As Australia approaches election day on July 2, the incumbent government braces itself for what could be an historic first-term defeat for the conservative Coalition party.
Opposition leader for the progressive ALP Bill Shorten was declared the winner of the Facebook debate on Friday, with 17 to seven swing voters being more convinced of his platform.
The online debate was reportedly plagued with buffering issues for users, an irony not lost on the audience who are still upset with Malcolm Turnbull for hobbling the nation’s broadband network by not only insisting on using slower copper wire instead of high-speed fiber-optic, but also failing to deliver the “faster, cheaper” outcome as promised.
When Malcolm Turnbull brought up the issue, Bill Shorten addressed the Facebook audience directly. He asked them to “Press ‘like’ if you prefer fiber to copper,” causing the “likes” on the Facebook stream to climb from about 1,400, to 9,400.
The loss was a surprise to the internet-savvy Turnbull. Bill Shorten is not known for his charisma, with one commentator allowing that although he had won the debate, he was still “only marginally livelier than a dead tree.” Turnbull’s garrulous charm was expected to win over viewers easily.
But in 2016, the effect of the internet is stronger than ever. In an increasingly small world, the internet audience would be well aware of the global swing to the left with the rise of Bernie Sanders, who is leading a powerful challenge to the American policies that Malcolm Turnbull is trying to enact here — privatizing healthcare, trickle-down economics, and leaving the market to decide university fees ensuring they will be less affordable to the lower and middle classes — and this charge is being lead almost solely on the internet. Sanders’ campaign has been highly influential on internet citizens and for this reason, the Facebook audience appreciated Bill Shorten’s progressive stance on all these issues, especially his championing of the very successful universal healthcare platform Medicare.
If Turnbull’s Coalition loses, they will be the first federal government to be kicked out after only one term.
Turnbull replaced Tony Abbott after he led an almost comically disastrous beginning to the Coalition’s first term, as government saw the economy plummet within six months of taking over the helm, and Abbott being the center of repeated domestic gaffes and international embarrassments.
At the time, a U.S. think-tank named Abbott “the most incompetent leader of any industrialized democracy.”
Even despite the cringe factor, the very socially-conservative Abbott turned out to be too conservative for the Australian people, and he wasn’t even delivering on his promised economic outcomes. Turnbull was seen as the savior for the government’s woes and to the electorate, appeared to have all the credentials that Abbott had lacked — economic nous, progressive social views, technological savvy, and a reputation for being outspoken on environmental issues.
“Moderate Malcolm” was welcomed and initially enjoyed a high popularity with swing voters because of his more progressive views, but as his term as prime minister unfolded, the electorate became increasingly despondent with his performance. Polls indicate that the electorate feels he failed to deliver, and continued to enact Abbott’s unpopular policies on immigration, gay marriage, climate change, and energy reform, the TPP, and the NBN.
Of even more concern to voters is the continuing woeful economic performance, which an Australian Institute study described on Tuesday as “the worst since Menzies,” showing that real income growth for households has fallen significantly under Abbott/Turnbull’s steerage. Despite the government’s hand-waving protestations about the GDP, at the kitchen table, Australian families are really feeling the pinch.
However, Australians have been slow to warm to Bill Shorten, who at times hasn’t offered a strong enough opposition.
A first-term defeat for the government will be the first time in federal Australian politics that an incumbent party hasn’t been granted a second term by the electorate.
[Photo by Mick Tsikas – Pool/Getty Images]