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

troubled by an absence « Previous | |Next »
August 26, 2010

In his Both parties need a new look before the next poll in The Australian Arthur Sinodinos briefly sketches a big picture around the recent federal election. He says:

The alleged "Greenslide" should be kept in perspective. The main parties still got at least 85 per cent of the total vote. The Greens and independents do not have a coherent strategy for government. Nothing that would replace the economic modernisation project of the past three decades.

Presumably, the economic modernisation project of the past three decades is the one neo-liberal of free markets, small government delivering prosperity; a project premised on the roll of back of the welfare state and the destruction of social democracy coupled to the exploitation of the deep uncertainty created by the pace and unpredictability of change.
Sinodinos points out how the Right were able to exploit the mood of deep uncertainty:
The Howard credo of economic liberalism and social conservatism attempted to smooth the passage of reform by promoting social cohesion in the face of change. This combination works best in the upper half of the country. The southern states seem to be more socially liberal and economically conservative. Commonwealth assistance accounts for more than half of state income in Tasmania. This quasi-welfare dependency is reinforcing the drift to the Greens, with their aggressive opposition to growth policies and focus on wealth redistribution and new age issues.

Of course, Sinodinos does not mention the politics of fear in the Howard credo --eg., the exploitation of fear of outsiders and strangers, which culminates in putting up barriers against immigration, refugees or exiles; or the fear that we may lose our jobs next year if we introduce a carbon tax or tax the miner's profits.

The southern states are committed to social democracy which has been enfeebled by the neo-liberal mode of governance of the past three decades in which public spending is deemed to be a recipe for future disaster, and that ‘private’ is better than ‘public’ . If the core of the ALP's version of social democracy is equality (albeit watered down to a fair go and equality of opportunity), then its current understanding of social democracy is feeble and it has lost its language. As Tony Judt points out with the cheating language of equality deep inequality is allowed to happen much more easily.

What we don't have is active interventionist states protecting us against things that frighten people: states controlling changes so they don’t get out of hand or create a political backlash. Labor is not willing to face up to this challenge in the name of a progressive state with collective objectives and purposes, which preserves institutions that give us a sense of shared identity and values.

Nor do we have something that would replace the economic modernisation project of the past three decades whose goal was the pursuit of wealth --ie., the greening of social democracy. This is the absence that is troubling. If there is to be a rebirth of social democracy in the space opened up by the discrediting of neo-liberalism over the global financial crisis, then it will come from The Greens rather than Labor.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 10:20 AM | | Comments (11)


There's a whiff of panic in the ruling class. Everything has been going along swimmingly for years: unions demoralised, share of GDP going to wages steadily eroded, incremental tax changes benefiting the wealthy, acceptance that taxes are BAD, acquiescence in the growth of the power of the state in the name of national security, Labor transformed from a progressive party to a well-behaved centre-right toothless tiger ... then along comes this election result with dangerous reformers like the Greens getting actual power along with a bunch of independents with crazy romantic ideas about restoring power to parliament and the like.

No wonder they're either in denial or demanding that the masses have another go and get it right this time.

re your comment "There's a whiff of panic in the ruling class."

Nice gentle Tony Abbott appeared on Radio National AM this morning to talk about the reasons why he had rejected the Independents request that the costings and impacts on the budget of the Liberal's election policies and promises be checked by Treasury.

He referred to a leak from Treasury during the election about their policies and said that it:

was a sheer, it was an act of utter political bastardry, that's what it was Lyndal. It was sheer political bastardry practiced by this government in a desperate attempt to cling to power.

Not content with that he attacked Gillard's willingness to comply with the Independent's request for the information the bureaucracy has prepared for an incoming government be publicly released as part of this process of negotiation. The access to the briefing book represented a trashing of the Westminster system:
if, if the most confidential public service advice can be casually released just to help this government to hang onto power, I mean they are trashing the Westminster system in a desperate attempt to hold onto power. It is a measure of this government's complete lack of respect for our system that they are doing this... I mean really, this is a desperate government further debasing our polity in a desperate attempt to hang onto power.

I sense an element of desperation there behind the mask of nice, gentle, soft Tony. Or is it a clever strategy to grab government?

"...The Greens and independents do not have a coherent strategy for government. Nothing that would replace the economic modernisation project of the past three decades..."

Let's, for the sake of argument, accept that angle.

Now... shouldn't BIG alarm bells be sounding??? Seriously... a significant slab of voters are so disillusioned and disgusted... that they're willing to turn to parties and individuals who, apparently... "do not have a coherent strategy for government". Isn't that an indication of just how badly they yearn for an alternative to the current circus?

Rather than admonishing the electorate, it might actually be worthwhile finding out WHY they acted like they did!

The Battlelines bovver boy showing his REAL face.

Its a fair point though if thats the correct figure. 85% of the voting population didnt get the government they wanted.
Now, in some countries that would spark riots and looting.

Seems to me that only about 40% of voters didn't get the government they wanted.

Then again, when was the last time we ACTUALLY got the government we wanted?

Abbott is continuing to say ''no'' on two fronts to the Independents He won't submit his costings. And he is not allowing access to material that officials have prepared in the event of an incoming Liberal government.

Abbott has come up with another reason for why he refuses to meet the the three independents' request to have his policies costed by the public service. The new reason is that he wouldn't give the policies for costing until the completion of a police investigation into a campaign leak about Coalition policies.

Abbott's excuses are not convincing. The are being run to cover up his poorly costed policies (big blow out) that would undercut the ''debt and deficit'' argument in the election campaign. It also covers up his position. He's turned this into a fight. Why? Isn't he meant to be trying to persuade the 3 Independents to back him as a minority government. Abbott is going out of his way to annoy and irritate them, giving the appearance that the Liberals seems not to want to form a minority government.

What's the Liberal strategy? Another election to gain a majority asap?

The Liberals language is interesting re the Independents, who are not demanding lots of pork for their electorates. Andrew Robb said:

We don't want to have a fight with these guys but we're not going to be dictated to and not tug our forelock like Julia [Gillard] has on every issue.

The reasonable requests for information as the basis for negotiations is considered by the Liberals as being dictated to? It looks like the Liberal position is refusing to deal--as was Jeff Kennett's in Victoria in 1999. We won't 'tug our forelock' suggests that they are demanding that the 3 independents roll over and support them.

The Liberals do not accept the reality of a multiparty democracy. To hell with the reforms to the Parliament. They want power in their own right. The Independents should accept this and shut up.

All this outrage and the Independents are not even calling for electoral reforms. All they are asking re system reform is more or less a bit of running repairs.


It's the medias strategy to make big news out of it because the situation is moving too slowly for them. They are a big fat sloth that needs new things to feast on daily. Rather like that chap from The Meaning of Life.

The strategy of the Coalition and the right-wing media is to delegitimise any process that delivers a minority Labor Government.

They are suggesting that the Liberals have had the election stolen from them by the independents. So the Independents are increasingly being targeted by conservative commentators for acting beyond their remit--stepping out of line.

In the process they are undermining public confidence in the whole system of government. This attack on Treasury is conscious and deliberate demonising and destabilising of the institutions that underpin the Westminister system of government.

Interesting that centrebet has the coalition at $1.48 and Labor at $2.65 to form a government. Also prices for the Labor leader at the next election are Bill Shorten $2.85 Gillard $3.00 and Wayne Swan is $13.00