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suburban realities « Previous | |Next »
January 3, 2004

Menzies' forgotten people. They were supposed to be feeling relaxed and comfortable now after the turmoil of the economic reforms of the 1980s and 1990s that created prosperity for some and unemployment for others.

Well, relaxed and comfortable was the promise made by John Howard's Liberals. The promise is turning out otherwise.

The increasing inequality caused by economic globalization has had the effect of squeezing the middle class who live outside the global economy. Thus homeownership is becoming less affordable in the major cities. They are in need of more than some stamp duty relief. People are having to leave the cities, shift to the coastal and downsize their aspirations.

Latham, a suburban boy at heart, replays the 'forgotten people' theme by talking about the new divide in Australian politics between ‘insiders’ who live in the inner city and ‘outsiders’ who live in the suburbs. He attacks the former: professionals who have become a new progressive elite engaged in a culture war with the established conservative elite. The war has focused on Rights, Reconciliation, Republic, and Refugees. His concern is with the aspirations of the suburban outsiders climbing the economic ladder.

In his book, From the Suburbs: Building a Nation from our Neighbourhoods Sydney, Latham outlines two polices to counter the squeezing of the suburban middle class. First, expanding asset ownership through expanding the superannuation across the life cycle so that everyone can be a small capitalist. Secondly, developing the responsibility agenda of the neighbourhood through social capital and social entrepreneurs. The excluded suburbanites now become included through owning a stake in the capitalist economy and acting as communities to solve their own problems.

Another name for suburbia is middle Australia. That is where John Howard is camped. Labor has had great difficulty in gaining in reclaiming this terrain. It is the political battleground in the next election.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 8:46 AM | | Comments (0)