Australian state Queensland had an election yesterday, and the result went from a Labor government to a virtual elimination of Labor in the state parliament. This follows, and exceeds, similar defeats in New South Wales last year, and Victoria the year before. Each year, the defeats increase. Victoria went from a 13 seat majority for Labor to a 13 seat majority for the conservative coalition on a nearly 6% swing. New South Wales was, at the time, the biggest swing in Australian history, with the coalition gaining 69 seats in a landslide on a 16.48% swing, with Labor reduced from 52 to 20 seats. Last night, Queensland had seen around a 14.5% swing, and Labor is reduced from 51 to 7 seats.
The usual wisdom here is that Labor is tired, or that it has sold off public assets, or broken promises, but I think the real problem is that lately Labor in Australia has played politics for the sole purpose of holding power and giving cronies plum positions. The party is closely tied to the union movement, and most politicians in the party rose through the ranks of union representatives or functionaries. In the past when cronyism has been seen openly in politics, Australians will vote against it, as Queensland showed in the 1980s.
The trouble is that the opposite side, the conservatives, are no better, so the choice seems to be between those whose cronies are big unions, or those whose cronies are big business. The problem Australia faces is that this has been normalised, largely through the influence of the Murdoch media, so that a common refrain by pundits is that a vote for parties like the Greens are considered a “wasted vote”, which is literally false given Australia’s system of preferential voting.
There are alternatives on the political scene: the Greens are one, although I would say that there is not one but two Green parties, one that is largely progressive in its social policy, and one that seeks to paternalistically control social morés and is driven by an antipathy to any science that happens to contradict their favoured dogmas. There is the unfortunately named “Sex Party” that promotes a properly liberal, in the sense of John Stuart Mill, social agenda. I suggested to the leader that their slogan should be “governance for grownups”. Unfortunately, although it is the fourth most voted party federally, legal restrictions in New South Wales mean they cannot register as a political party there, and so they do not show up on the political reporting radar (and so they are not mentioned).
So long as the media insist Australia is a two party state, there will be strong pressure for each party to converge in behaviour and policies, and the only choice is whether one supports a corrupt labor movement or a corrupt capitalist class. Democracy is effectively stage managed and so merely the acting of free choice on a stage decorated by those with power already.
Issues like gay marriage and personal freedom from police action where no crime has been shown, and so forth are regarded as side issues by this economically obsessed media and political class. But such issues are what makes democracy worthwhile. Any society can run an oligarchy; the issue is whether social attitudes drive or are driven by oligarchs.
I urge my Australian readers to vote Anything But The Two Parties in all subsequent elections. Use your preferences to decide which of the two Oligarchy Parties is least offensive, but if enough Australians vote for a truly progressive candidate or party, things will change, and change rapidly, a rather than waiting another two generations for the current Gilded Age to subside.