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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

Seaside thoughts « Previous | |Next »
October 20, 2003

Things are pretty quite down on the southern coast of South Australia apart from the spring winds that blow mighty strong. The news reaches here slowly and most of the spin from Canberra is filtered out by surf and cloud.

Here, amidst the wealth of the pockets of luxury holiday homes along the Victor Harbor-Goolwa coastal strip we have high rates of unemployment, high rates of welfare dependency, large numbers of working poor holding down casual jobs, low education, impoverished public resources, limited access to information, bad interenet connections and lots of pokies. What is strong though is the dense network of communal relationships that constitute civil society and give us our social identity and sense of belonging. Social values and relationships are important here. The values debate means something here.

Some Canbera news has filtered through. I gather that the imperial Presidency is making a quick touchdown in Australia to have a chat to a few hand selected politicians, military types and business men. They will be discussing guns and money as Margo Kingston puts it; not ways to inject some life into Australian democracy by transferring more power to the Australian people.

Howard and democratic reform? It jarrs. Howard, like Keating before him, stands for increased executive dominance.

From my perspective on the south coast I can see that most of the political/public policy debate in Australia comes from people living in the inner city of Melbourne and Sydney. They----righties and lefties---are political insiders who seek power and influence and they are somewhat reluctant to share it around. They are about the concentration of power and the preservation of the ruling power elites.

That elitism comes through so very clearly with the Wentworth Liberal pre-selection battle. Branchstacking has nothing to do with making a decentralized political space for people to have their opinions heard and for their activities making a difference. They are just numbers in an elite political strategy within an liberal political system with authoritarian currents. This transit-lounge politics makes it very difficult for ordinary citizens to take greater control over their lives in a globalised world.

A globalised world in the coastal struggle street with its suburban values means a world without borders and order. It means a sense that the anchors of our everyday lives----family, community and national identity---are being swept away by the movement of the global tide. Though people get by and, though they acquire a bit of wealth, they feel more powerless. They, along with a lot of Australian suburbia, are outside the political, economic and cultural elite concentrated in Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra. They desire a bigger say in decision making.

The conservative call for more law and order, security and patriotism resonate here with the lifstyle politics. They are seen to have a big edge in the values debate in our public culture.

You can see the way that politics is local.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 9:44 AM | | Comments (2)


You paint a dark vista that I find difficult to agree with (is that a split infinitive?) Yes globalisation tends to find out the cracks and hollows in struggle street, and yes, some people miss the sense of control that they 'think' they had in seemingly better times, but their lot is largely determinied by their own actions and, it appears to me, most people I know don't deserve much because they are too apathetic.

The so-called 'good old days' before deregulation, before globalisation, before the introduction of competition and restructuring, weren't so good if looked at closely. I much prefer a streamlined, efficient economy than a closeted, protected, inefficient one. Indeed there are many areas, such as the labour market and tax that should be the subject of rapid radical change. And you can be sure that struggle street wouldn't welcome any change let alone more alterations to working conditions and taxation.

I remember the south coast as backward and slow, suitable only for the retired and those on holiday; it sounds as though things haven't changed much in forty years.

"I much prefer a streamlined, efficient economy than a closeted, protected, inefficient one."

sounds like something an accountant would say. a regulated economy is designed to protect people who might otherwise be unable to compete with products from overseas - not to be 'streamlined' or 'efficient.'

i don't know what kind of influence people had on politics previously, or how they felt about it, but i know that there are fewer checks and balances (no independant audit of Aus budget etc) and fewer opportunities for dissent. it's impossible to argue that Australia is becoming a more democratic place - and we are all poorer for it..