Why labor rules from coast to coast

Good news everyone! Refreshed by a spell on the bench I have decided to line up with the Troppo team, or at least alongside the team. The major mission is to keep people up to date with developments in classical liberalism, critical rationalism and Austrian social studies. Just so you can’t say you were never told.

To get the ball rolling I will recycle Why Labor Rules which appeared on the ABC unleashed site (now edited a bit for my own site). The suggestion is that the Liberals shot themselves in the foot when they introduced conscription during the Vietnam war. The result was to precipitate a flight of the educated middle class activists into the arms of the ALP or further to the left, with a massive delayed reaction in terms of the distribution of organisational and propaganda talent between the two major parties.

The piece was written before the NT election which almost falsified the thesis that Labor rules from coast to coast. It remains to be seen what happens in the west. Whatever happens I think the argument is sound because the Liberals have been a bit like a rugby team that can’t win a scrum, a ruck or a maul, so they only get possession when the other side drops the ball. Not entirely fair, but sometimes it looks like that.

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Pedro
Pedro
13 years ago

Rafe for your thesis to hold I suppose you have to analyse other western countries and see if they have more of a balance between left and right. My gut feeling is that perhaps on the US has the closer balance, and then excluding the media.

Stephen Hill
Stephen Hill
13 years ago

Looks like Labor could lose in WA they have suffered a substantial swing and could only survive with the support of independents or the Nats. It could even be an unstable time in WA with government possibly changing hands on the floor of parliament.

Nicholas Gruen
Admin
Nicholas Gruen(@nicholas-gruen)
13 years ago

Yes, It’s an interesting story, but I’m afraid I don’t credit it with much explanatory value. Vietnam didn’t do John Howard or Nick Greiner or Jeff Kennett any harm. They ended up doing themselves in in their various ways.

cam
cam
13 years ago

Tough argument. Wasnt that long ago (1988) that the Liberals had five states/territories to Labor’s 2.

Incumbents have a large advantage in Westminster since they control the executive and legislative. They tend to be drover’s dog elections at federal and state levels. If Beazley had of held the leadership for a little longer Australia would have had another ‘lazarus on a triple bypass’ prime minister.

I also think the adoption of economic liberalism/rationalism as the dominant economic policy meant there is smaller differentiation between the parties allowing for greater presidential politics to define parties in terms of leaders.

Tel
Tel
13 years ago

The Liberal Party of Australia shot themselves in the foot when they turned and betrayed their own core values, rejected liberalism and became a social conservative party. Quoting from the official Liberal party beliefs:

We believe in the inalienable rights and freedoms of all peoples; and we work towards a lean government that minimises interference in our daily lives; and maximises individual and private sector initiative.

John Howard introduced the anti-terrorism rules allowing individuals to be arrested and imprisoned for several weeks with no contact with the outside world, no legal representation and no actual charges. This makes a mockery of any “inalienable rights and freedoms”. The government grew (especially the office of the Prime Minister) and their interference in our daily lives increased. Howard also supported the various US prison camps around the world where people were held for years without trial and tortured.

We believe in government that nurtures and encourages its citizens through incentive, rather than putting limits on people through the punishing disincentives of burdensome taxes and the stifling structures of Labor’s corporate state and bureaucratic red tape.

I believe that the total federal government tax income actually increased under the Howard government. I’d have to search for exact figures. Yes, personal income tax decreased (a little bit) but indirect taxes more than covered the difference.

We believe in those most basic freedoms of parliamentary democracy – the freedom of thought, worship, speech and association.

Unless you happen to be an Indian doctor and follower of Mohamed, in which case you can get out and stay out. Oh yeah, don’t try and exercise your democratic right to protest either. Ummm, and don’t go on strike because we can now hit you with huge fines… have fun with whatever freedom you still have left.

We believe in a just and humane society in which the importance of the family and the role of law and justice is maintained.

The humanity and justice of cranking up mortgage interest rates so the families struggling to keep their home can pay the price for earlier years of excess indulgence. Seems to me that justice would be when the banks who offered generous loans at low rates would also be the ones to be penalised when it turned out they made some bad decisions. No worries, the mortgage belt can pick up the tab.

We believe in equal opportunity for all Australians; and the encouragement and facilitation of wealth so that all may enjoy the highest possible standards of living, health, education and social justice.

Education… always room for a few funding cuts in education.

We believe that, wherever possible, government should not compete with an efficient private sector; and that businesses and individuals – not government – are the true creators of wealth and employment.

They did mostly stick to this principle. However the current front page of the Liberal website http://www.liberal.org.au/ seems to be a demand for Rudd to introduce price controls. I guess now they are in opposition, the Libs don’t need to worry about offering any viable solutions.

We believe in preserving Australia’s natural beauty and the environment for future generations.

Investing federal money into oil wars instead of renewables. Sneering at the Kyoto agreement.

We believe that our nation has a constructive role to play in maintaining world peace and democracy through alliance with other free nations.

War in Iraq… nuff said really.

JC
JC
13 years ago

Tel says:

The Liberal Party of Australia shot themselves in the foot when they turned and betrayed their own core values, rejected liberalism and became a social conservative party.

Tel, mind explaining when the Libs were a (l)iberal party? I have a hard time remembering that one.

Norbert von Bumpenheiser
Norbert von Bumpenheiser
13 years ago

Rafe

the sort of post that shows why you should stick to Catallaxy, presuming they’d have you. It’s got bugger all to do with conscription in the 60s, except as one part of a large trend – that educated people tend to be socially-liberal minded, and believe that a mixed system in which government, society and market interact is the best. They only support the libs when the libs don’t mess with that too much.has In the UK David Cameron has realised that the Tories would only ever regain power by becoming a social liberal party of sorts. Hopefully the Oz libs can wander in nostalgia and confusion for another 5 years or so yet. Lets face it, if they can’t win back NT and WA, they’re pretty screwed.
Your conscription theory suggests you’re as willing to lather in fantasy as the rest of the right

Nabakov
Nabakov
13 years ago

Geez, you can always tell the people who missed out on all the fun in the 60s, they’re the ones still obsessed by that decade – an era by the way closer to the Great Depression than today.

And wot Norbet said. These days people tend to prefer centrist social democratic parties at the State level because they trust them more on service delivery and balancing economy against community, only chucking ’em out when they get moribund and there’s a viable opposition.

“mind explaining when the Libs were a (l)iberal party? I have a hard time remembering that one.”

Me too. Kennett was about the closest they got in recent years.

Michael Kalecki
Michael Kalecki
13 years ago

The main reason why the ALP rules at State level was John Howard.
The main reason why the Liberals will so is Kevin Rudd.

Tel
Tel
13 years ago

Tel, mind explaining when the Libs were a (l)iberal party? I have a hard time remembering that one.

Who knows? maybe never, I’m not old enough to know the whole history. I can read their website and the values people profess to believe, should be the value that they reveal by their actions. Someone older than me, who has spent more time involved with the Liberal Party is Malcolm Fraser, and I’ll quote from this article: http://www.smh.com.au/news/national/why-i-thought-of-quitting-libs/2005/11/30/1133026474721.html

Delivering the chancellor’s human rights lecture at the University of Melbourne, Mr Fraser said he found his party “unrecognisable as liberal” and alien to the principles of its founder, Robert Menzies. On the night the Government’s anti-terrorist laws passed the House of Representatives, Mr Fraser singled them out, saying the legislation was wrong because “it makes the fundamental assumption that liberty cannot defend itself”.

There’s room for argument whether Malcolm has shifted towards a belief in liberty, or whether his party has shifted towards a belief in authoritarianism, and I’m not qualified to make that distinction.
However it came to pass, their currently listed “official values” are complete hypocrisy. If they can’t maintain a consistent belief system, then how does anyone know what they are voting for?

Tel
Tel
13 years ago

For what it’s worth (probably not much), the Liberal Party do publicise a history of their own foundation and they do actually see themselves as a liberal and progressive party.

http://www.liberal.org.au/about/ourhistory.php

Eighty men and women from 18 non-Labor political parties and organisations attended the first Canberra conference.

They shared a common belief that Australians should have greater personal freedom and choice than that offered under Labors post-war socialist plans.

Robert Menzies believed the time was right for a new political force in Australia – one which fought for the freedom of the individual and produced enlightened liberal policies.

In his opening address at that meeting, he said :

“…what we must look for, and it is a matter of desperate importance to our society, is a true revival of liberal thought which will work for social justice and security, for national power and national progress, and for the full development of the individual citizen, though not through the dull and deadening process of socialism.”

So there is no doubt about what they are declaring. Quite possibly they never actually managed to achieve what they set out to do (a lot of people don’t) but at least in theory, their fundamental guiding principle has always been individual liberty.

The name Liberal was chosen deliberately for its associations with progressive nineteenth century free enterprise and social equality. By May 1945 membership of the Liberal Party had swelled to 40,000.

See? We can all be progressive. No point standing in the way of progress is there?

David
David
13 years ago

Tel, the Libs have never been genuinely liberal, for all the blather on their website. While it’s true that economically they’ve usually been more liberal than the ALP, that’s where it ends. They’ve always been socially conservative, or at least over the time I remember (which is about 45 years).

JC
JC
13 years ago

David:

I would argue (excepting this government) the ALP has been more economically liberal at the federal level that the Libs. The libs were always railroaded by the Victorian protectionists.

TimT
13 years ago

Probably a question over which there’s a lot of argument David and Tel – are regulations on business and corporations, which Labor tends to favor, liberal or illiberal? Are they really simple examples of economic liberalism/illiberalism? And in what ways are current progressive concerns truly liberal?

Gay marriage, for instance: is the more liberal approach to gay marriage to seek to change the definition of marriage in the legal system to allow gay marriages to take place; – to favour by government intervention activists for gay marriage in the church; – or to ignore the calls to change the definitions relating to marriage in our laws and instead work to creating a more tolerant society where gay civil unions are comparable to marriage?

And that’s just ONE example of an apparently simple progressive/conservative issue.

Another thing to bear in mind is that the Libs have only really been in existence for 50/60 years, and were probably a party of compromise from the get-go – I don’t know about the details of Menzies original coalition. They haven’t really had any defining historical moments, unlike the Tories (D’Israeli’s expansion of the vote) or the Republicans (Civil war). Perhaps a sixty year lifespan isn’t really enough on which to form a judgment as to the overal liberality/otherwise of a party.

Pedro
Pedro
13 years ago

Norbert, this statement:
“that educated people tend to be socially-liberal minded, and believe that a mixed system in which government, society and market interact is the best”
is crap. But I will agree that well-educated social democrats are more likely to be politically active than well educated non-social democrats. It might also be true that social democrats are more likely to be university educated (I don’t know). But that is not the same as a correlation with intelligence.

Too true JC about the protectionists. But I suspect you can only make that claim on the basis that Hawke and Whitlam lowered tariffs. The were pretty illiberal in some other ways, Whitlam more than Hawke obviously. Curtin and Chifley don’t strike me as economically liberal, before that I don’t know.

Protectionism isn’t just an affliction of Melbourne business people. It was part of the social compact that included centralised wage-fixing and agrarian socialism.

JC
JC
13 years ago

I agree Pedro. I was thinking more of the Hawke government.

Pedro
Pedro
13 years ago

Thought as much JC. The one real light on the hill for the average schlubb wanting to get ahead through hard work.

Tel
Tel
13 years ago

Probably a question over which theres a lot of argument David and Tel – are regulations on business and corporations, which Labor tends to favor, liberal or illiberal? Are they really simple examples of economic liberalism/illiberalism? And in what ways are current progressive concerns truly liberal?

When buying and selling are regulated, the first things to be bought and sold are always the regulators.

TimT
13 years ago

For some reason your aphorism reminds me of a Wordsworth aphorism:

The world is too much with us: late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers.

Probably completely unrelated, though.

Tony T
13 years ago

TimT, punctuation show-off:

Gay marriage, for instance: is the more liberal approach to gay marriage to seek to change the definition of marriage in the legal system to allow gay marriages to take place; – to favour by government intervention activists for gay marriage in the church; – or to ignore the calls to change the definitions relating to marriage in our laws and instead work to creating a more tolerant society where gay civil unions are comparable to marriage?

TimT
13 years ago

I guess I really should have thrown in some ellipsis and ampersands and parenthesis to round the whole thing off, and to make things even less clear. No point in doing these things half-heartedly.