By Christopher J. Robbins
Greetings from sunny, warm soon to be summer, Oz! The mercury hit nearly 90 degrees F the other day and very muggy. Hope this article finds everyone enjoying a beautiful Michigan autumn. Like many Michiganders, Autumn is my favorite season and I miss it big time.
One of the fun things about living in another country is learning how the political system operates and differs from America’s. In the 3 years we’ve lived in Oz, I’ve learned a few things. For one, Aussies don’t hold popular elections for their leader like we have Presidential elections every 4 years. Aussies, much like the British, use the Westminster parliamentary system where they elect their district representatives (called MPs) and the winning political party then chooses the leader (Prime Minister) from the pool of MPs elected. Another interesting thing that can happen in the Westminster system is that the governing party can sack the prime minister within a given term and chose another MP to step forward as a new Prime Minister. This is exactly what happened recently. The sitting Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, was removed by his own party (Liberal Party) and Scott Morrison was selected by the party to be the new, and current, Prime Minister. Aussies call him ScoMo as they tend to shorten and abbreviate everyone and everything.
On the subject of Political parties a word or two about the Aussie parties. There are two principal parties, much like America, that generally govern. The Liberal Party is the equivalent to our Republican Party and the Labor Party is the equivalent of our Democrat Party. There are several other parties that play a role as well in Oz: the Green Party, the Nationals Party, One Nation and several other small parties. If one party does not have 50% of the total MPs for the country they most form a coalition with another party to govern. In the case of our current governing party it is a coalition between the Liberals and Nationals and it is barely a majority. The next scheduled elections will occur sometime next May but could happen sooner because the party in power can call for national elections to occur before then. Just reading the tea leaves, I suspect the Labor party will win the next election and the likely new Prime Minister will be a fella by the name of Bill Shorten. Remember that name, Bill Shorten.
Another fun thing about living in a foreign country is examining America through the lens of a foreign media and culture. Aussies keep a keen eye on American politics too and are fascinated by us. There is an interesting parallel here in Oz to political life back home in America and that is the rural/city divide. City dwellers, like where we live here in Sydney, generally are supportive of the Democrat party in the USA and, by and large, they detest Trump whereas the folks that live in rural Australia seem to like Trump. I am an unabashed Republican and a Trump supporter so I try to explain Trump’s appeal to many of my urban friends…much of the time my words fall on deaf ears.
Aussies are in somewhat of a pickle because America is their most important security partner but China is their most important trade partner. Trump’s tough trade talk with China makes everyone nervous in Oz because they do not want to upset their most important trading partner. China buys much of the mining exports from Australia: namely iron ore and coal which plays a critical role in funding the Aussie government. I suspect everything will work out ok in the end and cooler heads will prevail. One thing I’ve learned about the Chinese (I am married to one after all) is they are generally a peaceful people and would rather do business with you than go to war with you.
That’s all for now: Catch you around in a fortnight!
Aussie Travel Financial Factoids
Currency Exchange Rate: $1 US buys $1.37 AUD, Source Bloomberg
Roundtrip Airfare Detroit-Sydney : $1,215, Delta Airlines 1 stop in LA, Source Expedia