The Front Page: Who's who and what do they stand for in the 2022 Australian election

Apr 11, 2022

New Zealand

11 Apr, 2022 05:00 PM 5 minutes to read

Australian PM Scott Morrison faces a tough fight for re-election. Photo / Mark Tantrum

Australians will head to the polls on May 21 to decide whether to continue with Scott Morrison or take the country in a different direction.

Never short of scandal, the Australian election generally serves up a mix of intriguing narratives that twist and turn with each passing week.

On today's episode of the Front Page podcast, New Zealand correspondent for the Australian Associated Press Ben McKay gives Kiwi listeners the inside track on how things are set to unfold in the coming weeks.

• Follow the Front Page podcast here.

On why the date was called so late:

McKay: "There's no convention like in New Zealand where give everyone a lot of time out or in the US where it's stuck in the calendar. The date can change as long as it's within three years of the last election. That gives a real benefit to the incumbent. And so naturally Prime Ministers keep that in their pockets and call it at the last possible moment. Morrison went early last time around because he saw the polls to his advantage. He was waiting last year for a similar moment, but it didn't really arrive due to Covid issues and a growing number of scandals. So he's landed at the last possible point."

On the main contenders:

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McKay: "The election is really a two-cornered contest between the coalitions, with Scott Morrison from the Liberal Party on the one corner and Anthony Albanese in the red corner of the Labor Party."

On Morrison's sinking popularity:

McKay: "The sinking of Morrison began in the summer of 2019 during the catastrophic bush fires when he took a trip to Hawaii. Then, when he finally made his trip down to the most affected places, he retorted that he didn't hold a hose and it wouldn't have really mattered at a time when Australians were aghast at what was happening … People started to turn on him at that point, but then Covid came along. He first enjoyed a bounce in the polls, as Ardern did, for strong leadership and closing the borders, but there have also been more problems and challenges in Australia and Australians tended to blame Morrison for a lot of these things. Then we come to this summer and we had our historic floods, and again, Morrison was relatively tone-deaf or not reading the mood of the electorate in terms of being slow to roll out funding."

On the alternative Albanese offers:

McKay: "The support for Labor isn't rock-solid yet – and that's because people don't really know Anthony Albanese. During Covid, Morrison set up a meeting called national cabinet. And that got all the leaders of Australia, including state premiers and territory chief ministers, in a room to go through all the Covid issues. That froze out the Opposition leader, so the next six weeks are going to be a lot about Albanese introducing himself to Australians … and it's going to be a lot about Morrison attempting to define Albanese on his own terms."

Australian Labor leader Anthony Albanese. Photo / Getty Images Australian Labor leader Anthony Albanese. Photo / Getty Images

On Morrison's scandals:

Mckay: "Where do you start with the scandals? ... There have been two ministers who have actually left this Government due to sexual misconduct. Christian Porter, who is the Attorney General, left, denying a historical rape. And now Alan Tudge, involved in the latest scandal, doesn't deny a relationship he had with a staff member. Last year, Morrison said he was demoted out of cabinet. But then yesterday, Morrison said he's still in the cabinet. There are questions about how Morrison responds to these issues."

On the Labor Party's controversies:

McKay: "This is quite a tragic story. Kimberly Kitchen, a beloved figure in the Labor Party and across politics, suffered a heart attack last month and it was alleged it was as a result of her potentially being demoted from a winnable position on the Senate ticket in Victoria. That sent the hounds running from Labor's different factions. The heat has come a bit off the boil in the wake of her funeral, which was quite a uniting moment. It is the Labor Party though, with contested factions all across the board in every state and in every caucus, so the next factional scandal is never too far away."

On which leader would be better for NZ:

McKay: "Albanese would take the temperature down in terms of hostility towards China, but I don't think there be too much of an issue for New Zealand. Australia and New Zealand already have an incredibly strong relationship with free trade and free movement agreements. New Zealand and Australian leaders pride themselves on being able to work with whoever is in office. Labor [under Albanese] is also very unlikely to soften the deportations policy, which is probably the number one issue between New Zealand and Australia, because it would look soft on crime."

On the likelihood of Morrison winning:

McKay: "People have got to know Scott Morrison this time. He had been the leader for less than a year at the last election, but he now has a body of work we can really talk about. But, no one has gone through a term and won since 2007. The Australian disdain for politicians doesn't necessarily benefit the incumbent … It will be hard for Morrison to do that."

The Front Page is a daily news podcast from the New Zealand Herald, available to listen to every weekday from 5am.

• You can follow the podcast at nzherald.co.nz, iHeartRadio, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.

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