• Monday, Jun 24, 2019
  • Last Update : 02:33 pm

Australia has spoken

  • Published at 12:02 am May 21st, 2019
Australian Elections: Scott Morrison (left) Bill
Photo: REUTERS

Scott Morrison comes out on top yet again

The results of the Australian general election 2019 are in hand, and the voters have chosen the incumbent to form the government in their own right.

The magic number to form a government is 76 out of 150 seats in the lower house. Australia, basically, has two major parties -- the Liberal-National Party coalition versus the Labour Party. 

One can guess their philosophies after closely observing the names of the respective parties. The Liberal-National coalition is backed by relatively conservative voters supported by big and medium businesses and farmers, as against Labour, which is more progressive in nature (like social democrats) supported by the labour movement and young people, who live in urban and semi-urban areas.

What went wrong with the Labour opposition, which lost the election when the Gallup polls put them in front against the incumbent by 2-3 points over the last few weeks? It looks like the Labour leader, Bill Shorten (a former union man), who was opposition leader over the last six years, ran a very dull campaign against the incumbent leader Scott Morrison, who has been PM for the last nine months after his party (Liberal) threw out the former PM, Malcolm Turnbull, in a parliamentary party meeting.  

On the one hand, Scott Morrison certainly ran a clean campaign and cleverly played an underdog. On the other, Bill Shorten played clean too. 

Unfortunately, what put him down was the smaller parties who ran a dirty campaign against him, with untrue claims against Labour’s policies on Muslim migration (a major weapon in all mature democracies nowadays, thanks to IS).

They also accused Labour in spending, without showing funds available to implement. They have, thus, made a campaign against Labour that a Labour government would impose taxes to middle Australia to fulfill their promises, which, of course, had no basis. 

These campaigns were run by some minority parties (almost half a dozen of them, spending millions of dollars in campaigning using print and electronic media) such as One Nation, Australia Party, and so on, who came to an agreement with Morrison that they would offer him preferential votes.

What does it mean? Australia has two unique systems among mature democracies in conducting general elections -- compulsory voting and preferential voting. Under preferential voting, for example, a voter has two votes, first choice and second choice. 

If the first choice candidate cannot get more than 50%, then he/she uses the (preferred) second choice to make this up to cross the line. A candidate must get outright more than 50% votes to win, or he/she needs to make more than 50% by adding the preferred vote. 

It appears the deal with minor parties worked well for Morrison to cross the line with the support of the preferred votes of the minor parties. Bad luck for opposition leader Bill Shorten! 

The final result -- Morrison 74 seats, Shorten 66, others six, and four undecided. Thus, Morrison will form a government if he gets another two undecided seats to secure 76 magic numbers. If he does not, he will form a minority government for the next three years. 

Most likely, he will form a government on his own right with more than 76 seats after counting is over.

Scott Morrison has defied years of opinion polls and public expectation to lead the Coalition to a shock election victory. According to ABC online, he said: “Labour was confident it could win a majority government, after six years of coalition government and leadership instability.”

Shorten announced he had conceded the election to Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the Coalition. “Without wanting to hold out any false hope, while there are still millions of votes to count and important seats yet to be finalized, it is obvious that Labour will not be able to form the next government,” Shorten said.

“Above all, I wished Scott Morrison good fortune and good courage in the service of our great nation. The national interest required no less.” 

Moazzem Hossain is a resident of Australia and a contributor to the Dhaka Tribune.