30 May 2006


Sometime during the working day I came up with a theme for tonight, but I suspect it's gone. It may well have been some reflections on the nature of democracy as she is practiced in this country, so that's what we'll do. Inspired, of course, by the current machinations here in sunny Queensland with the Coalition partners deciding to join themselves together.

At one level it possibly hardly matters to the punter/voter in the street, such is the apparent growing level of cynicism with the political process as a whole. However, Queensland's particular history, with a dominant Labor party in the 1940s and 1950s and then the Bjelke-Petersen ascendancy through the 1970s up to 1989 seems to have resulted in a greater polarisation. The rural/regional (RARA) bit is fiercely protective of its conservative traditions which mainly found their voice through the Nationals, but are not far removed from some of the more luddite - for want of another term - bits of Labor. However, the growing influence of the SEQ corner, driven by substantial migration from both down south and overseas, has blunted the strength of the rural vote, exacerbating the impact of the redistribution of electoral boundaries by Goss (which eliminated the B-P gerrymander). And it is this trend which has driven the proposal for the Nats to amalgamate with the Liberals under the Liberal banner.

Those who vote more based on federal party policy and issues will be faced with a conundrum if this merger comes off. There will not be a distinct rural lobby or voice, thus opening the way for a repeat of the One Nation phenomenon. Groups such as the League of Rights and similar are still in existence if not particularly 'vibrant', but they represent a dormant force which will be easy to rouse if no more moderate conservative party is available.

You also have to feel for the party members, who undoubtedly knew nothing of all this. What is the process for consulting them? Is there one? (Or do only the Democrats do that?) And if not, how much of a democracy are we where representatives don't even consult their supporters? I retract all this if in fact some process has been followed...

Of course it's just fascinating to watch the developments, as federally the Libs have been utterly dominant for the last decade. Everyone's positioning with nothing but pure self-interest in mind - in other words, pure politics played out publicly. Howard, Vaile, Minchin, Joyce, the other 'powerbrokers'. What normally goes on behind closed doors, all out in the open. Makes you glad you're not part of the game - unless power is what drives you, surely what politics is about.

Whether Federal Labor can benefit from this remains to be seen. If it turns into a train wreck they need surely do nothing - the old adage about governments losing elections. At State level Beattie already cast out some bait, based on the elements of the rural heartland who are not automatically opposed to Labor as mentioned earlier - or at least, who hate the Libs more than they hate Labor.

The major blogs have some good stuff and debate on this tonight - much deeper analysis than this pissy effort. See
here for example. Still, I'd love to see the conservative parties engage in some of the soul-baring and bastardry for which only Labor usually grabs the headlines. We all know it happens, but Labor's more evident factional system simply makes it easier for lazy journos to write about. So that's what we hear.

Finally, my much drier than expected economic viewpoint has come to a screaming halt with the proposed sale of the Snowy scheme, which I reckon is just plain bastardry, on the part of Iemma particularly (as NSW has the greatest share of ownership). There have been some good letters to editors in the past week or so: how can this be sold with no apparent parliamentary debate, where will the profits go, can environmental flows be guaranteed, will maintenance investment still be carried out (jobs etc) and so on. I have no doubt that economic cost-benefit analyses will show that it would be better to have the Scheme in private hands. They always do. And similarly, I always come back to the law of diminishing returns: what happens when we've sold off everything? Do we ever look that far ahead? Or do we trust in one particular economic theory?
That's one for another day.

1 comment:

The Editor said...

Whilst we vote for the Libs, Nats, labor or the Dems, the shit sandwich will always look the same. and there are not enough voters clued in enough to toake a whole new direction. Too scary. And too radical. Australians are hopelessly conservative. We're doomed.

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