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Brisbane, Australia (CNN)After almost a decade of conservative
leadership, Australian voters turned their back on the ruling
coalition, instead backing those who campaigned for more action
on climate change, greater gender equality and political
New Labor Prime Minister Anthony Albanese was sworn in on Monday
before his departure to Japan for his first meeting with allies
including US President Joe Biden.
For much of its history, Australian politics has been dominated
by the two major parties: the Liberals on the center-right and
Labor on the center-left. But this election threw all the balls
up in the air, tossing more than a few to minor parties and
Independents who were fed-up with the two-party system.
Here's what we learned.
Australia's coming in from the climate cold
Election results showed a strong swing towards Independents who
campaigned on issues relating to the climate.
The candidates -- many first-time entrants to politics -- were
seeking cuts to emissions of up to 60% -- more than twice as
much as promised by the ruling conservative coalition (26-28%)
and also more than Labor (43%). Known as teal candidates, they
targeted traditionally blue Liberal seats with more green-
"Millions of Australians have put climate first. Now, it's time
for a radical reset on how this great nation of ours acts upon
the climate challenge," said Amanda McKenzie, CEO of the
research group the Climate Council, on Saturday's election
Australia has long been known as the "lucky country," partly due
to its wealth of coal and gas, as well as minerals like iron
ore, which have driven generations of economic growth.
But it's now sitting on the frontier of a climate crisis, and
the fires, floods and droughts that have already scarred the
country are only expected to become more extreme as the Earth
The ruling conservative government had been called a climate
"holdout" by the United Nations Secretary-General after
outlining a plan to get to net zero by 2050 by creating massive
new gas projects. Incumbent Scott Morrison had said he would
back a transition from coal to renewable energy, but had no
plans to stop new coal projects.
Labor Party leader Anthony Albanese promised to end the "climate
wars," a reference to the infighting that has frustrated any
efforts to push for stronger action on climate over the past
decade and even cost some prime ministers their jobs.
Labor has pledged to reach emission net zero by 2050, partly by
strengthening the mechanism used to pressure companies to make
But research institute Climate Analytics says Labor's plans
aren't ambitious enough to keep the global temperature rise
within 1.5 degrees Celsius, as outlined in the Paris Agreement.
Labor's policies are more consistent with a rise of 2 degrees
Celsius, the institute said, marginally better than the
To speed up the transition to renewable energy, Labor plans to
modernize Australia's energy grid and roll out solar banks and
community batteries. But despite its net zero commitment, Labor
says it'll approve new coal projects if they're environmentally
and economically viable.
Women are being seen and heard
Morrison's popularity with women plummeted after several
scandals involving his ministers.
Morrison himself was accused of lacking empathy when he
responded to an allegation of a sexual assault in Parliament
House by suggesting his wife, Jenny Morrison, had made him
realize the gravity of the accusation.
"She said to me 'You have to think about this as a father first.
What would you want to happen if it were our girls?' Jenny has a
way of clarifying things. Always has," he said.
Thousands of women later marched around the country calling for
stronger measures to ensure women's safety -- which snowballed
into demands for greater gender equality.
The teal Independents were mostly older women who under other
circumstances may have joined the Liberal Party.
Albanese read the room and promised to improve gender equality.
He was even endorsed by his former boss, Australia's first and
only woman Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who famously ripped
into her Liberal rival with the words: "I will not be lectured
about sexism and misogyny by this man." Gillard fronted the
media the day before the vote to say she was "very confident" an
Albanese government will be a "government for women."
Indigenous voices will be amplified
Among the first words Albanese uttered when he walked onto the
stage to claim victory Saturday was the promise to enshrine the
voice of Indigenous people in Parliament.
"I begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on
which we meet. I pay my respects to their elders past, present
and emerging. And on behalf of the Australian Labor Party, I
commit to the Uluru Statement from the Heart in full," he said.
Indigenous groups across Australia are calling for the
constitution to be changed so they're formally consulted on
legislation and policies affecting their communities. That would
require a national referendum, which needs political support
before a yes-no question is put to the Australian people.
Albanese's Labor government is giving that support. The last
time Australians voted in a referendum on Aboriginal rights was
in 1967, when 90% of the country supported a move to include
Indigenous people in the Census.
Albanese said during his acceptance speech: "All of us ought to
be proud that amongst our great multicultural society we count
the oldest living continuous culture in the world."
Australia is prioritizing Asia and the US
One of the first tasks for Albanese will be to head to Tokyo to
meet his counterparts from the United States, Japan and India at
the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) summit.
Beside him will be Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong, a
seasoned Labor politician of Asian descent who has long been a
respected voice in the Senate.
The new Labor government promises to create stronger ties with
Asia. Albanese said one of his first ports of call after Japan
will be Indonesia, which he said will "grow to be an economy
that's substantial in the world."
"We live in a region whereby in the future we will have China,
India and Indonesia as giants. We need to strengthen that
economic partnership and one way that we can do that is by
strengthening people-to-people relations as well," Albanese said.
"Indonesia is an important nation, for our economy, for those
social relationships as well...We need to really strengthen the
relationship with Indonesia and that's why it would be an
absolute priority for me."
Analysts say Australia's new Prime Minister faces a tough
challenge when it comes to China -- especially after a bitter
election campaign that has put Chinese President Xi Jinping and
his intentions front and center.
Australia's relations with China have deteriorated under the
coalition's stint in government -- which started at the same
time as Xi's rule. Relations soured further in 2020 when the
Australian government -- then led by Morrison -- called for an
investigation into the origins of Covid-19. China responded with
sanctions against Australian exports, including beef, barley,
wine, and rock lobster.
China's reaction hardened public attitudes in Australia and
pushed Canberra to lead the charge against China's coercive
The coalition has suggested Labor will be soft on China, but on
paper, Labor's position on China seems little different from
that of the conservatives. Labor says it's committed to the
AUKUS security pact, the deal Morrison struck with the United
States and United Kingdom, to the detriment of Australia's
relations with France. It has also voiced strong support for the
Money can't buy votes
One of the big losers in this election was Clive Palmer, the
mining magnate who reportedly spent close to $100 million on
advertising for his United Australia Party for next to no
The man Palmer had touted as "the next Prime Minister," Craig
Kelly, a renegade from the Liberal Party who was reprimanded for
spreading Covid-19 misinformation and conspiracy theories, lost
his seat after securing just 8% of the primary vote.
Palmer, who has been dubbed "Australia's Trump," campaigned on
the issue of freedom and opposing Covid-19 vaccine mandates and
This is not the first time Palmer has tried to win elections
with big money. In 2019, he spent millions campaigning during
the federal election, but failed to land a single seat.