I don’t care who wins the federal election …

ppolls-inlineFor mainstream and social media partisans the current prolonged election campaign is an essential life or death struggle for premiership victory by one’s chosen team. But to my way of thinking it doesn’t really matter very much which team wins.  The two major parties are Tweedledee and Tweedledum on asylum seekers, defence and national security issues. Both subscribe to eclectic versions of standard neoliberal economics that differ only marginally from each other, albeit somewhat skewed in favor of their primary sponsors (corporate Australia and the trade unions respectively).

As for second order political issues, a royal commission into banking is likely to prove just as much a waste of time and money as the trade union royal commission turned out to be, producing very little real reform, only occasionally entertaining courtroom theatre and a generous bread and butter income for a posse of Sydney and Melbourne barristers.  Sadly, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse will probably end up the same way, although at least it has provided a forum for some useful catharsis for victims.  It might also lead to a non-litigious redress scheme, though present indications suggest it will be woefully underfunded.

If Turnbull wins (as still seems more likely than not), a revived Australian Building and Construction Commission would prove as ineffectual as its previous manifestation and as big a waste of money. Its draconian powers are pretty scary, but no more than the plethora of other such bodies granted extraordinary powers in the post -9/11 State of Exception, and I suspect union officials won’t be unduly discomforted by being questioned for no useful purpose by a Tory barrister in a secret Star Chamber.

On same sex marriage, an unnecessary plebiscite will cause stress for LGBTI people at the hands of fundamentalist Christian bigots, but the plebiscite will probably pass anyway and might even help to muster a (currently uncertain) Parliamentary majority for eventual passage of the legislation.

In other words, things will go on pretty much as normal whichever side “wins” the federal election.  The real interest for me lies in whether the result and its aftermath continue the process of disaggregation of political parties we have seen over the last decade or so.  My ideal would be for a multi-member system of Lower House members elected by proportional representation, because that would result in more diverse political representation with parties and politicians forced to contest, argue, collaborate and compromise in order to be able to deliver effective government.  For me, this sort of pluralistic agonism would deliver a superior form of democratic governance. But neither major party is ever likely to legislate such a system willingly.  The current “winner takes all” rotating elected dictatorship suits them better.

However, the tide of political history may end up achieving a somewhat similar result whether the major parties like it or not. Labor has already been filleted from the left by the Greens.  Its core support is now at 35% or lower; it can’t ever again realistically aspire to control of the Senate, and is at significant risk of losing one or two more inner urban Reps seats to the Greens.

By partial contrast, the Coalition’s core support still looks to be around 42%.  The genius of John Howard as leader was to stifle the growth of Pauline Hanson’s extreme right  One Nation by conspiring with Tony Abbott to have Hanson chucked in prison, and then stealing all her policies while somehow simultaneously retaining the support of the Liberals’ more moderate support base. Neither Turnbull nor Abbott nor any other conceivable contemporary Liberal leader looks to be anywhere near as politically agile as Howard was until he got complacent and over-reached with Work Choices.

I doubt the Liberal Party will remain the “broad church” of which the Tories habitually boast. If Turnbull wins comfortably and begins moving the Liberal Party in a liberal direction even marginally, will Abbott or one of his loopy acolytes form a breakaway right wing Tea Party which will begin to do to the Liberal Party what the Greens have done to Labor?  On the other hand, if the Right regains control in the wake of a Turnbull loss or very narrow win, will a new non-union-aligned centre party emerge, possibly from an expanded Nick Xenophon Team, and take moderate votes from both Liberal and Labor?

If we end up with both major parties having core percentage first preference support levels in the low 30s, with two or three significant minor parties consistently attracting 10-15% each,  then minority government might become the new normal.  For partisans of the two major parties that is the ultimate horror scenario.  From my perspective it would be great.  The Labor minority government of 2010-2013 had an extraordinary and overwhelmingly positive record of legislative achievement through a constructive synthesis between ALP, Greens and Independents.  The actual implementation of legislated programs was much more patchy and inconsistent (to put it mildly), and the whole show was undermined from within by Rudd’s retributive treachery and Abbott’s relentlessly effective destructive opposition from without. However, I don’t think those are inherent or necessary characteristics of minority government; instead they are just consequences of a general but outdated perception that agonistic minority government is an abnormal and undesirable situation, and that somehow all will be well again when government reverts to the familiar situation of “winner takes all” rotating elected dictatorship. Our Australian polity will change for the better once it dawns on participants and the electorate alike that multi-party agonistic pluralism is the new normal.

About Ken Parish

Ken Parish is a legal academic, with research areas in public law (constitutional and administrative law), civil procedure and teaching & learning theory and practice. He has been a legal academic for almost 20 years. Before that he ran a legal practice in Darwin for 15 years and was a Member of the NT Legislative Assembly for almost 4 years in the early 1990s.
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conrad
conrad
5 years ago

I think the basic argument against this is that is that collecting ivory falls into the category of human behaviors that trump this economic rule that marketing people probably like. Basically, if you get rid of enough ivory, people will simply forget about it as a luxury commodity and substitute it for other things (e.g., gold). Similarly, part of the way fashion trends work is by making people believe that if you have something I must have it too. For example, there are especially tasteless nouveau riche groups in China, and it wouldn’t be beyond me to think that there is a fashion one upsmanship amongst them, where if you happen to have some ivory accessory, I will get a bigger one. In this case, if someone stops you getting it, I’ll never think about buying it because it wasn’t something I wanted nor thought about in the first place. I can think of many things like this including ones similar to this. For example, if I never saw opals, I probably wouldn’t ever think of buying one.

Whether this is actually true and outweighs the simply cost argument you present is empirical and I would be curious to know if there is any real evidence either way. Maybe there is something to be learned from marketing after all.

conrad
conrad
5 years ago
Reply to  Ken Parish

sorry, I will move it and please delete it. thanks

John Quiggin
John Quiggin
5 years ago

You haven’t mentioned climate change, which is a big deal for me. When Turnbull came in, I assumed that the differences between the parties would become negligible. In fact, apart from avoiding tribal gesture politics, he hasn’t made any substantive shift from the Abbott position. So, I do care who wins.

conrad
conrad
5 years ago
Reply to  Ken Parish

I find it hard to imagine Turnbull will move on climate change — after all, Tim Wilson just won preselection in a safe seat, and he was director of the IPA’s climate change unit for some time. So there is yet another person espousing right-wing post modern invent-your-own reality crap that Turnbull will have to fight with to get anything done.

john Walker
john Walker
5 years ago
Reply to  Ken Parish

Shorten the other day apparently said that the carbon tax as it was introduced was set too high…

Tyler
Tyler
5 years ago

Labor clearly moving in a positive direction on welfare issues, the current emphasis on inequality is very heartening as is the fact they’re (finally) openly considering raising newstart. As someone in a moderately precarious financial position who is currently into their 6th week of waiting for a centrelink determination a Shorten government actually seems as though it may start to wind back some of the vicious/idiotic welfare changes of the Howard/Gillard governments.

There’s obviously no chance whatsoever of similar movement from the liberal party

Paul Montgomery
Paul Montgomery
5 years ago

This post reminds me a lot of American posturing from centrists about how “both sides do it” so there’s no point taking sides. Obviously the LNP is not as extreme as the GOP, but the underlying message out of posts like this is that the poster enjoys the freedom of not being materially affected by any of the negative policies under discussion. Thus, it is hard to take the sentiments so expressed with any degree of seriousness, and it is difficult to see why that person should be listened to on politics in future if they are so obviously lacking skin in the game, or empathy for those at risk.

tl;dr: check your privilege, Ken.

Moz of Yarramulla
Moz of Yarramulla
5 years ago

the poster enjoys the freedom of not being materially affected by any of the negative policies

This, with bells on. Like most of the rest of Australia, what is done to indigenous Australians and refugees in our name isn’t worth mentioning. Even the gutting of research and wrecking havoc on university funding have apparently taken a back seat to the important question of how we appoint the people who have promised to wreck us all.

It is good to see Ken’s concern, however momentary, for the hate campaign against QUILTBAGS that Turnbull has decided we need. Or Turnbull needs, which is what counts. His willingness to throw the less fortunate under the bus in order to satisfy his own greed is one of Turnbull’s less endearing characteristics.

john Walker
john Walker
5 years ago

What a lot of , loose morals .

Moz of Yarramulla
Moz of Yarramulla
5 years ago

There’s an interesting overview of the federal Liberal government in the Guardian this morning, for those who need reminding of why even Blob Shovel would struggle to be as bad. Which reminds me, I do rather like their cartoonist.

Nicholas Gruen
Admin
5 years ago

Thanks for the post Ken

Comes from a place not too dissimilar to my own embrace of ‘randos’ in the parliament.

I am and will always be Not Trampis
I am and will always be Not Trampis
5 years ago

fundamentalist Christian bigots. Two nouns together! Shame

If it is a close result and the Libs win then Turnbull is curtains . Look at who supported him in the last vote and their seats!

now that sounds like fun.

paul walter
paul walter
5 years ago

I liked the post, but it did make me feel a bit sad.

R. N. England
R. N. England
5 years ago

It’s hard not to vote Labor when the Liberals stand for both long-term and short-term disaster. In the long term their policies are increasing global warming and destroying Australian science and education. In the short term, as agents of the finance “industry” (essentially identical with the tax-avoidance “industry”), the Liberals refuse to levy the taxes necessary to balance the Federal budget, and allow the Commonwealth and the states to function properly.