On May 18, Australians stayed glued to their television sets as counting for the 2019 Federal Elections unrolled. By the end of the night, it was clear that poll pundits had proven wrong their predictions. Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the Coalition emerged winners contrary to the popular notion of a Labor victory. Labor leader Bill Shorten conceded defeat and Morrison himself called it a ‘miracle’ win.
Morrison secured a stunning victory against the odds in the general election taking his Liberal National coalition to a third term in office.
In a triumphant speech, Morrison said he had “always believed in miracles.”
“And tonight we’ve been delivered another one,” he told jubilant supporters in Sydney who chanted Morrison’s nickname “ScoMo.”
Morrison, who replaced Malcolm Turnbull as Prime Minister in August, promised to work hard for all Australians. ‘I said that I was going to burn for you, and I am, every, single day,’ he said.
After losing an election which many analysts described as “unlosable,” Bill Shorten conceded and announced he would be stepping down as head of the party.
“I know that you’re all hurting, and I am too,” Shorten told party supporters in Melbourne. “I’m proud that we argued what was right, not what was easy…Politics should be the battle of ideas.”
“This was the unlosable election for the Labor Party. That’s how this was considered,” ABC’s Patricia Karvelas said from the Melbourne Labor event.
Labor had run on a high-profile campaign of taking action on climate change, improving funding to services, and ending tax cuts for top earners.
“Up until today the expectation was that the Labor leader Bill Shorten would become Australia’s next Prime Minister, those expectations have been dashed in the extreme,” political journalist Tom McIlroy of the Australian Financial Review said.
“There hasn’t been a result like this in Australian politics in a generation.”
An editorial in The Age said, “Mr Morrison’s achievement in winning this election should not be underestimated, but it remains unclear what his overall agenda will be. Two big-ticket items for the Coalition government should be a coherent and effective energy policy and making sure that Australia plays its part in the global necessity of tackling climate change and its effects. Much will depend on whether after the final count Mr Morrison has an absolute majority or whether he needs the support of the crossbench MPs such as Zali Steggall, who in one of the more remarkable results beat former prime minister Tony Abbott. In truth, little has changed since the previous election. The number of seats each party has won is virtually the same. The predicted narratives around devastation for the Nationals, the rise of the independent candidates and, of course, a big swing to Labor did not eventuate. While results in Queensland were significant, the predictions around the number of seats changing hands in Victoria and likelihood that this state would swing the election proved off the mark.”
SIGNIFICANT WINNERS & LOSERS
Tony Abbot, former Liberal Prime Minister, suffered a stunning defeat from Independent candidate Zali Steggall in his Sydney seat of Warringah. This marks the end to his 25-year political career. “I have to say that once we had the result in the Wentworth by-election six months or so back, I always knew it was going to be tough here in Warringah,” Abbott said.
Zali Steggall, lawyer and former Olympic athlete, trounced Tony Abbott in the normally staunch Liberal electorate. “Tonight, Warringah has definitely voted for the future. And you all showed that when communities want change, they make it happen…This is a win for moderates with a heart,” said Stegall, an Independent candidate.
Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party increased its votes by 1.69 per cent, the biggest improvement of any party which contested the 2016 election. But it won no House of Representatives seats and just one Senator, reports news.com.au. It was earlier reported that the firebrand figure shunned tradition by not showing up at polling booths on Election Day.
Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party (UAP) secured 3.4 per cent of the nationwide vote, but failed to win a seat in Parliament. The businessman, who ran as a Senate candidate in Queensland, told the media that his election advertising spending of about $55 million was “more effective than giving some money to Meals on Wheels”. He said he had spent the past two weeks of the campaign trying to stop Labor leader Bill Shorten becoming prime minister.
Fraser Anning, the controversial far-right politician from Queensland and known for being egged by teenager Will Connolly, suffered defeat. In the last election too, he garnered just 19 primary votes but became a Senator only after Malcolm Roberts, the One Nation candidate, was found ineligible due to his dual citizenship.
HOW SOME INDIAN-ORIGIN CANDIDATES FARED
Dave Sharma, Liberal MP, won Malcolm Turnbull’s former seat of Wentworth. Last year, Sharma lost to Independent Kerryn Phelps but took her on again this time. Born to a father of Indian heritage and an Australian mother, Sharma’s family settled in Sydney in the 1970s. He became an Australian diplomat, earning an Australian Service Medal for his work in Papua New Guinea.
Aruna Chandrala, Labor candidate for New South Wales, failed to make a dent. She is a founding member of, and has been president of, the Telugu Pallugu Association for many years, and worked as the president of the United Indian Association.
Chris Gambian, Labor’s candidate for Banks, lost to Liberal incumbent MP David Coleman. Gambian’s parents moved to Mortdale from south India in the mid-1970s. As a union official with the Finance Sector Union, Chris organised for fairer pay and conditions for tellers, call centre workers and other bank and insurance workers.
Harkirat Singh, Greens Candidate for Gorton who had earlier contested election from the Malton constituency, lost to Labor MP Brendan O’Connor who has been representing Gorton since 2004.
Jennifer Van Den Broek, Liberal candidate for Holt, received 29,759 votes but lost to Anthony Byrne, the incumbent Labor MP. Broek, an Anglo-Indian from India, was a stay-at-home-Mum until starting her career at Kmart in Cranbourne. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Education and a Master’s Degree in Economics.
Parwinder Sarwara, who was named as Number Four Victorian candidate for Labor, did not win either. The Brisbane-based businessman was earlier reported by the media to have liked two controversial memes on Facebook for which he later apologised as saying, “These posts were insensitive and wrong and I apologise.”
Rajan Vaid, the Conservative National Party’s candidate from Hindmarsh electorate in South Australia, managed just 1,632 votes, the lowest among the main political parties, an SBS report said.
Shireen Morris, Labor candidate from Deakin lost to Liberal MP Michael Sukkar. Born in Australia, Morris is of Indian and Fijian-Indian heritage. She studied to be a lawyer and earned a PhD in constitutional law.
Sachin Joshi, Liberal candidate for Paterson, lost to Labor’s Meryl Swanson. He serves as the President of the Indian Association Newcastle as well as volunteering for the Rotary Club of East Maitland.
Sunny Chandra, Kyneton resident who stood as Independent candidate for Victoria, also failed to make an entry. The IT-graduate, businessman and migration agent had entered the hosting with key issues such as more immigration for regional areas, renewable energy among others.
Vivek Singha, Liberal candidate for McMohan (NSW), made an impressive foray losing by just less than 3000 votes in an electorate that has been represented by Labor’s Chris Bowen since 2004. Singh who migrated from India 16 years ago is passionate about science and technology.
REACTIONS: WHAT THEY ARE SAYING
Vasan Srinivasan, founder FIAV: After the leadership turmoil last year, Scott Morrison took the lead and kept his policy and messages straightforward mainly talking about economy, jobs and the community. Labor started the campaign quite well but the problem was, every day there was a change in policies. So people got confused. The policy shifts within the Labor ranks also created a bit of an uneasiness within the community. I strongly believe that Scott Morrison will deliver much better things for the community and the economy and there will be stability in the government as he has got a full majority. With Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull gone, no one can question the stability or the strength of the current leader. He can really command strength and leadership to take us to the next level. For the Indian community, it is also good news. The Indian Community Centre will be set up as promised by Alan Tudge, Michael Sukkar and Scott Morrison. Sukkar had also promised $100,000 in funding for Punjabi language school and another for Vedanta society in Ringwood. And there are a number of other small organisations within the community that were given a promise. As a community, they understand our values, contribution and our principles. Most Indians are hard-working and we want to give something back to this country as well.
Rampal Reddy Muthyala, businessman: We are overwhelmed and humbled by the historic result. In one word, it is a victory of democracy because the Liberal party has a proven record of managing our budget well. People trusted Scott Morrison because Bill Shorten didn’t have confidence in what he was saying about policies especially on future of the economy. Building a strong economy is securing the future. Australia is in good hands and, particularly, from the multicultural point of view too as it was the Liberal party that dismantled the White Australia Policy and started migration intake. During the 1990s and 2000s John Howard started skilled migration and because of that the multicultural community grew drastically. The Indian community is one of the biggest communities in Australia because of the Liberal party and I am proud to say that and because of that they are getting benefit. This election result is a win for multicultural community because the government is going to bring lot of change in the migration system and it will be advantageous for communities such as Indians who are hard workers, tax payers and entrepreneurs.
Sunny Pratap Chandra, businessman and migration agent, Independent candidate for Victoria: It was a big fight, I fought a good fight. I am a bit wounded but I am very happy. First of all, it does not matter which party has been elected. Both Labor and Liberal had come out before the election agreeing to drop the migration ceiling to 160,000 a year. It didn’t matter which one of them was going to come. That ceiling is a ridiculously low figure. Out of that 160,000, only 50,000 are given as partner visas, which leaves the total number of skilled visas to about 30,000 per year. Very few people realise that there are 600,000 people waiting for that visa. How are they going to be handled? I don’t really feel qualified to comment whether Labor or Liberal should have won, I know that the current immigration policy is going to be tightened more because the Liberals introduced it. And Mr Dutton is back in the saddle. My feeling is a little bit of a discouragement.
Paramjit Jaswal, business man: Personally this is an excellent result for the whole Australian community. As we have noticed, just within 24 hours of the whole election outcome our share markets went up. Never in the past 20-30 years after election has the share market gone up, so there is a renewed confidence within the business community. If you look at the benefit for those particularly the Indian community, many are new migrants and new settlers and are getting into new businesses, so the positive impact on small businesses will be seen in the next three years. The Indian community will benefit more out of this change. I spoke with a number of new entrepreneurs and they were all hoping for some relief in terms of tax burdens and other support should the Liberal form the government.
After a long time we will have a stable government. Look at the composition of the Parliament now, Scott Morrison will have better control over not only his party but of Parliament itself. There will be a less hostile Senate. Getting through some of the tax agendas that they announced during the campaign and the five percent deposit for housing will benefit new migrants and our community more than anyone else.
After the Royal Commission report on banking, a lot of mortgage brokers were thinking that the industry is now vanished but the leaders have given the commitment that they will support the mortgage broking industry. A lot of Indians are in that industry and buying houses too. Personally I feel Australian community will no doubt benefit but more benefit will flow into small business owners, their families. Overall, it is a very positive move. Hopefully we will have better opportunities. At the end of the day, we want to see that the country and the economy become stronger and we are placed in a better position in the world market.
Deydeep Satheesh, IT professional: This election was about climate change, at least we all thought it was. As a progressive, I care about the climate and the future of the planet. The amount of traction the topic gained in the past few years made me think that we were on the right track, that we all recognise the importance of it and will make a collective effort on making the planet more sustainable. Well, clearly, we were wrong. The country is not concerned or it is scared to make the change that needs to be done.
When motor vehicles replaced horses, people felt it’s not a living thing, neither did they miss the neighing sound of the horses. We all adopted because it was faster, less cruel to horses and, most importantly, it meant progress. And electric cars are only getting better, the engine is already better than any internal combustion engine. The battery is getting there, Tesla can go more than 500 kms before a recharge and a 30-minute recharge will give it another 275 kms. Sweden is building a road (Elon road) which can recharge cars as you drive. How good is that? The future is going to be very different for cars very soon.
What will happen to our economy? It will go down if we don’t use coal, they said. Are we kidding? Australia is the biggest producer of lithium and the demand for it will keep going higher. I just saw an ad on TV which said electric car uses more copper and we have a lot of it. It’s just shift of focus and new opportunities which will only boost the economy with the side-effect of making the planet greener. The fact is, the whole world will go for sustainable energy in the near future and there is no other way we as a species can survive. So the earlier we change the stronger our economy will be.
I think as a country we have failed the planet and our next generation. Now we have to wait three years and global warming is not going to take a break for three years. The planet will keep getting warmer. I personally don’t care about the political parties, but I care about the planet. If tomorrow Liberals start pushing for climate action, I will vote for them. Hopefully people realise the importance and make this change before it’s too late.
(By TIW, agencies & tallyroom.com.au)