The Straits Times says

What the 'quiet Australians' really want

The country that holds the record for the world's longest uninterrupted economic growth - 28 years - has had less luck with stable governments in recent years. But things might change for Australia with Mr Scott Morrison's second inning as Prime Minister. His unexpected win and the clinching of an outright majority, likely 78 seats in the 151-member Parliament for his conservative Liberal-National coalition, have raised hopes that he will prove to be the first prime minister since 2007 to last a full three-year term. Opinion polls over the last two years and exit polls after the May 19 election favoured the centre-left Labor party.

But the majority of voters backed the first prime minister to campaign in a baseball hat, who banked on a shrewd self-portrayal as the Everyman Australian. His promise to secure faltering economic growth through tax cuts and to prioritise creating jobs over taking drastic measures to tackle climate change won the day. Rival Bill Shorten's campaign centrepiece - stringent policies to sharply reduce greenhouse gas emissions - delivered votes mostly in the progressive-leaning cities although the Lowy Institute Poll pointed to greater support for climate change action in Australia this year than in any previous survey since 2006. More than the stark images of bleached coral reefs, punishing droughts, heat waves and brush fires, what scared voters was Mr Morrison's argument that the 45 per cent cut in carbon emissions proposed by Labor would cost the economy US$181 billion (S$250 billion) and 167,000 jobs. It is inconceivable, however, that Mr Morrison will be able to govern without responding to the perils of climate change. What is a looming threat to the economy and quality of life, and is a genuine concern for far too many voters, cannot be relegated to the back-burner by the new government.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 22, 2019, with the headline 'What the 'quiet Australians' really want'. Print Edition | Subscribe