Three takeaways from the Australian election for B.C.'s political class

Independent women who ran on climate action made spectacular gains

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      The big story out of Australia today is the election of a more progressive prime minister.

      But there are also deeper messages in the results that could portend what might occur in British Columbia in the years to come.

      Let's start with the headline news: the right-wing coalition led by Scott Morrison has been trounced.

      Labor Party leader Anthony Albanese will become prime minister in fairly short order.

      This is good news for those freaked out over the climate crisis because Morrison was among the worst of the world leaders in this regard.

      A video clip of him holding a lump of coal in Parliament in 2017 drew the ire of climate activists around the globe.

      In 2017, Scott Morrison brought a lump of coal into the Parliament of Australia.

      Albanese has called for greenhouse-gas-emission reductions of 43 percent by 2030. If he delivers on this pledge, that will put this large coal-producing country on par with Canada's targets.

      But don't kid yourself—Albanese is no climate zealot, even though he has been a long-time backer of carbon pricing and renewable energy. He supports new coal mines if they make commercial sense, according to the BBC.

      Albanese is the son of a single mother, just like B.C. premier John Horgan.

      Speaking of B.C., here are three takeaways from this election for residents of this province.

      1. Corporate media couldn't save Morrison

      Guardian writer Malcolm Farr pointed out that News Corp., headed by Australian-born media tycoon Rupert Murdoch, showed its impotence in this election. Its columnists and Sky News host Paul Murray repeatedly hammered Albanese to no effect.

      There was also a concerted effort to prevent independents from getting elected, according to Farr.

      "The singular story of election night was how News Corp, with all its resourses and all its outlets, from newspapers to subscription TV news, couldn’t convince voters to follow its course, at least not in the numbers needed," Farr declared.

      Here in B.C., the two largest provincial political parties have been genuflecting to the corporate media for decades. That's reflected in their climate, COVID-19, and energy policies, as well as in other areas.

      The takeaway from Australia's election is that voters won't necessarily care what the corporate media want when it comes time to cast a ballot.

      Video: Learn more about the teal independents.

      2. Independents are on the rise

      As of this writing, Labor politicians are leading or have won 76 electoral districts, compared to 54 for Morrison's Liberal-National coalition. It's looking like the Greens may win four seats, up from one in the previous election.

      Labor needs 76 seats to form a majority.

      One of the big developments has been the rise of the "teal independents". These are mostly female climate-oriented candidates who ran against Morrison-led incumbents in what used to be safe Liberal seats.

      They centred their campaigns around greater transparency and strong climate action, going after the so-called moderates in Morrison's camp.

      As of this writing, these teal independents are leading in 10 seats. They were mostly women and their greatest successes came in the suburbs of Australia's largest cities.

      The lesson for B.C.? Well, we already saw the B.C. Liberals get slaughtered in Metro Vancouver in the 2020 election after losing almost all of Vancouver Island in 2017.

      B.C. Liberal Leader Kevin Falcon thinks he can retake some of those constituencies in the next election by focusing on housing. But if he doesn't change course on the climate, he risks suffering a similar fate as Morrison and other right wingers around the world.

      New Democrats can't be complacent, either, given the party's support for liquefied natural-gas projects, fracking, clearcut logging, and other climate-unfriendly policies. 

      3. Climate matters

      The last elections in Australia, France, Germany, the United States, New Zealand, Canada, and Spain all went to politicians who promised more climate action than their chief opponent.

      One of the few exceptions was the U.K., where Conservative Boris Johnson defeated his left-wing Labour opponent, Jeremy Corbyn.

      The next climate villain to fall could be Jair Bolsonaro, who goes to the polls in Brazil on October 2.

      The right-wing populist is far behind in the polls against his chief opponent, former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

      B.C. Green Leader Sonia Furstenau has some things in common with the teal independents.
      Sonia Furstenau

      Furstenau looks to the future

      Here in B.C., major media outlets are not paying a great deal of attention to B.C. Green Leader Sonia Furstenau. And why would they? Her party has only two seats in the B.C. legislature.

      Yet Furstenau has staked out policy positions that sharply differ from both the B.C. Liberals and B.C. NDP on addressing the climate, overdose, and COVID-19 crises.

      Furstenau has established herself as a politician who grounds her policies around ethics and research.

      In this regard, she bears some similarities to New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern and those who were running as teal independents in Australia.

      And that should scare the old-line B.C. Liberals and B.C. NDP—especially those who analyze the results of the Australian election.

      They'll have to wait, however, until the 2024 provincial election to find out if this political tsunami has washed across the Pacific and landed on the shores of B.C.