How is the 2022 election more diverse?
At the ripe old age of 11, I developed an intense interest in the world - why it worked the way it did, and what we could do to make it better. It was 2005 - the beginning of the Iraq war, and a time of intense political discussion, some of which I understood, some of which faded into the background of an ABC news bulletin, and Green Day’s “American Idiot”. I’d travelled overseas and come face-to-face with extreme poverty, an experience which broke my little heart, but which set me on a course I’d follow with a fiery vengeance. I harnessed this passion for change through advocacy and activism. I was 16 when I finished school - too young to vote, but not too young to start changing the system. I turned up to day one of my politics and international relations degree, all 5’2 of me in Doc Martins, ripped shorts, a Blink 182 t-shirt, heavy black eyeliner, and ready to take on my male classmates.
9 years after graduating, I’ve led national movements for World Vision (orange is definitely not my colour!), facilitated workshops at the UN in New York, met with many, MANY politicians, “taken over” as the leader of the Greens for a day, worked for Government, created internationally-recognised initiatives to get more young women into politics (Forbes 30 under 30), founded a social enterprise to get more young women and gender diverse people in policy, and still haven't stopped arguing with men.
Until recently, I’d never voted in an election which promised strong action on the climate, international injustice, or which was driven by a sea of voters passionate about change.
On 21 May, after nine years, voters elected a new Government and drove a change in national leadership. More than that – our 47th parliament will see a majority-female Senate, a doubling of the number of Asian Australians in Parliament, a record number of First Nations politicians, independents, Greens seats in the House of Representatives, a record number of voters turning away from the major parties, and, perhaps the icing on this cake? A mandate for strong climate action.
There’s been many reflections on what happened to cause such a monumental shift but honestly, who has the time to read them all?! I’m going to save you some time and give you a simple breakdown of what happened this election, and what comes next – just like hearing it from a good friend over a coffee or cocktail. Let’s do it!
So, what the hell happened?
Every federal election, we declare it’s “the most important in our history”, and that “it’s like no other”. A bit dramatic perhaps, but this time, it may have been true.
COVID hit everyone hard, but some groups were hit harder than others – including young people, women, First Nations communities, and people from traditionally margianlised backgrounds. This, combined with the visceral female anger, and a strong drive for action on climate and integrity in politics, saw (particularly female) voters swing into action, and the success of the “teal” independents.
Who are the teal independents?
Good question! The teal independents got their name because they sit between the Liberal Party (dark blue) and the Greens (green – who would have guessed?!). While they’re not a political party, they do have some things in common: they stand for climate action, gender equality, and more integrity in politics (including an Independent Commission Against Corruption), and received funding from the Climate 200 organisation. Everything else is down to the individuals. These independents ran in mostly well-off areas, challenging lower house seats held by progressive Liberal members, including Wentworth (Sydney), North Sydney, Goldstein (Melbourne) and secured one of two Senate seats in the ACT.
Overwhelmingly, voters in this election turned away from the Liberal Party. While it’s natural to want someone new after a few terms in Government, commentators have put this change down to a lack of action on the climate, the handling of gender issues, and the refusal to pursue a federal ICAC, and Scott Morrison himself.
While we don’t yet have all the data on who voted which way, there were a few key trends:
- There was a swing away from the major parties. For the first time ever, more people opted to vote for a minor Party (such as the Greens), or independents over the Labor or Liberal candidate.
- A number of traditionally “safe” seats became marginal, meaning voters ditched the way they’d typically voted and the seat was no longer a sure-thing for the Labor or Liberal candidate.
- There was a significant uptick in people voting for the Greens, with the Greens securing more seats in the House of Representatives than ever before. In a number of seats, where a Greens member wasn’t elected, they gave the sitting member a fright (check out Macnamara in Melbourne, which was only declared over a week after the election)!
- The seats with the highest number of young voters either swung Greens, or may swing Greens next election (check out Brisbane, and Griffith).
- Clive Palmer spent a lot of money, and didn’t get very far… again (which I’m not mad about tbh)
I’ve heard some talk about diversity – what does the new Parliament look like?
We have elected the most diverse Parliament in Australia’s history – and it’s been a LONG time coming. This parliament will see:
- a record 10 women in Albanese’s 23-member cabinet;
- Women now make up approximately 38% of MPs in the House of Reps and 57% in the Senate;
- There are more Parliamentarians from diverse cultural backgrounds than ever before, including Asian-Australians;
- There are now 10 MPs from First Nation backgrounds in the House of Representatives and Senate
- For the first time, we have a Minister for Foreign Affairs who was born overseas, AND who’s an openly gay women of colour, a female Minister for Indigenous Affairs, and not one but TWO Muslim Ministers. Amazing!
This is worth celebrating, especially given the countless hurdles candidates need to clear to get elected – plus, it creates better outcomes for everyone. Diverse representation in parliament welcomes a range of perspectives and ideas. This creates a deeper understanding of the issues that impact everyday Australians, and delivers well-targeted solutions. This representation within parliament ensures we’re well equipped to respond to new challenges with greater efficiency, innovation and productivity. Sounds good to me!
I saw some leaders changed?
That’s right! As the voters said “it’s not me, it’s you” to their Prime Minister, Scott Morrison took the hint and stood down, while the Nationals gave Barnaby the boot.
The Liberal Party is now led by former Home Affairs Minister, Peter Dutton, who, after numerous attempts, is our new Leader of the Opposition. His Deputy is former Minister for the Environment, Sussan Ley. David Littleproud triumphed over his opponents and assumed leader of the Nationals, with Senator Perin Davey as his Deputy.
What does this mean?
Well, if this election was one thing, it was a decision on the future of our climate – so we can expect to see more action on the climate (you can read more about Labor’s climate policies and what we can expect from the independents here). While Labor has a majority, Prime Minister Albanese has indicated he’s looking to work collaboratively with all members of parliament. Despite this, you can be sure that the independents and Greens will hold his Government to account! We’ve seen the appointment of a new Cabinet including a Minister for Climate Change, a Minister for Housing and an Assistant Minister for Prevention Family Violence, another strong indication of Labor’s priorities. You can find a full list of Ministries here.
And what comes next?
Our new Parliament will be sworn in over the coming weeks – and they’ve got a lot of work ahead of them. Our COVID recovery, the culture in Parliament, action on gender equality, the rising cost of living, it’s a doozy. But I think it’s safe to say that strong action on the climate and gender equality will be an early priority. This is why the first 100 days are always frantic as new staff are recruited and the new Government seeks to deliver on its election promises.
But don’t forget, these politicians? They work for you! Don’t hesitate to reach out to your local member, and let them know what you want to see during this next term. It’s never a bad day to drive the change you wish to see in the world. My 11-year-old self would thank you for it - and your 11 year old self might too.
This article originally appeared on Women's Agenda, and can be viewed here.