Politics with Michelle Grattan

Historian Frank Bongiorno reflects on elections present and past

May 19, 2022

Every election is unique, but each also presents comparisons and contrasts with elections past.

In this podcast, Australian National University history professor Frank Bongiorno gives his insights into the current battle but also takes the long views of campaigns.

Bongiorno talks about the role of leaders in what’s often dubbed the “presidential” election age (“a kind of proxy for judgements about policy”) and how Scott Morrison and Anthony Albanese are presenting themselves.

The debate on wages and inflation has overtones of the arguments in the 1970s and 1980s, but “sort of minus the policy”.

This was supposed to be a “khaki” election, but the khaki has faded during the campaign, perhaps unsurprisingly. Most often, Australians are solidly focused on domestic issues when they vote.

The “teals” have been a special feature of this campaign. But are they a new version of other breakaways, like the Australian Democrats of old?

The rise of voter disillusionment is a feature of recent elections, as is the detachment of voters from the major parties. Not so long ago, about seven in ten voters voted at each election the same way as they had voted throughout their lives, Bongiorno says, based on the ANU’s Australian Election Study. But now it is just under four in ten. “That means there’s a growing number of voters whose support is biddable, and the independents and minor parties are benefiting from that kind of loosening of the hold of the major parties over the voters.”

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