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The Wire: Australian Federal Election

3.00pm on 21 May 2022

Interview by Emilia Sullivan, adapted by Jessica Hopkins 

Listen to the full interview

Australians headed to the polls today to have their say on who should be their prime minister for the next three years. 

Professor Jennifer Curtin from the University of Auckland joined Emilia Sullivan on The Wire to discuss what's happening in politics across the ditch. 

Compulsory Voting 

Since 1924, Australian citizens over 18 have been required to vote in federal elections, by-elections and referendums. However, it was only in 1984 that voting became compulsory for Indigenous Australians. Failure to vote can result in a fine or a court date. 

Preferential System 

The Australian Electoral system is quite different to New Zealand's. When Australians go to the polling booth, they don't just vote for one candidate but indicate an order of preference for a list of candidates on the ballot paper. Australians choose members of parliament to represent their views and interests in the Senate and the House of Representatives.

The Candidates 

The two big players are the Liberal-National Coalition with Scott Morrison at the helm and Anthony Albanese with the Australian Labor Party.

Professor Curtin highlights that ScoMo was quite popular before COVID. 

She says ScoMo lost popularity from being overseas during the bushfires, the slow rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine and rat tests, and playing the state governments off against each other. 

"There's a range of incidences he hasn't handled particularly well. The Liberal-National Coalition Government has been in power for quite a long time, and many people want to see a change."

Albanese is set on raising the minimum wage by up to 5%, whilst ScoMo is focused on tax cuts to address the cost of living crisis.

"People are concerned that tax cuts alone are not enough to cope with the cost of living crisis and rising fuel, rental and housing prices."

Curtin says Labour wants to go greener and be seen as more progressive on the environment than the Liberals. But they know they need to win back blue-collar workers, particularly in Queensland, to form a government. 

"If they win, they might be able to more progressive things they haven't talked about during the campaign."

Young Voters 

Curtin says young voters are concerned about coal, the climate, and the short-term focus of many major candidates' promises.

"They are not looking intergenerationally into the future."

She expects that The Australian Green's vote share could increase this election, with policies on wiping student debt, climate action and affordable housing. 

"Maybe only by one house seat, but they could increase their share of seats in the Senate, which has the capacity to block legislation and budget bills but also raise their own bills."

What are "Teal Independents"?

Curtin says most independent parties are standing in centre-right, conservative electorates that traditionally go to the liberal party. Many independent candidates are women, funded and supported by upper echelons of the liberal party who want to see a change in gender politics in Australia. Teal independents are also largely campaigning for stronger action on climate change. 

"We've seen a lot of toxic issues happening in the parliament in the last term, with very little responsiveness coming from the government."

What is "Pork Barreling"?

Curtin says there are about 25-30 "marginal seats" that could go to either major party. Leading up to the campaign period, she says governments will pour a lot of money into infrastructure or targeted projects to secure them for the election. 

"The government can do this before the election gets called, so it's not considered corrupt necessarily. But the idea of pork barreling is that they're trying to sure up certain seats that they need to win through their control of the government's coffers." 

Public interest journalism funded by NZ on Air.