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  • Writer's pictureRowan Hirst

Things are taking a right turn down under...

AP Photo/Brett Phibbs, Reuters/David Rowland

A busy Saturday in Oceania as two landmark votes were held in New Zealand and Australia.

On the 14th of October, New Zealand held its 2023 General Election. The centre-right National Party, led by Christopher Luxon, is on track to form the 54th parliament government in coalition with the ACT party. Special votes and additional seats generated by the electoral system could influence the outcome, possibly requiring a larger coalition with New Zealand First.

Another landmark vote was held on Saturday in Australia, where the Indigenous Voice referendum, seeking to recognise Aboriginal people in the constitution and establish an advisory body, was rejected across all states. While some, including Australia’s Prime Minister, were greatly disappointed, the referendum was steeped in controversy from the onset. Some marked it as lacking substance and perpetuating victimhood. The opposition's slogan, "if you don't know, vote no," captured the uncertainty surrounding the issue.

New Zealand

New Zealand held its 2023 General Election on Saturday the 14th of October. Although the final vote is due on November 3rd, the centre-right National Party, led by Christopher Luxon, will lead New Zealand’s 54th parliament, taking over the current Labour government. National Party has won 50 seats so far and will have to form a coalition with ACT, a free-market party that secured 11 seats, to form a majority.

However, there are special votes to consider, submitted by citizens voting outside of their electorate or those who enrolled after the initial print of the electoral roll. This often results in additional left-wing votes. If this is enough to disrupt a right-wing majority, the National Party may also have to join arms with the populist party New Zealand First to have a majority coalition.

Due to the electoral system New Zealand has used since 1996, the mixed-member proportional (MMP), their parliament can produce ‘overhang seats’. This year, the success of Te Pāti Māori has produced an extra seat, raising the number of parliamentary seats from 120 to 121. A by-election to be held on November 25th is likely to add one more, although this is predicted to be a National Party seat. Results from the special votes could add even more, increasing the need for a larger coalition.

What is clear is that New Zealand’s government will be right-wing, with the Labour Party losing a whopping 31 seats whilst all others gain, including an addition of 17 for the National Party. This is a significant shift from the reigns of the Labour Party, which won a landslide second term in 2020, and has been the only party to govern alone since the introduction of MMP.


Robert Wallace/AFP

A significant vote was also held in Australia on Saturday, where the Indigenous Voice referendum, a vote on whether Australia’s Aboriginal population was to be recognised in the constitution, was rejected across all six states. This was called by Labor Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, a symbolic decision considering a plea for the referendum, by 250 First Nation representatives, was rejected by the conservative government in 2017.

Australia’s 800,000+ indigenous people, formally recognised as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, comprise 3.8% of the population. Also referred to as Australia’s First Nation, among other names, they have suffered marginalisation in Australia since British Colonisation began in 1778 and have continued to suffer poorer socio-economic conditions compared to the non-indigenous population.

The referendum required a double majority, needing a majority of the national vote and of at least four states. If passed, it would have established an advisory body to guide parliament on indigenous issues. In response to the result, Albanese proclaimed: “This moment of disagreement does not define us. And it will not divide us”.

One must be careful to label this as a right-wing outcome, however. What may seem to be a progressive step received a backlash of controversy from both indigenous and non-indigenous citizens, as well as right and left-wing voters. Some critique the Voice as a perpetuation of victimhood and merely symbolism, or as a plan which lacked meaningful substance. Many have called for a better alternative to be proposed. Amongst uncertainty across the political fray, it can be argued the opposition party’s slogan “If you don’t know, vote no” was particularly poignant.

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Oct 24, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Can’t believe the Aussies won’t give aboriginals fair votes </3. 10/10 writing tho Rowan !!

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