What a difference one election and one month makes. After almost nine years of an incompetent, unethical, divisive and mean-spirited Coalition government, the advent of an Albanese Labor government in Canberra has been a breath of fresh air.
Almost immediately after being sworn in, our nation has witnessed a new government ready to act. Among their first achievements was the adoption of climate targets to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, and support for an increase to the national minimum wage.
On the international stage, Labor has wasted no time to inform the World that Australia would now be a responsible global player. Prime Minister Albanese, in his first international trip, flew to Tokyo to attend a Quadrilateral Security Dialogue meeting with his counterparts. At this meeting, Australia outlined its clear commitment to the goals of the Quad and confirmed that the new Labor government would seek to take stronger action in reducing carbon emissions. Not long after, Mr Albanese and Penny Wong travelled to Jakarta to further develop Australia–Indonesia relations. Importantly, after years of Coalition neglect, Foreign Minister Wong has already met with the governments of several Pacific Island nations to re-build and strengthen ties.
However, in other public policy fields, the new Labor government has been busy setting out its plans for much needed reforms. For example, the new Attorney General announced that Labor will introduce legislation to establish an anti-corruption commission by the end of 2022 – a key plank in Labor’s election manifesto.
As expected, Labor has confirmed its commitment to implementing the Uluru Statement from the Heart in full and within its first term.
On the industrial relations front, the Albanese Labor government has announced an employment summit, to include unions and business leaders, to be held in September 2022. It has also flagged several changes to industrial relations law, which would include criminalising wage theft.
In an important step, hailed by many as a sign of much needed compassion, the new government allowed the Murugappan family to return home to Biloela on bridging visas.
In mid-June, Jason Clare announced that the new government will make changes to give schools a choice of whether to hire a religious or secular pastoral care worker through the National School Chaplaincy Programme. This decision has been warmly welcomed by many across the education sector.
Overall, our new Labor government has demonstrated its eagerness to advance its policies as soon as possible, indicating that it won’t be like the last failed administration that sat on its hands, refusing to tackle important national issues. Indeed, the 21 May election has changed our nation and we will be the better for it.
Dutton choice a millstone
The Liberal Party, still in denial over its heavy loss in the 2022 federal election, is quickly demonstrating that it has no idea why it was so clearly rejected by voters. Whilst quick to blame everything and everyone but themselves, the Liberals have failed to understand that their sordid brand of politics, which had especially alienated a growing number of women, contributed significantly to the deep electoral backlash.
As we know, the Liberal Party had no answer to two of the biggest issues of the election – climate change and government integrity. Voters, even in several blue ribbon Liberal seats, rejected this failure and voted for other candidates.
Interestingly, instead of using the electoral defeat as an opportunity to re-shape their battered Party, the Liberals doubled down and elected ‘hard-Right’ hatchet politician, Peter Dutton, as their new leader.
Dutton and his regressive brand of politicking will be hard for many swinging voters to swallow, especially given his poor track record. This will, however, be a decision that the Liberal Party will need to live with, especially as Dutton continues to advocate and defend their past policies.
Census affirms a changing nation
The recent release of data from the 2021 census reveals that our nation is rapidly changing and is now more ethnically and linguistically diverse and less religious.
Results show that more immigrants are now coming from India more than any other country, with the second largest intake coming from China. Also, almost half of Australians say they have at least one parent who was born overseas. Mandarin continues to be the most common language other than English with 685,274 people using Mandarin at home. This is followed by Arabic (367,159 people), Vietnamese (320,758 people), and Cantonese (295,281 people).
The proportion of Australians who stated that they have no religion has more than doubled and is now close to the number of those who identify with all of the Christian denominations combined. It is anticipated that the ‘no religion’ category will surpass 50% by the next census, due in 2026.
However, it doesn’t stop there, with the census results revealing some very important trends.
For example, in terms of where people live, the trend towards the major cities is continuing.
Of some concern is that outright home ownership has actually fallen to 31 per cent (thats right, on the Coalition’s watch), which is now the same proportion of respondents who indicated that they rent. The largest category is now those who own a home with a mortgage, at 35 per cent. The results also revealed that one in seven fall into the definition of ‘mortgage stress’, which means that their repayments account for 30 per cent or more of their household income. This could become a concern as interest rates start their inevitable climb.
Although we certainly do have an ageing population, the so-called ‘Boomer generation’ has shrunk to only 8 per cent, with millennials and baby boomers now the ‘equal-largest’ generations.
In terms of long term health issues, just over a quarter of Australians say they have at least arthritis, asthma, kidney problems or a mental health condition. This data will be vital to help our health system plan for the future.
As more data is released in the months ahead, our understanding of our changing nation will become clearer and present our decision-makers with more issues to address.
More information about the census is available at https://www.abs.gov.au/census