Australia is “big, hot, sparsely populated and far, far away”, says Thomas Hahn in the Süddeutsche Zeitung. But we need to pay attention to it. On two of the biggest issues facing the world right now – climate change and the rise of China – Australia is the West’s “canary in the coal mine”. Its sensitive ecosystem, which ranges from deserts to rainforests to coral reefs, was ravaged by devastating bushfires during the “black summer” of 2019 to 2020. Australia is also “plagued” by its conflicting relationship with China – the two countries are economic partners but are also fighting a war of influence in the South Pacific.
All of which is why we should celebrate the defeat of Scott Morrison’s centre-right government in last weekend’s election. Australia’s “uninhabited expanse” is ideal for generating wind and solar power, but Morrison stubbornly clung to the country’s dubious status “as the world’s largest coal exporter”. On China his record is better: in 2018, Australia became the first country to ban Chinese 5G technology from its mobile network; last year, Morrison set up the Aukus defence alliance with Britain and America. But his government’s erratic, arrogant approach to diplomacy also emboldened Beijing to set up security agreements with key Pacific nations like the Solomon Islands. The incoming Labor government should be far more “prudent” in tackling these two era-defining issues.
🇦🇺💚 Morrison’s downfall was helped by the success, in many of Australia’s affluent parliamentary seats, of the “Teal independents” – so-called because they blend the blue of fiscal conservatism with green politics. “If you want to know why Boris Johnson keeps plugging away at anti-carbon policies in the UK,” says Tim Stanley in The Daily Telegraph, it’s because otherwise something similar will happen, and “he’ll lose whatever tenuous grip remains on the liberal wing of Toryism”.