Opinion

Rachel Smalley: What can Ardern and Luxon learn from ScoMo's election loss

OPINION

Scott Morrison and his centre-right Government have paid the price for leading with their mouths and not their ears.

Morrison was crushed in Western Australia – no one could believe the seats that fell to Labour in what is normally a truly conservative state. But they did fall. And the blame lies firmly at Morrison's feet.

WA is an interesting example. The state's premier, Mark Macgowan who is a Labor man, pursued a hard border approach during the pandemic. His focus was 'zero COVID' too. He shut Western Australia down to all the Eastern states where COVID was rampant, and he kept it shut. 

Macgowan, at one point, had a 90 percent approval rate. The people he governed loved him. 

But Morrison was furious. He said Western Australians were living like 'cave people'.....and Western Australians never forgot that. 

Also, Morrison's crippling inaction on climate change was, for some, unforgivable. In essence, he said it would solve itself. He said people didn't want the government's punishing them for climate change, and the likes of entrepreneurs, private enterprise and engineers would solve the issue in time.

Meanwhile, the great barrier reef has suffered three mass coral bleaching events in the last five years...it's just one example of the impact of climate change in Australia, and people's livelihoods are threatened by the government's inaction on this. 

Also, Morrison made promises he didn't keep and that was the final nail in his coffin. In a leader, and increasingly in politics, you want accountability, integrity, honesty and transparency.

Morrison lost large chunks of his vote to the so-called teals. The blue-green independents, all women, who sit on the political right and are frustrated by nine years of inaction on climate change, and Morrison's failure to fulfil his promise to create a federal integrity commission.

This was borne out of allegations of corruption and shonky, borderline criminal behaviour by some MP's including allegations of corruption, nepotism, rape, sexism and misogyny within Australian politics. in the last election, Morrison committed to making that commission happen. It never did. 

So -- enter the teals. These women stood as independents. Seven centre-right women, who were backed by a clean energy billionaire. They are not a political party. They stand alone as independents but they agree on three key principles. 

They believe in climate change, and science-backed action to counter it. 

They believe in political accountability and they want to see a federal integrity commission. 

And they believe in gender equality. 

Three issues and they campaigned on all three. 

And what happened? Those women butchered Morrison's vote. They will now help to shape the future of the liberal party while it is in opposition. Clearly, those women took the approach that if you want a job done, roll up your sleeves and crack on with it yourself. 

Now, it's been interesting watching from this side of the Tasman -- and both Ardern and Luxon will be watching on too. What tends to happen in Australia, flows across here as well.  

Luxon should be taking notice of the 'teals' -- they are right of centre and they are blue-greens. And, anecdotally in this country, I think it's an electorate that is growing and is looking for a voice here too. Right now, that electorate doesn't have an outlet. National is nowhere near strong enough in this space - climate change, gender equality and political integrity. 

And Ardern should be on guard too. It's not just the Australians who are frustrated by a lack of action. By a lack of integrity in politics. And a failure to address issues of inequality - be it gender, social, health or housing inequality. There's been a lot of hui from this government, and not a lot of doe-y. We get the ideology, Prime Minister. But we ain't seen the action. 

Morrison lost his way because he used his mouth more than his ears. Ardern's government stands accused of the same. And when you don't listen to the public, when you dictate, and when you make decisions in political isolation, people rise up. 

Politicians, at times, forget they work for us - they are public servants. And the Australians have just shown us what happens when your political strategy has centred around engaging your mouth, and not your ears. 

Yes, you need to lead from the front. But don't forget to take your country with you.