Like so many Western nations Australia is locked into a fairly binary choice when it comes to politics. There are two main options, perhaps best described as ‘bad’ and ‘worse’ depending on your particular ideological slant. Now that’s a bit cynical, but right now Australia faces a choice between two leaders who, according to the polls, are incredibly unpopular.
There are a couple of things which are a little unusual about Australian politics. For one thing voting is compulsory. This was brought in many decades ago because voter apathy had created a situation where there was essentially only one viable party. If it were removed today there is little doubt a similar situation would exist. Much like in the UK there is a Labor party, but the main Conservative party is the Liberals. Mid twentieth century when they got their start, they may have been ‘liberal’ but not today. Well, we’ll get to that. The Liberals team up with the National party which dominates in country regions. Although they rule a vast geographic area, it is sparsely populated for the most part, meaning they are a minor force in their own right, but as part of the ‘Coalition’ with the Liberals, they have had plenty of time in power.
The current government is a Labor one under the Prime Ministership of Julia Gillard, Australia’s first female leader. Her government couldn’t rule in its own right and only hangs onto power via a coalition with the Greens and independents. In recent times this alliance has become strained to put it mildly. Some attribute Gillard’s post election about face on the carbon tax to the influence of the Greens, whilst the Greens themselves are unhappy with her failure to support gay marriage and shut down certain coal fired power stations, to name just two issues. The Coalition was predicted to win the next election by a landslide as state Labor governments were swept aside, but under the leadership of the not terribly well liked Tony Abbott, it could well be an even race.
Abbott is a Catholic and a classic conservative, but what probably worries many voters is his former incarnation as a party ‘head kicker’ – he was the ‘go to’ man for all the unpleasant stuff that politics thrives on. He was also pivotal in the demise of One Nation leader Pauline Hanson’s political career. Hanson demonstrated that a large chunk of the Australian electorate were unhappy with the two major parties, and people supported her for a wide range of reasons from trade protectionism to cultural issues and myriad other perspectives. Some understood that democracy needs to be supported above ideology, and what happened to Hanson is bad for the former no matter what anyone may think of the latter.
Labor went into the last election on the back of the deeply unpopular Kevin Rudd being replaced by Julia Gillard within the party. The way she came to power made the electorate suspicious. Eventually Labor returned to power after negotiating with the Greens and independents, but it was always going to be extremely tenuous. Gillard went into the election promising to turn away from the record immigration rates contributing to what is being called a ‘Big Australia’ scenario, and not introduce a carbon tax. She’s reneged on both promises, the latter due to the influence of the Greens primarily.
When Labor ousted the longstanding Coalition government of John Howard in 2007, they inherited a $90 billion surplus. That is now gone and the nation is said to be borrowing as much as $100 million a day. Where the money has gone is not entirely clear, although Rudd’s ‘stimulus spending’ during the GFC accounts for some. Large chunks of prime agricultural land are also being sold off, most notably to China, which is starting to cause concern in some quarters. Added to this is the asylum seeker debacle. After a great many fatalities as unseaworthy boats tried to make the perilous crossing to Australia from Indonesia, Gillard has gone back to the idea of offshore processing – a policy that was widely criticized under the Howard administration, but none the less radically lowered the number of arrivals. It’s probably fair to say that her government has been perceived as lacking policy initiative on this issue.
So the current state of play is we have a government that has reneged on key election promises and plucked policy from a past government. They hang on by a thread, but the alternative is also regarded with deep suspicion by the electorate. Both major parties are notorious for changing policies depending on who is leading and there are plenty in the Liberal party who would present a very different platform if they were leader. A leadership change before the next election seems to be the only way the Coalition will deliver the landslide that was expected just a few months ago.
Glimmer of hope
If there is any hope for Australian politics some attention must be given to a range of minor parties that are starting to become more widely known. For a long while the Democrats ‘kept the bastards honest’ by holding the balance of power in the Senate. A centrist party they played a pivotal role in getting environmental issues on the agenda amongst other things. Divisive leadership issues and a key defection to Labor smashed their voter base, but there are signs they are rebuilding and this next election could provide some opportunities for them. One Nation continues to chug along, although with very little support compared to when Hanson was at the helm. Concerns about record population growth led to the more recent creation of the Stable Population Party of Australia. Fronted by the eminently reasonable William Burke, SPPA is attracting considerable support both at a grassroots level and from a range of high profile figures most notably businessman Dick Smith. The SPPA presents a well argued and considered approach to policy affecting Australia’s future, and like the Democrats they may benefit from the general lack of support the two majors are experiencing.
The Sex Party owes its formation to issues relating to the adult entertainment industry and pursues a libertarian stance. The party has a wide range of policies now and proved to be the powerbroker in a recent inner city battle between Labor and the Greens. The Australian Protectionist Party embodies ‘protectionist’ policies aimed to safeguarding Australian industry, sovereignty and cultural identity. They are probably the closest thing to a nationalist party operating at the moment, aside from One Nation. Their following at this stage isn’t huge but ethnic tensions in Sydney where they originate may well help their cause.
A wildcard in the next election is the Labor and Greens relationship. To say it has soured is an understatement, and if the recent state by election in Victoria is anything to go by, they may well tackle each other head on, which can only benefit the Coalition. Overall Greens support seems to be declining and part of this may be because they are championing non environmental issues, some of which are proving divisive to their core supporter base. A battle with Labor could be extremely damaging.
Right now the polls suggest a Coalition win, albeit with an unpopular leader. Doubtlessly a Coalition government will stick with offshore processing of asylum seekers, which has acted as a big deterrent in the past. Immigration may go down slightly, but it’s hard to see either party backing away from the high levels because the development lobby is so strong. The Coalition tends to be sound financial managers, but usually achieve their surpluses via unpopular cuts. In essence Australia is faced by two generally centrist options, neither of which seems able to back away from a raft of policies beholden to globalist interests. There are some great politicians in the major parties, but the present state of affairs is best described as a duopoly. Life in Australia is still too comfortable to awaken any real political activism in the populace.
But if we continue to literally sell off the farm and population soars, one day there may not be affordable food in the supermarket, and then perhaps Australians will take a greater interest in politics.
This article was originally published on the website of Civil Liberty, an organization in the UK dedicated to fighting the tyranny of political correctness.