Trends and Tectonic Shifts In Australian Politics

I love the internet.

Without it I would not have found this fascinating article in the AFR by Gemma Daley who seems to hail from Armidale.

I love Social Media.

Without it I would not have had the skills to ask myself the correct questions whilst reading it.

I think this is the camera-shy Gemma Daley

Gemma is unknown to me as I am not a great reader of the Main Stream Media and she is not one of the TV Pundits who so distort our political views. So I have no context by which to judge her views.

I looked for clues and yes, Armidale is in the electorate of New England. The article is mostly about Tony Windsor, Federal Member for New England. So it would be easy to write this off as a “Puff Piece” promoting Windsor.

Maybe it is. Yet it raises some interesting points. So it is an important piece.

To see where we are heading,  where we have been?

For over a century we have had a Labor Party which has been the creature of the Unions. Over time it attracted many other groups, all on the Left, which included human, social and environmental activists. The total discipline within the Political ranks held this disparate hodge-podge together for many decades.

The Right has been represented by a number of Parties. Free-Traders and Protectionists gave way, after WW1 to the County Party and the United Australia Party. After WW2 the Liberal Party was formed from the United Australia Party and other non-Labor organisations, including the extensive Australian League of Women Voters. Initially a party which accommodated  free-thinkers the Liberals have become increasingly disciplined. Their coalition with the Country Party has become such a fixture that many young voters do not even recognise it for what it it. A living together arrangement between Big Business and the Country Socialists. In fact Australia has been governed by a minority Liberal Party in coalition with a minuscule Country/National Party for 42 of the 62 years since 1950.

Despite the apparent stability we are experiencing in Australian political organisations at the moment there are tectonic shifts occurring. Hidden by the comfortable names we grew up with.

The Liberal Party is Right, the Labor Party is Left and never the twain shall meet. Excepting they have! The long Liberal reign through the 50’s and 60’s began a move by the Labor Party towards the centre. Looking for the growing, socially-aware middle class vote. This move was accelerated as the Unions lost members and the middle-class became even more important. Hawke and Keating had to forget the Unions and pander to the new majority. This move pushed the Liberals to the Right and despite Howard’s apparent reaching out to his “Battlers”, these were not the same battlers the ALP had traditionally looked after.

Although the old-style battlers were fooled by the use of the name.

The Australian Right Wing now has more in common with the American Tea Party, the Taliban and the Ku Klux Klan than it has with the Party Menzies founded. The current Labor Party fills that slot very neatly and Pig Iron Bob would be comfortable as an ALP Prime Minister. The Greens have been left to take over the weakened Left Wing of Australian politics.

So much for history. Now for the future. Not so much the next election but the four or five after 2013.

Many Australians vote from habit. Yet there are strategic pockets of voters who may be looking for change.

The Country Party, now the Nationals, are increasingly being seen by many country people as too close to the Citified Liberal Party to truly represent the farming and pastoral electorates. Lyons and New England are only the tip of what could be a rural revolt. Forrest in WA also elected an Independent at the 2010 election. Local identities may be becoming much more electable in the country towns.

While stuck at around 10% of the overall vote, the Greens’ national distribution is splotchy. As is the 4% vote which goes to the National Party. In the big cities there is a growing number of socially aware, activist-minded voters. There are several ‘clumps’ of them. The Balmain seat in the NSW Parliament and the seat of Melbourne in the Federal Parliament are two where the demographics have changed and preferences have favoured the Greens. Fremantle in Western Australia is another State electorate which has swung away from its traditional Labor roots. 

Tasmania is so totally different from the rest of Australian politics that I am not going anywhere near it!

Are these the trends?

It seems that the vacuum in the Left Wing is being filled by the Greens and so their City vote will increase with time. In the rural areas, the Nationals could be losing credibility and more country Independents will be elected. On the one hand, Right-Wing rural electorates could become Independent while Left-Wing Urban electorates could go Green.

This will lead to more obviously “Hung” Parliaments. As opposed to the more traditional “hung” Parliaments we have become accustomed to under our “normal” Liberal leadership.

Which raises a related question. With the Liberals relying on the Nationals for an automatic coalition and the ALP beginning to rely on the Independents, including the Greens, for a majority, What is going to happen with the preferences?

The Nats will always “Put Labor last” but will both major parties “put the Greens last”? If they do, it could be that Labor, to avoid a Left Wing Coalition Government, will gift power to a Right Wing Coalition Government by cutting off their nose to spite their face ! An unlikely scenario although the ALP NSW Right are always likely to do the unexpectedly stupid thing!

However the electoral change happens, it spells the end of political leadership by bullies and autocrats. It takes a different skill-set to form a genuine coalition from a mixed group of parliamentarians.

Politicians will have to re-learn the art of politics.

One response to “Trends and Tectonic Shifts In Australian Politics

  1. KU Klux Klan .. and if all Parliamentarians were like Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott I’d give the power to the Cross-Benchers EVERY time!!! Then the L-NP (and don’t be fooled, it IS the L-NP entire and whole .. just not wholesome!) and Labor would be the minorities!!! Yeah, yeah, yeah!!! 🙂


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