How conservatives won Australia's election

Sep 13, 2013

Tony Abbott celebrates his recent election victory with his wife and daughters.
Tony Abbott celebrates his recent election victory with his wife and daughters.
Credit Rick Rycroft / AP Photo

The conservative party won national elections in Australia this week. The coalition led by Tony Abbott unseated the Labor party, which held power for 6 years.

Victory in Australia’s elections hinged on key issues involving the economy, immigration and environment. These issues constituted the battleground where the National-Liberal coalition and its leader Tony Abbott challenged the 6-year reigning Labor Party and former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. Although both parties prioritized sustainable growth for Australia’s economy, identifying the right approach to achieve this goal proved to be a source of great divide.

Economy

Contrary to other countries, Australia was one of the few developed nations that escaped the financial downturn — in part due to an economic boom within the mining industry. But as growth is starting to dwindle with an increase in unemployment, Australians seek a plan that would sustain development.

The newly elected coalition has proposed a Direct Action plan, which addresses the management of public expenditures, among other things.

Abbott promised to abolish the unpopular carbon tax, which he and his coalition account for the loss of jobs and rise in electricity prices,the BBC reported. Their plan would reward farmers and businesses for reducing carbon emissions through tax credits.

Rudd also voted to eliminate the carbon tax in favor of an “emissions trading scheme” where the fixed price on carbon will transition to a floating figure. The proposal models the European Union emissions trading scheme that helped to drive down carbon price, The Courier-Mail reported. The scheme was supposed to reduce the overall price of carbon, lowering the cost that burdens on businesses and exporters.

Both parties want to reduce the country’s carbon emissions by at least 5 percent before 2020.

Abbott also wants to cut taxes and foreign aid to save a minimum of AUS$5 billions, the UK newspaper The Independent reported.

According to the BBC, the Labor Party campaign was centered on reviving manufacturing, agriculture as well as construction and tourism jobs — with the promise of a budget surplus by 2016. Not to be outpaced, the National-Liberal coalition said it would achieve the same objective within a shorter period of time.

Immigration Policy

When it came to foreign policy, both parties found common ground — close Australia’s borders to asylum seekers. According to the BBC, the Labor Party looked to their neighbor Papua New Guinea to deflect the flow of migrants into their country. In exchange, Australia would create more detention centers in Papua New Guinea. Negotiations between the nations began before the election but have since been suspended, according to a report from The Australian.

The National-Liberal coalition presented a more direct approach to dealing with asylum seekers — send them right back across Indonesian waters. They also seek to cease providing permanent visas to migrant populations.

Climate Change

On the topic of clean energy, Abbott’s party is less inclined to invest. Within their Direct Action plan, the conservative coalitions sought to cut a significant portion of funding to renewable energy programs and streamline the functions of various clean energy departments down to their main bodies, The Australian reported.

To learn more, Global Journalist spoke to Jack Georgieff, a research associate for the International Security Program at the Lowy Institute for International Policy. The Lowy Institute is an independent, nonpartisan international policy think tank located in Sydney. Listen to the full show above, or watch the video below.