Richard Glover

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In Australia, for just the fourth time since World War II, the Labor Party, this time under leader Anthony Albanese, has been elected to form government from opposition. The conservative Liberal Party — led by outgoing Prime Minister Scott Morrison — was routed.

How did it happen? And what are the lessons for politics in Australia and elsewhere?

1. Don’t take your heartland for granted

Morrison not only lost seats to Labor but also lost a swath of seats to a group of female independents who adopted the color teal — a blend of Liberal blue (to signal they were economically conservative) and green (to signal they were progressives on climate change and the status of women.)…  Seguir leyendo »

Australian incumbent Prime Minister Scott Morrison and opposition leader Anthony Albanese debate ahead of the 2022 federal election, in Sydney on May 8. (James Brickwood/Pool via Reuters)

I blame the Americans.

Back in 1992, somebody asked then-candidate Bill Clinton if he knew, among other things, the price of “a pound of hamburger”. As it happened, Clinton was able to supply the answer — “a little over a dollar”, he said — but the “gotcha” question became a staple of political journalism around the world.

Witness the current Australian election campaign. In the run-up to the vote on May 21, candidates have become contestants in a daily quiz show, with Australian journalists the anchors.

Even before the election was called, Prime Minister Scott Morrison was quizzed over the price of bread and petrol.…  Seguir leyendo »

A Queensland-New South Wales border sign in Australia on Sept. 2. (Jono Searle/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

“State against state, mate against mate” is the slogan of State of Origin, an annual rugby league tournament held between the states of Queensland and New South Wales. As the slogan suggests, the matches are fiercely contested, but the banter between the states’ political leaders is traditionally light-hearted.

After all, we’re all Australians.

Well, that was up to the arrival of covid-19. The past 18 months have reinvigorated the tribalism of Australian politics. Even the “footy” league series quickly became mired in unpleasantness, as the two state premiers argued over pandemic border restrictions.

As covid-19 continues to rise in Australia, so has parochialism.…  Seguir leyendo »

Does YouTube, that great repository of cat videos and plumbing tips, have more exacting standards of journalism than Australia’s official media regulator?

That was the conclusion some have drawn after YouTube introduced a temporary ban on Sky News Australia — the channel controlled by media baron Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.

While YouTube declined to identify the at-fault programs, the platform deleted a series of Sky News videos promoting hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin as treatments for covid-19.

YouTube’s speedy action has been contrasted to the approach of Australia’s broadcasting regulator, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA). The authority is tasked with enforcing broadcast standards, but critics say its powers are limited and often not enforced.…  Seguir leyendo »

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison removes his mask before speaking at a conference following a national cabinet meeting, at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia on July 2. (Lukas Coch/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

Most people know someone who did well in life when young, only to fail later. Beguiled by their early success, they took their foot off the accelerator, believing that fate would always be kind.

Welcome to the story of Australia. The country has enjoyed great success in the battle against covid-19, but now finds itself falling victim to complacency.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison deserves some of the blame. Back in March, he declared that the vaccine roll-out was “not a race.” Four months later, it seems clear that he was wrong.

With fewer than 6 percent of the population fully vaccinated, Australia is now dead last among Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries, according to the latest calculations by the website Our World in Data.…  Seguir leyendo »

A sign warns people at a beach in Sydney on Dec. 19. (Mark Baker/AP)

Last week, Anthony S. Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, singled out Australia’s response to the covid-19 pandemic as an example of success. “They really do get the cases almost to nothing,” he said. “We’ve never had that in the United States.”

Indeed, local transmission in Australia is limited to the occasional, isolated case. There are just 43 people in hospital. With 909 total deaths since the pandemic began, the rate of death per 100,000 in Australia stands at 3.6, compared with 163 in the United States and 188 in Britain.

Australia is hardly a perfect country.…  Seguir leyendo »

A Facebook app icon on a smartphone in Sydney on Thursday. (Brent Lewin/Bloomberg)

People and governments everywhere have wondered whether the world has allowed American tech giants to become too powerful and too central to the way our societies work. What would happen if they suddenly chose to use that enormous power to win an argument with a democratically elected government?

Well, this week it happened. Facebook, angry about proposed legislation that would force it to pay media companies for the content shared on its site, wiped clean Facebook pages around Australia. The country’s 17 million users woke on Thursday morning to find they could no longer post links to any news items — either local or international.…  Seguir leyendo »

A kangaroo roots through charred ground in search of food on Kangaroo Island in South Australia in January. (Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)

In the Australian bush southwest of Sydney, a wedge-tailed eagle is gliding over the paddocks. He’s on the hunt for prey. Watch a “wedgie” for long enough and you’ll see them suddenly swoop, dive-bombing toward the ground, before lifting aloft a rabbit, wallaby or small kangaroo.

There’s no sign of that today. Today, he circles, looping over hillsides filled with blackened trees. There’s no prey to find.

We’re on Tallygang Mountain Road, in an area called Wombeyan Caves. The bushfires swept through this part of Australia in early January, during a fire season which consumed more than 12.6 million hectares (about 50,000 square miles) of bush, mainly in the country’s eastern states.…  Seguir leyendo »

A sign on the side of a road in Rye, Victoria, Australia, on April 19. (Scott Barbour/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

Australians like to see themselves as rebellious people, distrustful of authority — but the coronavirus has changed that.

While small protests against the lockdowns have erupted in the United States, and some in Britain have insisted on their right to party, in Australia we’re mostly doing what we’re told.

In Sydney, public transport use is down to levels not seen for nearly 100 years. Attendance in government schools in Victoria is down to just three percent. In parks, walkers and joggers dutifully arc around each other like passing ships.

Australians have been told to stay at home, apart from a list of designated tasks, including exercise, seeking medical help, buying supplies and performing necessary work.…  Seguir leyendo »

There are not many political messages that can slip through a closed window or a locked door, but that’s just what happened last week in Australia’s biggest city. Climate change didn’t just come knocking; it slithered in under every crack, filling houses and offices across Sydney with the acrid smell of burning forests.

The Sydney Opera House, whose white-tiled sails normally sparkle in the sunlight, was seen through a haze of smoke. Asthmatics were advised against exercising. Schoolchildren were kept in their classrooms, away from the smoke-filled playground.

And politicians, especially from the ruling conservative coalition, issued instructions that it was inappropriate to discuss climate change while the fires were actively being fought.…  Seguir leyendo »

Back in February 2017, Scott Morrison, now the prime minister of Australia, brought a lump of coal to Parliament. He waved it around.

“This is coal”, Morrison told his fellow legislators. “Don’t be afraid, don’t be scared”.

Morrison went on to mock the opposition leader, Bill Shorten, over his party’s enthusiasm for renewable energy. “If Bill Shorten becomes the prime minister”, Morrison said, “all the lights will go off around the country”.

Such sentiments may have won votes two years ago, but they seem less sure-fire today. Morrison’s government is facing an election on May 18 and climate change is a key issue among voters.…  Seguir leyendo »

Why does it seem so hard for people to grasp the connection between hate-filled speech and hate-filled violence? The alleged attacker who carried out Friday’s massacre in Christchurch, New Zealand, was acting on a toxic belief system — one that has been long nurtured by opportunists in politics and the media, in Australia and elsewhere.

Those innocent victims — the toll now stands at 50 — reaped what others had sowed.

The alleged gunman, a 28-year-old Australian, saturated himself in the verbal violence of Islamophobia and white supremacy. His manifesto name-checks figures from outside Australia: people such as the United States’ Candace Owens and Norway’s murderous Anders Breivik.…  Seguir leyendo »

Is it okay to celebrate an act of genocide? Is it reasonable to hold neighborhood parties on the day that genocide began — opening crates of beer, cranking up the barbecue and staging colorful fireworks displays?

That’s the question being asked by Australia’s indigenous people ahead of the country’s national day, which falls on Jan. 26. It’s the day the British sailed into Sydney Cove, claiming the country with the purpose of establishing a penal colony.

That first British settlement was the starting point of what — just maybe — is one of the world’s most inspiring stories. The detritus of Britain were discarded on an island 10,000 miles from home, yet they prospered.…  Seguir leyendo »

People celebrate after the announcement of the same-sex marriage postal survey result in front of the State Library of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia on Nov. 15. (David Crosling/AAP Image via Associated Press)

Social conservatism, as an international political movement, may have just scored one of its greatest-ever own goals.

Here in Australia — like in many parts of the world — social conservatives have long argued that they speak for the silent majority, for people silenced by “political correctness”. But on gay marriage in Australia, the silent majority was firmly on the side of inclusion. In the coming weeks, the Australian Parliament will finally legislate in favor of same-sex marriage — but only after a process which traumatised many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Australians, sent shock waves through families, and cost a small fortune.…  Seguir leyendo »

Australia thinks of itself as “the most successful multicultural society in the world” — to quote the oft-repeated phrase by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. But now that claim is being challenged in so many ways, all at once, it seems.

For a start, there’s the current political crisis, based on a half-forgotten section of the constitution forbidding those who have dual citizenship from sitting in Parliament. So far, eight parliamentarians — including the deputy prime minister — have been thrown out of office for no greater crime than having a father who was born in New Zealander, a mother who was Italian, or some other similarly unlikely “allegiance to a foreign power”.…  Seguir leyendo »