“Not Woke” Australian Labor Defeats Center-Right Government

The Australian Labor Party – whose leader made clear he was “not woke” – defeated Australia’s center-right government in Saturday’s elections.


The Australian Labor Party – whose leader made clear he was “not woke” – defeated Australia’s center-right Liberal/National government in Saturday’s elections.

  • Australia’s new prime minister is Anthony Albanese, a career politician who grew up in public housing and is Australia’s “first prime minister with a ‘non-Anglo Celtic name.’”
  • Albanese led Labor back to power after three consecutive election defeats and nine years in opposition. To win, he moved his party towards the center and moderated Labor’s stances on climate change and energy issues.
  • Conservative Prime Minister Scott Morrison conceded defeat after an election campaign was dominated by concerns over inflation, climate change, and China’s aggressive moves in the South Pacific, as well as Australia’s slow vaccine rollout after two years of draconian pandemic lockdowns.
  • Albanese promised to unite the country, prioritize climate change, closer ties with the United States, and standing against China’s aggressive moves in the South Pacific.


reporting from the left side of the aisle


  • The New York Times called the campaign the “Climate Election” and noted Albanese promised to make Australia a “renewable energy superpower.” Even so, Albanese committed to be a “both-and” candidate, supporting coal power as well as renewables, in sharp contrast to the previous Labor leader whose hardline on climate change likely cost Labor the 2019 election.
  • The Washington Post profiled Anthony Albanese, comparing him to Joe Biden as a “Catholic with an affinity to the working class” and “a veteran of the center-left of his party.” Albanese rose to the premiership from humble roots after an uneven political career.
  • CNN’s takeaways from Saturday’s election included: the rise of climate change voters; election victories by independent centrist women in several traditionally center-right constituencies after several parliamentary sexual harassment scandals; and continued emphasis on close US ties.



  • The Wall Street Journal attributed Labor’s victory to public dissatisfaction with rising inflation and compared Morrison’s defeat with President Joe Biden’s falling poll numbers and Democrats’ grim midterm prospects.
  • Fox News covered outgoing Prime Minister Morrison’s post-election comments. Morrison defended his record on the pandemic, stopping illegal immigration and the economy but announced he would resign as leader of Australia’s conservatives.
  • National Review observed there was much for American conservatives to like about Morrison’s record, including his close ties with the US and his “hardliner” stance towards China, but he also imposed harsh “Covid tyranny” policies that curtailed individual freedoms and deserved defeat.

Author’s Take

The rules of politics aren’t that different Down Under. Center-right Prime Minister Scott Morrison won a shock upset victory in 2019, defeating Bill Shorten, the Labor Party leader who led in the polls and was widely thought to be the country’s prime minister in waiting. Labor in 2019 was widely perceived to have moved far to the left on climate change, immigration, and social issues, and the center-right Coalition won surprising victories in historically Labor working-class areas.

Morrison presided over a strong economy, but he alienated some voters with his “bulldozer” personality and perceived poor response to natural disasters and sexual and ethical scandals that pervaded his government. Morrison led Australia during the COVID-19 pandemic, and dissatisfaction with his “zero-COVID” lockdown strategy and rising inflation contributed to his loss.

Labor only won narrowly, however, and benefitted from running a perceived moderate career politician who moved the party towards the center on climate change and immigration. Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump by running against his polarizing personality and promising to return the country to normal. After taking office, Biden pivoted hard-left and a series of blunders along with rising crime and inflation have contributed to his poor poll numbers and Democrats’ likely 2022 midterm defeat.

It remains to be seen whether Albanese will govern like he campaigned or, whether he, like Biden, used his opponent’s divisive personality and Covid malaise to win an election promising one agenda while planning to deliver another. If Albanese follows Biden’s example, then the center-right Coalition could be back in power soon enough.

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© Dominic Moore, 2022