Australia’s Decision Day

Australia’s Decision Day

Voters in Australia head to the polls tomorrow to elect a new government. Though few outsiders closely follow politics in this country, this election tells interesting stories about three of the most important issues in today's world: Immigration, climate change, and managing changing relations with China. It's also a country with a steady economy—but lots of political turnover.

Consider:


  • Australian prime ministers enter politics through a revolving door. The country has had six changes of prime minister in the past 12 years, mainly as a result of infighting within both major political parties.
  • But that's not because of an economy in the dumps. In fact, Australia hasn't suffered a recession in nearly three decades. Analysts cite openness to immigration and trade, and intelligent government as the secret formula to Australia's economic success.
  • Australians have to vote or face a fine. Compulsory voting will bring an expected 97 percent of eligible voters – more than 16 million people – to cast a ballot. Nearly 3 million have already voted in early balloting.
  • Australia is a nation of immigrants. In fact, more than a quarter of Australians were born abroad, double the rate in the United States.
  • Migration has become a hot political topic. More than half of Australians said in 2018 that immigration rates are too high, and Prime Minister Scott Morrison, a former immigration minister, is running for re-election on a pledge to cap immigration.
  • Relations with China also loom large. Ethnic Chinese make up 1.25 million of the country's 25 million people, and many of them live in competitive districts that are particularly important for the election outcome. China is Australia's number one trade partner, but controversies over alleged Chinese spying and an Australian decision to ban Chinese firm Huawei from its 5G communications network have angered some in the Chinese community.
  • The weather is heating up too. Following a steady rise in temperatures and a year of drought, floods, wildfires and cyclones, nearly 60 percent of Australians say "Global warming is a serious and pressing problem. We should begin taking steps now even if this involved significant costs." Opposition leader Bill Shorten has made climate change a major part of his campaign.

The bottom line: The center-right Liberal-National Coalition or center-left Australian Labor Party: Whoever wins will face tough questions on the future of immigration, climate policy, and all-important relations with China.

This time last year, world health experts were speculating about why Africa appeared to have escaped the worst of the global pandemic. Younger populations? Natural immunity created by exposure to past viruses? Something else?

They can stop wondering. Africa is now in the grip of a COVID emergency.

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Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi barred two Republican members from serving on the Jan. 6 commission. What's going on?

Well, the Jan. 6 commission was designed to be a bipartisan commission, taking input from members from Democrats and Republicans. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had the opportunity to make recommendations but the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, could always veto those recommendations. In this case, she did, saying no to two members, Jim Banks and Jim Jordan, both of whom are strongly aligned with President Trump and who voted against certifying the election results in 2020. The Republicans for the most part see the Jan. 6 commission as an opportunity to score political points against them, and the Democrats say this is going to be a fair, non-biased, and nonpartisan investigation into what happened on Jan. 6, starting with a hearing next week with some of the police officers who were involved in the battle with the protesters inside the Capitol.

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In his New York Times op-ed, David Brooks says the US is facing an identity crisis — protecting liberal and progressive values at home while doing little to stop autocrats elsewhere. But has the US really abandoned its values abroad just because it's withdrawing from Afghanistan? Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analyst Charles Dunst take out the Red Pen to argue that the US can advance democracy without being the world's sheriff.

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When the Tokyo Olympics begin on Friday, Japan watchers will be following more than just the performance of Japan's star athletes, including tennis star Naomi Osaka. They will also be tracking the political fortunes of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is taking a big gamble by staging the event — amid a raging pandemic — in the face of strong and longstanding opposition from the Japanese public. What are the stakes for Suga, particularly with elections on the horizon? Eurasia Group senior analyst Ali Wyne explains.

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YouTube pulls Bolsonaro's rants: Google-owned YouTube pulled down a series of videos on the channel of Brazil's populist President Jair Bolsonaro, accusing him of spreading misinformation about the pandemic. YouTube removed more than a dozen clips for touting quack cures for coronavirus or claiming, in defiance of scientific experts, that masks don't reduce COVID transmissions. Last year, Twitter and Facebook also removed some content from Bolsonaro's feeds for similar reasons. But critics say that YouTube's move is too little too late, because Bolsonaro has been spreading misinformation about COVID since the pandemic began. Many Brazilians hold him personally responsible for the country's abysmal pandemic response, which has led to almost 550,000 deaths, the second worst toll in the world. Will YouTube's move change Bolsonaro's message? His weekly address to the nation, where he converses not only with government ministers but also various conspiracy theorists and loons, is broadcast on YouTube. Surely he doesn't want to risk losing that — or does he?

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Boycotts! Bans! Protests! Drugs! Think you've got gold medal knowledge about politics at the Olympics? Test what you know with this special Tokyo Olympics Quiz. And to stay current on all the latest political stories at the Games and around the world, subscribe here to Signal, our daily newsletter. Now, without further ado, the first question is...

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28: The UK and the EU have again failed to agree on post-Brexit trade rules for Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom. In a 28-page document, the British government had suggested further changes to trade rules that were already negotiated as part of the Brexit settlement, but Brussels was not having any of it.

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