Labor’s first year, the housing crisis and the fall of the final Liberal domino

In this episode: we look at the first year of the federal Labor government; what can be done about the many housing issues across Australia?; the latest opinion polls; and the last Liberal government in the village is in a lot of trouble.

The Labor government has been in office for a year and there are suggestions that it’s the best first year of government since Bob Hawke’s first year between 1983–84. When Labor won the election in May 2022, they promised eight key priorities for government, which they’ve made substantial work in – except for climate change policy – but being in government isn’t just all about achieving the promises – there’s unexpected issues that have to be dealt with – inflation issues, cost of living pressures, energy prices – and these have caused political problems for the government. There’s still far to go with many of these issues, especially on climate change policy and economic reform but it’s been a year that the Labor government would be quite satisfied with.

Housing is becoming a big issue in federal politics and the issue is right across the board – cost of housing, mortgages, rents at a time of the tightest rental market in history. Many people are homeless, and there’s not enough social housing. There have been calls for the federal government to do a lot more than what they’re doing at the moment – although most of the government’s around Australia are Labor at the moment, each state and territory government has its own housing policies, with different political pressures and vested interests in each of those states and territories. There are many solutions available but defining the problem is the key issue – housing has been at the whim of governments doing whatever they need to do to get a political advantage out of it and there needs to be an overarching direction coming in from the federal government.

There were three opinion polls during the week, all showing strong support for both the Prime Minister and the Labor government. While there was polling suggesting disappointment with the budget for not doing as much as it could have, the Labor government has increased its support in opinion polls. But politics can change very quickly: the Rudd government was in a very similar position a year into its term – 55–45% in two-party preferred voting – and at the time, the opposition was in a complete mess under the leadership of Brendan Nelson and then Malcolm Turnbull. But 18 months later, Rudd was gone as prime minister and the Liberal Party almost won the 2010 federal election under Tony Abbott. It’s good times for the Labor government at the moment but those good times won’t last forever.

There’s always unexpected problems for any government and the last Liberal government in Australia has lost its majority and it’s now governing in minority, due to two Liberal MPs resigning in protest over a AFL stadium deal in Hobart, due to cost $715 million – at a time when Tasmania is facing extreme housing shortages and homelessness. The Tasmanian Liberal government seemed to be in a relatively secure place. In the 2021 Tasmania election – the only election won by the Liberal Party since 2019 – they received 49% of the vote, to 28% for the Labor Party and 20% to the Tasmania Greens. But they only had a bare majority of one seat – 13 of the 25 seats – and with the loss of those two Liberal MPs, they’re in minority now. It’s not looking very good for the last Liberal government in Australia. The big lesson for the federal government and the Prime Minister is that a secure government can become very insecure, very quickly and is always just one or two bad decisions from a self-made disaster.

Music interludes:

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