Politics Opinion

Political reconstruction vital for Albanese re-election

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(Cartoon by Mark David / @MDavidCartoons)

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese needs to consider progressive moves toward an Australian republic to boost chances of another term in government, writes Dr Klaas Woldring.

THE RE-ELECTION of the Albanese Government cannot be taken for granted. Recent opinion polls suggest support for it currently is below the 2022 narrow Election win. However, some indicators suggest another win or at least a minority ALP Government with support from the Greens and Independents.

The approach of the Albanese Government, with the exception of the AUKUS decision, has been extremely cautious, the complete opposite of the Whitlam approach in 1972. This should be abandoned if re-elected.

Thus far, the clearly growing dissatisfaction with Australia's political system has gone unanswered. The possibility of an early election is also being talked about again while Australia already has very short terms of three years federally. Why not adopt fixed four-year terms?

The importance of discussing real changes to be tackled by a second Albanese Government, if not earlier, should be obvious. Flagging important possible changes could even add to a successful re-election drive.

While, internationally, the Albanese Government has achieved several positive outcomes, the impact of these on the voters' preferences may only be limited. Incomes, price levels of food, housing shortages and inflation are greater concerns for many and will affect their vote more.

The almost complete lack of unbiased political education in high schools is another problem. It seems not well understood as the failed Voice Referendum demonstrated.

Showing greater awareness that society has changed dramatically from colonial Anglo-society (UK and U.S.-dependent) to a multicultural, independent country would be a further positive for the present Government. In this respect, the ALP is part of the prevailing governance system conservatism.

This goes further. The electoral system in particular is a reflection of that history and of the two traditional classes: managers and workers/employees. Sadly, even ethnic discrimination against newcomers was displayed in ALP branches just recently. The Greens remain grossly underrepresented in lower houses. The two-party system proves increasingly unrepresentative.

Changing the Constitution should no longer be a reluctant piecemeal drama, apparently to be avoided altogether. Bold tackling here means rewriting it. Apart from it being colonial in essence and despite additional statements of sovereign independence, this document no longer serves modern Australia well, at all.

A republican Constitution surely should be the logical outcome of renewal, an aspect apparently not fully understood by the Australian Republic Movement. Its objectives are far too limited. In contrast, the Brisbane-based organisation Real Republic Australia's plan, chaired by David Muir, should encourage the Albanese Government.

The Voice Referendum demonstrated that most people's knowledge of the existing Constitution is inadequate.

Altogether, objective political education in Australia is quite inadequate. Apart from addressing this in established school and university programs, an immediate start could be made by public broadcaster, ABC. Of course, other broadcasters and all news media could start publishing pieces about political system renewal.

While the 2025 Federal Election outcome is difficult to predict, some significant shifts are possible, affecting major parties in that they may actually lose seats.

The Greens may gain a couple of seats, possibly more. Independent women are likely to be returned and could increase their numbers as well. Both major parties are likely to be stuck at around one-third of the seats or even less.

This prospect suggests that the Albanese Government will need to come up with significant election winners to be returned to office. The polarised nature of the system remains unhelpful.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton, in recent weeks at least, has even moved away from the customary negative talk about the Government by providing support for some policy Government issues. A recent The Saturday Paper article suggested, convincingly, that it would altogether be difficult for the Liberal Party to gain a winning majority.

In addition, the National Party now has to contend with a growing regional, eastern Australia group that is supportive of Green values — Lock the Gate Alliance. Politically, this represents a split in the conservative NP which has long been in solid coalition with the Liberal Party.

One would think that the introduction of proportional representation would assist that group in getting its voice heard more clearly and represented in parliaments. However, currently, it is not a political party.

The Albanese Government will have to come up with impressive new policies and plans to clinch the 2025 Election. It has recently decided to try to move the national economy forward by stimulating new industries.

It was reported in recent articles in The Australian, Australian Financial Review and The Saturday Paper that an interventionist industrial strategy has been adopted to concentrate on transforming Australia's national economy by stimulating local industries.

However, concentrating on stimulating new Australian “homemade” industries also received considerable criticism as the “wrong way to go” from the Productivity Commission. The complexity and merit of this strategy, requiring a Future Made in Australia Act and allocating significant funding to the National Reconstruction Fund, Hydrogen Headstart Fund and Solar Sunshot Fund, is beyond this discussion.

The moderate reductions in loan repayments for university students is another move that could assist in re-election. These loans have become much too severe. If one compares that with the free university education during the Whitlam period, there is more to be done here.

A progressive government should tackle governance system changes to stimulate the people's confidence.

Here are areas demanding bold action:

  • impartial political system education needs to be started seriously;
  • the single-member district electoral system needs to be replaced with a much more democratic and fairer proportional representation system;
  • the Australian Constitution needs to be rewritten and adjusted to serve a modern multicultural democratic society; and
  • the country should then proceed to becoming a republic, which would follow logically and quickly.

Dr Klaas Woldring is a former associate professor at Southern Cross University and former convenor of ABC Friends (Central Coast).

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