The changing political landscape in Australia raises expectations

Australia’s new Prime Minister Anthony Albanese (Getty Images by Lisa Maree Williams)

RNZ Wellington, May 28, 2022

Australia has a new political leader at the helm after nine years of governance by conservatives.

Anthony Albanese was sworn in on May 23, 2022, as the country’s new Prime Minister, becoming the fourth Labor leader to win government from the opposition since World War II.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern congratulated Mr Albanese and the Australian Labor Party and acknowledged outgoing Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

“I spoke to Anthony Albanese as he was preparing to address his supporters. It was a warm conversation, and I am looking forward to formally meeting with him soon. Anthony and I have had the chance to meet before and I have no doubt that we will have a strong working relationship that will serve both countries well,” she said.

The Neighbour is a close Partner

Ms Ardern said that Australia is New Zealand’s most important partner, the only official ally and single economic market relationship and hoped that the two countries will work even more closely together in these tumultuous times.

“I would also like to acknowledge the strong working relationship I had with Scott Morrison. I am confident that the close and unique relationship between New Zealand and Australia will continue under Mr Albanese’s leadership. I hope to meet Mr Albanese in the near future and look forward to working with him on a range of issues including supporting New Zealanders living in Australia, making trans-Tasman business even easier, deepening our partnership with our close friends in the Pacific, and advancing our interests on the world stage,” she said.

Ms Ardern said that Australia and New Zealand are at their best when they work together; when we acknowledge our mutual interests, our shared values and the uniqueness of our perspectives; when we stand united as allies and whānau, recognising the strength in our diversity,” Jacinda Ardern said.

What does the change of guard mean for New Zealand?

Australia is much more hooked on the United States and its desire to see security blankets wrapped around different parts of the Indo-Pacific; University of Auckland Professor of Politics Jennifer Curtin told Morning Report.

The US-New Zealand Connection

“Mr Albanese travelled to Tokyo for the Quad meetings with the Prime Ministers of Japan, India and the president of the US. They were looking for New Zealand to come in behind the Quad positions and AUKUS and be a firm ally rather than what the narrative in Australia is at different times. The narrative is that New Zealand is too soft on China and a little bit reticent in defence expenditure and contributing to the security of the region,” she said.

There will be opportunities over the next 12 months to talk more about New Zealand pulling towards the United States and away from China, including how that may be navigated, she said.

“We know that next year is the 40th anniversary of the Closer Economic Relations Agreement between Australia and New Zealand and there will be events and opportunities to have some of those conversations,” Professor Curtin said.

Tension over China

There may be some complicated conversations around China, but there are many areas for productive working relationships.

“There will be some really valuable relationships that will be built between Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong and her New Zealand counterpart Nanaia Mahuta. They have a lot of similar interests on indigenous representation in foreign affairs and trade policy, in resetting the Pacific focus so that climate change and sustainable trade became important issues,” Professor Curtin said.

Mr Albanese has said that he wants “no one left behind” and “no one held back” under his leadership and New Zealanders in Australia told RNZ that they hoped that the new Prime Minister would be more empathetic towards non-citizens.

Anthony Albanese with his Partner Jodie Haydon and his son Nathan Albanese during a reception after winning the election (AFP Photo by Wendell Teodoro)

Better deal for Kiwis

Nurse Jacqui May moved migrated from New Zealand in 2016 for a pay rise, but when she was injured at work, she was ineligible for social welfare support from Centrelink – the equivalent of the Ministry of Social Development.

She hoped that under the new government, all Centrelink supports would be made available to New Zealanders employed in Australia.

“It is unjust. If people are in financial hardship but cannot access any funds, what can they do? There is homelessness as it is with the rental crisis and the stress,” she said.

Mr Albanese gave her hope in his victory speech when he said: “I have shared the two principles of government that I lead. No one will be left behind because we should always look after the disadvantaged and the vulnerable. But also no one should be held back because we should always support aspiration and opportunity.”

She said that he was showing compassion and empathy, which former Prime Minister Scott Morrison did not have.

Deportations are cruel

Sydney resident Rihari Joseph (Ngāti Maniapoto) hoped that the new government would cut back 501 deportations and keep families together with support networks instead.

Under Mr Morrison’s leadership, hundreds of non-citizens with criminal convictions were forced to leave, under section 501 of the Australian Migration Act.

“We need to educate them and rehabilitate them; sending them back to New Zealand is not a positive outcome. Regardless of the errors they make in life, they are still our people,” he said.

Former Aucklander Christine Kennedy, who now lives in Melbourne, said that deportations are unfair and cruel.

“It is unfair that the Australian government allows New Zealanders to work here, to pay taxes, to do everything else, and then says: ‘Oh, by the way, you broke the law, you can go back.’”

The Australian government estimates that there are more than 650,000 New Zealand citizens living across the states and territories.

Election Results

While Labor won the election, it was not clear on election night whether it had an outright majority. It would depend on n the support of a large crossbench, including the 10 so-called ‘Teal Independents and or Green MPs.’

At press time, the Australian Labor Party had won 75 seats, followed by the Liberal National Party with 57 seats, Independents 10, Greens 3 and others 2.

Both major parties lost support, with the Liberals taking a hammering in traditionally strong seats and the Coalition government and Prime Minister Scott Morrison dumped. One of the biggest changes to the landscape is the success of the ten independents- all women and many former Liberal Party MPs as well as the Greens.

Mr Morrison conceded defeat to Anthony Albanese, who will return Labor from the political wilderness to government in Australia, seizing power from the Coalition.

He said that it was a difficult time for Liberals and Nationals around the country.

“They are humbling, but so is victory. Victory is also humbling and always should be. I have spoken to the Leader of the Opposition and the incoming Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, and I have congratulated him on his election victory,” he said.

A Parliament veteran

This win means Albanese will replace Scott Morrison as Prime Minister, making him the 31st person to hold the nation’s top job.

The son of a single parent who grew up in public housing, Albanese has reached the pinnacle of his career after 26 years in Parliament.

The above Report and pictures have been published under a special agreement with www.rnz.co.nz

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