Australia’s stake in the US Election

Australian, American and New Zealand flags blow in the wind.
Australia-United States relations have been tested in recent times. Photo: Shane CC BY- NC-ND 2.0.

On Wednesday November 4, Australia will be watching as the presidential election between Republican candidate Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Joe Biden takes place.

This is considered by many political commentators to be one of the most important elections of our time, set to shape the future of global politics.

University of Western Australia political scientist Benjamin Reilly said while it was unlikely to happen, a Trump victory would keep Australia-US relations largely the same.

Professor Benjamin Reilly. Photo: UWA.

“Australia tries very hard to keep the Trump administration onside, sucks up to them at a diplomatic level even while, in reality, I suspect they would much prefer a Biden administration,” Professor Reilly said.

Key issues that have dominated the election agenda include the COVID-19 pandemic, the state of the economy, climate change and relations with China.

China is also of particular importance to Australia, with relations strained between the two nations following a tense 2020.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s support for a suggested inquiry into the origins of COVID-19 in April was followed by claims by China that Australia was overcharging for barley and the imposition of a tariff on sales of the grain.

Curtin University senior lecturer in international relations Ben Rich said the election of Joe Biden would “probably embolden Australia in its growing bullishness towards the challenges posed by China.

“Morrison has already shown a willingness to throw down with China in a manner that far exceeds his predecessor.”

Opinion poll analysis website FiveThirtyEight currently predicts Biden will win the election, giving him a 89 per cent chance of doing so.

Infographic showing Joe Biden having an 89 per cent chance of winning the US election.
Trump would need a bigger polling error then we saw in 2016 to pull off a win. Photo: FiveThirtyEight.

The prospect of four more years of Trump, or four years a Biden Administration has captured the attention of the Australian public.

Interest in US politics in Australia has soared in recent years, with election coverage broadcast on major TV channels such as ABC, SBS, Seven, Nine and Ten.

As a former reality television star on The Apprentice, Donald Trump has brought a certain entertainment factor to US politics that’s hard to ignore.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, about 87,000 Americans live in the country. While the US Consulate General in Perth stated that Western Australia has about 15,000 US citizens at any given time.

Edith Cowan University lecturer Kay Hearn said a more cooperative United States under Biden would likely aid Australia-US relations.

“There will be a return to the Paris Agreement and restoring funding to the World Health Organisation,” she said.

“Biden has indicated that he wants to repair the damage done to the reputation of the USA internationally.”

However, both Dr Hearn and Professor Reilly identified climate change as a potential sticking point between a Biden Administration and Morrison government.

Professor Reilly said: “It’s a possible agenda for Biden that he’s flagged to get much more serious on climate change, to maybe even do a deal with China.

“While that would be very good for the planet, Australia has really been a retrograde in this respect, so that would be a bit of difficulty for the current government.”

While Dr Hearn said Biden’s zero emissions by 2050 policy “will hopefully force more government action in this area and bring an end to the ‘Climate Wars’.

“If Biden holds true to this, then Australia will be seen as a pariah on this issue.”