Election Interpreter 2016
A couple weeks have passed since my last update on how overseas media is covering the Australian election. No real big surprises so far, but bellow are some excellent reflections on how the election relates to Brexit, the US election, China's economic rise and analysis of some battleground seats.
New York Times columnist Roger Cohen visited Australia last week, and wrote several pieces comparing the ongoing federal election here to the one in the US. Here, he talks about the anxiety he believes both countries are facing:
The only issue the parties seem to agree on is getting tough with refugees trying to reach Australia by boat – so tough that the refugees end up in Limbo on sweltering Pacific islands where desperation, self-harm and death stalk them. This untenable policy, too, reflects anxiety.
Humanity is showing its other face. The sway of neoliberal economics favouring the wealthy in Western societies, the departure offshore of manufacturing jobs, stagnant wages, large refugee flows from war zones, media outlets with tribal followings and the flourishing of violent anti-Western jihadi ideology in an Arab world of blocked political systems have created a near-perfect storm for rightist populists of the Abbot and Trump ilk. In the United States, two wars without victory that involved vast expenditure of blood and treasure – wars in which Australia (as ever) fought alongside American – have contributed to a mood of restive frustration. When the authority of a great power ebbs, and the tectonic plates of the global order shift, there is always a frisson of danger.
In the Financial Times, John McTiernan compared Australia's immigration policy for unskilled migration and refugees to that of the EU, looking also at Brexit in the process:
Australia is thought to be tough on immigration. To an extent, it is. But it is only really tough on illegal immigration by those who pay people smugglers. On this the Australian public has been unequivocal, its views well expressed in 2001 by John Howard, then prime minister: “We will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come.” This, too, was the power behind Tony Abbott's election-winning 2013 slogan: “Stop the boats”, which aided his election victory. His Labor predecessors had been seen as too weak on the issue and the debate became febrile. Even I, unusually for a staffer, was attacked on the floor of parliament by the liberal opposition “outraged” that I was a skilled worker on a visa.
Bloomberg, usually with some of the best Australian coverage (they have a large office in Sydney), has two excellent pieces looking in-depth at some marginal seats. The first ties together China's economic boom, foreign investment, Tasmania and the election:
Tasmanian-branded exports to China, including salmon, apples, cherries and education, have soared 37 percent since a 2014 visit to the state by China's President Xi Jinping bolstered trade ties. Tourist numbers are up 15 percent over the past year, the most of any state, and the economy is growing at the fastest rate in six years.
'As a July 2 federal election looms, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is counting on that China-driven growth to sustain his appeal in northern Tasmania, where his ruling coalition holds the region's three lower-house districts by a margin of 4 percent or less. His challenge will be to woo voters who feel left out of the China bonanza and are suspicious of foreign investors snapping up the state's prized assets.
Deeper in the article, I particularly liked this snippet from university student Zhang Guiping:
'In the northern city of Launceston, university student Zhang Guiping, 25, says Xi's visit to Tasmania was the reason her parents allowed her to study nursing there. “The most important thing was Xi Jinping came here so we knew it was a reliable place,” said Zhang, who is from Guangzhou.'
This Bloomberg piece does an able job of something that is likely not talked about enough, the geographical socio-economic divide in Sydney:
“People don't mind the rich getting richer, so long as everyone feels they're being dragged along,” he said. “But when you get a combination of income differentials widening and a stagnation of real incomes, then that produces a lot of friction.” The gap between the rich and poor is growing, government data show. Turnbull's own Point Piper neighborhood, in the electorate of Wentworth, has Australia's highest mean taxable income at A$200,015 ($147,000) a year. That's almost doubled in 10 years. In Penrith, the figure is just A$53,192, up from A$35,516 a decade earlier. Robbery is about 30 times more frequent in Penrith, the New South Wales Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research says. The unemployment rate there was 8.3 percent in December 2015. In Wentworth's waterfront districts, it was 1.7 percent. The prime minister, a former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. executive, is trying to counter opposition claims he's out of touch. On Monday, he released a video in which he recalls being raised by a father who had little money. Turnbull also publicizes his use of public transport to appeal to everyday Australians. His favorite bus, he tweets, is the 389 service that winds through his leafy electorate to the harbor. It passes galleries, interior design shops and organic bakeries.
Lastly, this piercing observation:
The 774 service from Penrith rail station east to St Marys tells a different story. The driver is housed in a metal cage, a measure unseen in the east. The bus passes two Cash Converters and Shop 'n' Hock pawn brokers and a juvenile detention center. On a Wednesday afternoon last month, the driver's radio blasts out a warning: police are chasing a man who jumped off the bus in front. It's not safe to approach him.