Politics Analysis

Labor rebuilds Australia's international integrity decimated by the Coalition

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(Jodi Belyea celebrates By-election victory | Screenshot via YouTube)

The Albanese Government is receiving affirmation from the watching world on a variety of economic, social and political metrics, as well as from Victorian voters in Dunkley's recent By-electionAlan Austin reports.

IT HAS BEEN a good few weeks for decency, decorum and democracy. Voters in Dunkley gave the Albanese Government a solid vote of confidence in Saturday’s By-election.

Several international agencies have commended Australia’s recent steady progress. Only four members of the OECD – the group of 38 advanced democracies – currently have inflation below 3.5 per cent, the jobless below 4.2 per cent and triple-A credit ratings with all three global agencies.

They are Switzerland, Denmark, the Netherlands and Australia. Presumably, all the mainstream media let this be known to voters in Dunkley, so the Government could receive the affirmation it deserves. If only that were the case.

Morrison gone at last

Scott Morrison’s departure from Parliament last week drew a line under a highly destructive period in Australia’s political history. Harm to Australia’s reputation, as well as to its economic and social well-being through the nine Coalition years, was substantial — despite the valiant efforts of virtually all the mainstream media to downplay that. The damage will take decades to restore fully.

The thousands of Australians who died needlessly through Morrison’s Robodebt scandal, pandemic mismanagement and the surge in Indigenous suicides are, of course, lost forever.

Global standing restored

No doubt, the French Government marked Morrison’s departure with célébration. When he lost the Prime Ministership in May 2022, then Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian publicly announced his pleasure at “la défaite de Scott Morrison aux législatives en Australie”. This followed Morrison not only welching on a $90 billion contract to buy French submarines but also blatantly lying to the French President about his treachery.

The French Foreign Minister described Morrison’s actions as “brutal and cynical”, “notoriously incompetent” and expressed hope for “frank and constructive dialogue with Australia in the future”.

Prime Minister Albanese achieved that with his visit to France six weeks after his election in 2022. Regrettably, Australia still must pay $5.5 billion in compensation for breaking that contract.

Albanese and his Foreign Minister Penny Wong have now substantially restored relations fractured by Coalition ineptitude with Japan, China, Vietnam, the U.S., Germany, Indonesia and most other regional neighbours.

Several monitoring organisations are welcoming Australia back as a positive global contributor.

Combatting entrenched vice

Corruption watchdog Transparency International ranked Australia 14th out of 180 nations in this year’s survey. That’s an improvement on ranking 18th in 2021, but well behind former prime ministers Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard, who ranked eighth from 2009 to 2011, and seventh in 2012 respectively.

Transparency International first observed Coalition ministers making corrupt decisions and shonky deals in 2014 and dumped Australia outside the world’s top ten nations on freedom from corruption for the first time since 2007. Transparency relegated Australia further to 13th in 2015, before the all-time low ranking of 18th in the Coalition’s last full year.

We shall see how long it takes to return to the top ten.

Agencies acting swiftly

Probably not long. Australia’s security agencies and the courts are already cleaning up the Coalition’s widespread corruption. Former Federal Liberal Party candidate Di Sanh Duong was sentenced last Thursday to two years and nine months in gaol for trying to corrupt former Liberal Party Federal Minister Alan Tudge.

Duong is the first person ever to be convicted of perpetrating an act of foreign interference under the Security Intelligence Organisation Act 1979.

Making the planet happier

The Happy Planet Index – compiled by the Wellbeing Economy Alliance – measures sustainable well-being and ranks countries by how efficiently they deliver services to citizens using limited environmental resources.

The last survey provided a nifty graph showing Australia’s sharp decline under the Coalition:

(Source: Happy Planet Index Rank | happyplanetindex.org)

Unfortunately, this index is only published every five years, so we only have scores up until 2019.

Australia’s Minister for the Environment and Water Tanya Plibersek seems determined to shift the trajectory upwards again.

She explained to ABC Radio last month her product stewardship scheme for oil, which has now recycled about five and a half billion litres:

“That is a phenomenal success story. Almost all of the oil that is used in Australia is actually collected... and re-refined into oil that can be used again, keeping it out of landfill, keeping it out of the environment.”

Other undertakings include reforming packaging laws, banning some single-use plastics and getting the fashion industry to reuse textiles to minimise landfill and waste.

The next Happy Planet Index is due shortly. We will happily report it here.

Rebuilding democracy

Britain’s Economist Intelligence Unit marked Australia down severely in its democracy index through the Coalition years.

From 2010 to 2013, through the Rudd/Gillard years, Australia ranked a steady sixth in the world on democratic institutions. This tumbled to ninth in the Coalition’s first year under former Prime Minister Tony Abbott and fell to an all-time low 15th in 2022. This ranking recovered to 14th in the latest survey, published in February.

Shaky global environment

Australia’s creditable economic, environmental and social progress comes as the global economy appears increasingly unstable. Early figures from other OECD economies show Japan, Germany, Finland and Lithuania slipped into recession in December. Ireland, the United Kingdom and Estonia remain in recession, while France, Poland and Hungary all registered zero growth.

Next week, this column will provide a comprehensive update on Australia’s economy when we have GDP growth figures and other key data for the December quarter.

Meanwhile, most economic measures – along with the above global indices – suggest Labor’s win in Dunkley was well-merited.

Alan Austin is an Independent Australia columnist and freelance journalist. You can follow him on Twitter @alanaustin001.

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