|Take a good look|
There are three kinds of political parties
- Those in power
- Those who hope to gain power at a future election
- Those who know they will never be in power
And they follow different strategies.
Those in power pursue a policy tightrope between what the electorate will
tolerate and what their bankrollers have paid for.
Those in opposition run a negative campaign, split between
criticizing every move of the government, blaming them for every bad outcome from
climbing divorce rates to droughts, and presenting a policy tightrope between what the
electorate will tolerate, and what their bankrollers are paying for.
Those who know they will never be in power play fairy god-mother and can say
whatever they like provided it is sufficiently feel-good. People vote for them
because of disgust at the major parties, and the only issue for the protest
voters is what ratbag feel-good policies they feel good about at the time.
Until recently these three strategies matched the Liberal, ALP and Democrat
parties pretty closely. The Liberals were busy getting on with the job, handing
out corporate welfare to their business sponsors, while determined to
abject poverty. The
ALP were catering to the union
bankrollers, while trying to find policies to capture the
votes of the multicultural
feminist academics. The Democrats were promising to subsidize
everything except free beer, knowing that they would never
actually have to actually live in the world which their policies would create.
But there has been a subtle change in Australian politics. The Liberal
party team are very experienced at running the agenda, but they got off to a
pretty shaky start to their term.
- Peter ('I need a holiday') Hollingworth's failure to handle child abuse in the
They just waited that one out.
- A certain maritime incident. Which demonstrated that a child was thrown into the
water (just not on that day), and released video footage which scared many Australians into
hardening their stance on mandatory detention.
- Michael (Dr Smoothy) Wooldridge spending a few million on his future
employer so they
could give much of it back to him as 'consultancy fees'(but they just took it back before
he got it).
They are now back to their controlling the agenda tricks, and the ALP
has been running around like a barking dog in a cage trying to find something they
can sink their teeth into. The Liberal government is just quietly introducing their
reforms bit by bit. Not doing anything too fast or too radical, and playing
Kim (fat-boy) Beasley's small-target game.
The subtle change has come over the last few days.
It looked at first like the ALP just felt the need to resist something (anything)
the government was doing so that it could look like a strong opposition. They
choose two things which seem like bad choices: reductions in
pharmaceutical benefits subsidies, and the excision of Australia's northern
islands for immigration purposes.
The excision issue is one which is likely to popular with the electorate -
particularly if the public natural nationalistic instincts are raised by
another boat-load of asylum seekers. The ALP will be the party that didn't
stop it, and that will spell electoral disaster for them.
Interestingly too, the pharmaceutical benefits subsidies are a budgetary issue,
and may provide the trigger for a double dissolution. That means a snap
election, and the leader of the opposition is not ready for that.
The ALP has provided no alternative to excision apart from 'greater cooperation
with Indonesia', which is a wish, not a policy. But still they have chosen to
prevent the excision which was enabled by legislation which they supported shortly before the
Why would they do this? One reason - they are no longer a party which expects to
win government any time soon, and are taking the steps to prevent the
decimation of their party. They are getting nibbled away from the left (by the
Democrats), and nibbled away from the right (many redneck workers are now
voting Liberal), and there isn't much middle ground. The pursuit of political
correctness and affirmative action which served them so well in the 1980s has
lost its zeal, and there aren't really that many redneck feminist academics
who will approve of the squishy incoherent set of policies they have come to
But why resist for the sake of it, knowing that having no alternative makes them
look ineffectual? Why not agree with sensible and popular strategy and prove they
are responsible enough to take government?
Because, in short, they know they are in for a long opposition, and they are
hunkering down to weather the storm. Peter (dig-my-smirk) Costello on the ABC's
Lateline said that they had adopted a permanent opposition mind-set. They are
not trying to look like a competent government - the best they can do is to
look like a competent opposition, so people will send their protest votes that
way. They simply have to critize everything the government does, and not be
seen to agree with them on anything. The ALP has just given up the middle
ground to the Liberal Party.
Of course, the resistance policy also serves Simon (I-am-the-man) Crean's agenda
to look like a strong leader. He had to take a stand on something. Simon,
unable to control the agenda nationally, can at least control the agenda within his
own party. Simply agreeing with the Government's policies didn't satisfy his
own party that he was the man. He's not. But neither is his party.
Simon is not trying for a promotion to PM - he's just trying to keep his current
job. And the ALP is hunkering down for a long, lean opposition. It may be even
longer than they expected if they are routed in a double dissolution.
Simon, Simon, resistance is futile!