreement with the Pacific nations.”
    Was there a draft agreement of any sort?
    Australia is fast losing control over its semi-colonies and is desperate, and so are its media.
    *
    The author may benefit fro, “Why China Is Miles Ahead in a Pacific Race for Influence” in NYT (https://www.nytimes.com/2022/05/31/world/australia/china-united-states-pacific.html) which is unusually objective despite the West’s ancient anti-Chinese prejudices.

      • 4
        0

        “……..My opinion is that China and Australia should come to a common understanding covering global warming and economic assistance to the Pacific…..”

        Laksiri, I cannot believe you are living in Australia! Their political and economic interests are poles apart – so how can they agree on global warming and economic assistance to the Pacific????

        BTW, both Australia and China are prime culprits of global warming as the biggest sellers and buyers of coal.

      • 0
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        LF
        I fear that you rely on the dominant media interpretations of China’s intentions.
        Please look at other interpretations.
        Why China scores in Africa despite all charges of loan traps etc. is something that nobody likes to examine. Many a lie has been told about China grabbing this that and the other. but there are no takers in Africa.
        Even the transfer of majority shares in Hambantota was not to settle the Chinese loan. It was an ill-advised move by Yahapalanaya to settle other dues. (Mahinda R. was strongly critical of it.)
        The UNP believed its own lies about the harbour being s ‘white elephant’ and neglected it. See how the harbour is faring now.
        Here is a well researched essay:
        “The Hambantota Port Deal: Myths and Realities” Untangling the truth about Chinese debt and Sri Lanka means cutting through some misleading media narratives, by Umesh Moramudali https://thediplomat.com/2020/01/the-hambantota-port-deal-myths-and-realities/
        *
        For anything good to happen, Australia should declare its second independence– from the clutches of the USA.

    • 5
      0

      SJ, what do you mean by “…..Australia is fast losing control over its semi-colonies…”??
      Australia do NOT have any SEMI colonies!

      And you quote NYT and think China is ‘fast gaining’ on pacific islands?? You are joking….!!! Pacific islands will drop China like a hot potato the moment US steps in!

      And US is closely working with Aus & NZ to regain the lost ground…..
      Which means China will lose the race in the Pacific pretty soon…..

      • 5
        1

        Jit, people like SJ , when convenient will quote, NYT, W.Post, News America, when not will accuse them as Western Media Hype. In Western countries media is free to criticize, whereas in China there is only a single version that is of Govt. Yes countries did colonize and have caused misery to those indigenous people. But many have admitted to it, apologized, some paid compensation, constitutionally made amendments and genuinely showed intentions to correct their past mistakes. Where as the victims of colonization ( Asia, Africa, Latin America……) ended up discriminating and cleansing their own citizens. Many colonized internally to change history and geographical entities for political advantage.

        • 5
          1

          chiv

          “Jit, people like SJ , when convenient will quote, NYT, W.Post, News America, when not will accuse them as Western Media Hype.”

          You are talking about people who do not possess intellectual honesty I suppose.
          When you give them proofs to contradict their fake non arguments and show their dishonesty and ignorance they run away and hide behind all sorts of stupid positions and selective history.

        • 0
          5

          It is hard to teach logic to illogical minds.
          Even the NYT admits to the mess made by US foreign policy.
          If you like to have other reports, I have plenty.
          Is the sorrow that I am denying you opportunity to deny the evidence?
          I give it to you: You can be pathetic, with no effort.
          That goes for the mutual ball bearer.

        • 4
          0

          SJ, with all due respect, there is not much you can tell me more than what I know already as Ive already done couple of stints there.

          Pacific Islands are inundated with so many socio-economic issues so all they need is financial and economic aid, no matter where it originates from, be it a democracy or an autocracy. They probably can fathom the value of democracy. Australian or NZ aid in the past were mostly free and did not carry any price tag. The sad point is they seem to be oblivious of the savage and vicious repercussions of going to sign a pact with China, which provides financial aid to trap any sovereign country into their grips. And China gives out so called economic aid with 7% interest and payable back within 10 years which most probably these island economies cannot meet at all. Need I elaborate you more about what they did to our own country SJ??

          • 0
            1

            Please tell me what ‘they’ did. I am all ears.
            Before that kindly read
            “The Hambantota Port Deal: Myths and Realities” Untangling the truth about Chinese debt and Sri Lanka means cutting through some misleading media narratives, by Umesh Moramudali https://thediplomat.com/2020/01/the-hambantota-port-deal-myths-and-realities/
            and if time permits
            https://research.hktdc.com/en/article/MzYyOTQyMDc4
            &
            “The Chinese ‘Debt Trap’ is a Myth” by Deborah Brautigam and Meg Rithmire
            (https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2021/02/china-debt-trap-diplomacy/617953/)
            *
            If you have already made up your mind, let us not waste further time on it.

            • 3
              0

              Ok, SJ, since you said ‘I’m all ears” here we go….

              I read the article by Moramudali, Well, the allegations are not only about the H port but overall useless projects China loaned to, like Nelum Kuluna, Mattala, carpeting of even D grade rural roads which were not economically sustainable at all for a poor country like SL.

              Moramudali seems to be just a MSc student with no experience in geo-politics so his ability to fathom this issue to the bottom is questionable. I’d give you a better one by a highly experienced Advisor to the former US President Obama, Grant Harris and the article is in the Time magazine. I suppose Time meets your approval, a journal equal to NYT, one you so enthusiastically recommend to others. 😊)

              Here is the Time article link: https://time.com/5381467/china-africa-debt-us-security/
              _

              Harris wrote……”….Chinese debt has become the methamphetamine of infrastructure finance: highly addictive, readily available, and with long-term negative effects that far outweigh any temporary high…. as African countries sink deeper and deeper into Beijing’s carefully laid debt trap..”

              Surely he has more experience about Chinese debt trap than you and I.
              I just wanted to show you the other side……and…….”If you have already made up your mind, let us not waste further time on it…”

      • 1
        2

        Australia’s “colonial” history invariably refers to the period 1788-1901. Little is said of Australia’s 20th-century empire of Papua New Guinea and Nauru.
        Even after PNG was granted independence in 1975, Australia dominated the governance of PNG for long.
        *
        Australia’s dominance as an aid donor, investor and trading partner in the region has helped its policies and initiatives win acceptance from Pacific island governments. Peace, stability and prosperity in the Pacific islands region is supposed to be everyone’s goal, and on this basis, Australian diplomats have urged Pacific island governments to support Australian policies designed to achieve these mutually desired outcomes. Pacific island officials have in the past been reluctant to give voice to interests that conflict with Australia’s in conversation with their counterparts.
        https://www.australianforeignaffairs.com/articles/extract/2019/08/cross-purposes

        • 1
          2

          Australia has been the dominant power in the Pacific Islands region
          ….
          In the South Pacific, Australia’s leaders tend to speak of the notions of “duty”, “patch” and “responsibility” to describe the context and content of the country’s role. Australia is the hegemonic power in the South Pacific, and, since the end of the 1990s, it has strengthened its commitment to the region in two principal areas: control of the region’s institutional tools, and a more ambitious interventionist policy. In the area of regionalism, the Pacific Islands Forum or PIF, a key organization in the Pacific, is dominated by Australia.
          [https://apcss.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/C5-Australia-Sec-PacificIslands-HJ.pdf]
          *
          The control Australia had over the affairs of countries in the South Pacific and its armed intervention in the affairs of the countries of the region, and continued police presence in some countries point to a hierarchical relation with colonial features.
          It caused resentment. that is besides what NYT, Guardian etc have observed.
          *
          If is any consolation you may count on the thought that “Pacific islands will drop China like a hot potato the moment US steps in!”
          But the immediate reality seems otherwise.
          The dream of a US invasion soon some day has one snag: the US has a lot to worry about in what was its backyard.

  • 0
    2

    Federalism does not make sense in Sri Lanka. First of all, the country is too small. Secondly, the only justification for federalism is that 10% or less of the population speak a different language. In a place like Switzerland, there are 4 different national languages. The standard of living is very high, the cost of living is very high, and people pay substantial taxes. Federalism works in this case because people cooperate, despite language differences. On the other hand, when you compare India to China, you can see that federalism has not been particularly beneficial for India as a whole. India lags China by every metric. Some states like Kerala have experienced significant development while others like Nadu are still behind. Federalism by itself is not a panacea. China experienced double-digit economic growth despite a Communist government that runs the country like a well-oiled machine.

      • 0
        2

        Laksiri Fernando,

        The situation has changed quite a bit since 1948, especially in regards to demographics. Given that Muslims will very likely overtake Tamils as the largest demographic in the future, the “ethnic question” has to be re-framed in a different way. The aspirations of Muslims should be given priority. So far they have not asked for federalism. They are doing quite well, economically and otherwise. I mentioned language because the “Sinhala-Only Act” of 1956 is constantly alluded to by pro-separatist Tamil nationalists. Language cannot be used as a basis for federalism. As you said, language is not the basis for federalism in Switzerland., although there many languages spoken compared to the 2 or 3 in Sri Lanka. I re-iterate that the size of the country is important for any consideration of federalism. The government is more likely to be flexible (USA, Germany, India).

        • 0
          0

          Lester,
          “The situation has changed quite a bit since 1948, especially in regards to demographics”
          Thanks to ‘PROGROMS’, germinated by Medamulana agriculturalists and Animal Husbandry Farmers???
          Mee Harakkas are their life blood and sustenance!!!
          Or, did they perform the operation by surgeons to distort the demography??
          Athana, Methana, Hithana may contemplate a death fast??
          Get the Lemon Puff and Orange Juice ready??

      • 0
        0

        Well Said Laksiri,
        Federalism is more democratic than Unitary! Federalism encourages participatory government and shared governance. It facilitates pluralism, Balanced regional development, local government and above all subsidiary

    • 3
      0

      Lester the Rajapakse man,
      .
      I think Federalism is must for SRILANKA: If Switizerland (8.6 mio) and all other states such as Germany ( 83 mio) can be successful with Federalism, why not sl ?

      If not Federalism any form of Devolution of power is a must as a sustainable solution to the long standing ethnic problems of the country.
      .
      Lester or the like low-lives born for the curse of srilanka (in vitro beings) would fall on any cheap tricks being played by Rajapakshes kalliya.

      Even if he is given the chance to be on Queen s land, from what he repeatedly utters, about any topic, even little ones would be clear – that are very similar to that of Mahinda Kahandagama (vegetable monger of pavement)
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QZavI01gGl4
      or the like Rajapakshe men, that were thrown to Beira lake lately.
      :

      • 0
        2

        Leela,

        “I think Federalism is must for SRILANKA”

        As usual, you are on the LOSING side. You supported CBK, Ranil, JVP, etc. All of these were total failures. Smart minds look to the future. That is why I said, even though I support MaRa and Gotha, they are likely the last in the “dynasty.” Unless the developing world collapses by the next election or there is another terror attack, Rajapakse is nearing the end. So I don’t obsess over these useless protests, as these buggers will get their wish regardless. For the future of the country, Muslim and Sinhalese relations will be very important. Therefore, the government should be prepared to offer some concessions. I am in favor of a Muslim president in the next election. We are not Bangladesh or Pakistan where the military runs the show. Let the people decide if they want this change.

    • 0
      0

      Lester,
      “Some states like KERALA HAVE EXPERIENCED SIGNIFICANT DEVELOPMENT WHILE OTHERS LIKE NADU ARE STILL BEHIND. Federalism by itself is not a panacea. CHINA EXPERIENCED DOUBLE-DIGIT ECONOMIC GROWTH despite a COMMUNIST GOVERNMENT THAT RUNS THE COUNTRY LIKE A WELL-OILED MACHINE.”
      Kerala and TN your thoughts/information outdated – 3 years!
      In any case, what is the issue? India developed land!
      Moreover the South Block in Delhi hums, and is employment HUB for Keralite. THAT SPEAKS VOLUMES.
      No surprises that they are doing well!!
      Do you think that is a negative to have federalism??!!
      One cannot forget the Organic fertiliser, Rice crop, Tea Crop failure, Exchange rate fiasco, No imports, going back 1940’s era????
      China DD growth to India, China had head start 1974 to India 1989, almost 15 years! No wonder!
      They have, nevertheless, compare the RATE of GROWTH last few years?? SPEAKS VOLUMES!.
      CHINA WELL-OILED MACHINE, IS AS GOOD AS THE 2009 TO 2014 SRI LANKA GOVERNANCE??!! Well oiled, I agree, but would be better to term as well-blooded by Journalists!!?? Only difference is that in china it is the Muslim province in eastern china and Tibet!! Well oiled!!
      Sri Lanka, Well-oiled, Resplendent, Isle with SPLEDOUR and VISTAS OF PROSPERITY???!!!

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