Political Parties Hollowed Out and Identity Issues

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Australian politics as with Trump’s America and U.K.’s Brexit has become hollowed out with declining membership, less organic policy development, more reliance upon both external policy development by trans national think tanks and promotion or opposition by media or PR.

An enforced focus upon immigration, population growth and refugees, or white nationalist issues, may risk bi-partisan support and ignore the immigrant heritage of Australia versus aggressive demands for a WASP white Anglo Saxon protestant and Irish Catholic culture to rule.

Brexit, Trump and Australian politics have obsessed about immigration.

Populist Politics and White Nationalism (Image copyright Pexels).

This is especially so among the less diverse above median age vote in regions, while Australia’s elites in business, government, politics and media also reflect the same mono culture or lack of diversity.

Further, positives and benefits of immigration are seldom cited and especially the leveraging of temporary resident churn over; whether students, backpackers or temporary workers who are net financial contributors supporting the tax base, vs. ageing and increasing proportion of pensioners or retirees in the permanent population.

From The Lowy Institute:

Hollowed out, but not unhinged

Judith Brett

The scenario put forth in Sam Roggeveen’s “Our very own Brexit” runs counter to the major parties’ economic realities.

Sam Roggeveen has written a lively essay on the current state of Australian federal politics, centred on the hypothetical scenario that one of the two major parties takes an anti-immigration policy to an election, overturning Australia’s post-war bipartisan commitment to immigration to gain political advantage. Such an election would be a referendum on continuing population growth, and bring to a halt our cultural diversification and our integration into Asia, which is now the largest source of permanent new settlers.

It sounds unlikely, but as Roggeveen argues, both Brexit and the election of Donald Trump were unlikely, rogue events that have overturned political assumptions. His scenario is not a prediction, he stresses, but a plausible, worst-case scenario arising from the current state of our political parties.

Our two major parties have become “hollowed out”, Roggeveen argues, untethered from their traditional social bases in class-based interests. Party membership and party loyalty have declined, leaving a more volatile and skittish electorate potentially vulnerable to the anti-immigration siren song of a party desperate to gain electoral advantage.

There are two parts to this argument. The first is that the parties have become hollowed out; the second that it is plausible that one of the major parties break the bipartisan support for the migration program.

First, the evidence is clear for the decline in rusted-on party loyalty.

However, Roggeveen does not, to my mind, have a sufficiently nuanced understanding of the reasons for this decline and writes as if it is mainly the result of a deficient political class.

In the early 20th century, when our current party system took shape, it made social and economic sense to have two parties based on two class blocks. Working and middle class, employee and employer, labour and capital – these spoke both to people’s everyday experience and sense of themselves and to competing economic interests. This is no longer the case. More than a hundred years later, Australia’s society and its economy are much more complex.

In developing their policies, parties have to broker compromises among various competing interests, and this undertaking is much harder today. To take a stark example: the problem Labor has in developing policies responsive both to its traditional union base and to the middle-class social democrats who flocked to the party with Gough Whitlam. Compared with the early 20th century, lines of class division have blurred, and new lines of difference have been politicised: gender, race, ethnicity, attitude to nature, and, after the fading of sectarianism, religion again. If the parties are failing, it is in part because the task of uniting disparate constituencies is harder…..

……Second, I do not find it plausible that one of the major parties would break the bipartisan consensus on immigration.

A minor party might succeed with an anti-immigration policy, but neither major party could afford the electoral risk. The 2016 Census reported that 49% of the Australian population was either foreign-born or had at least one foreign-born parent. Not all of these people will be on the electoral roll, but all who are citizens will be, and once on the roll, they will have to vote.

Because of compulsory voting, Australian parties do not need highly emotional and divisive policies to get out the vote, and to support them carries considerable risks. Both Brexit and the election of Trump occurred in polities with voluntary voting, where it makes electoral sense to risk courting an alienated minority. There is no doubt there is a nativist faction in Australia that would support a stop to immigration, but Australian elections are won and lost in the middle, which is occupied by increasing numbers of foreign-born voters and their children.

Also holding the major parties to their consensus on immigration is its contribution to the economy. Australia’s recent sluggish economic growth would be even slower were it not for migration. The housing and retail sectors in particular would be sharply affected by its halt. Our two major political parties may be untethered from their historical social bases, but they are not unhinged from contemporary economic reality.’

 

For more articles about populist politics, demographics, immigration and white nationalism click through.

 

Global Warming – Climate Change – Eco-Fascism

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With the science of climate change and global warming under attack as Australia experiences bushfires not seen before in scope and intensity, there are now clear links between white nationalism and niche environmentalism, or ‘eco-fascism’.  According to many this has included long term support from fossil fuels oligarchs’ foundations in promoting eugenics and anti-immigrant sentiment as an ecological solution.

Parts of the environmental movement are linked to white nationalists and eugenics.

Fossil Fuels and Eco-Fascism (Image copyright Pexels)

Jeff Sparrow in The Guardian Australia presents a summary of his recent book Fascists Among Us: Online Hate and the Christchurch Massacre below:

 

‘Eco-fascists and the ugly fight for ‘our way of life’ as the environment disintegrates

Genuine fascists remain on the political margins, but we can increasingly imagine the space that eco-fascism might occupy.

Earlier this year, when the fascist responsible for the El Paso massacre cited ecological degradation as part motivation for his killing spree, many considered him entirely deranged.

Eco-fascism sounds oxymoronic, a mashup of irreconcilable philosophies.

Yet, while eco-fascists violently oppose contemporary environmentalists, they often appropriate ideas from the past of the environmental movement.

In the United States, the first conservationists – men like Teddy Roosevelt – were wealthy big-game hunters trying to preserve creatures they liked to shoot.

These elite enthusiasts for “the manly sport with the rifle” blamed impoverished arrivals from eastern and central Europe for “pot hunting” – that is, for killing game for food or money rather than for fun. But they also saw immigrants as polluting America’s racial stock, making an explicit parallel between “lesser races” and the invasive species threatening native animals and plants.

On that basis, Julia Scott from the Daughters of the American Revolution could speak at the National Conservation Congress of 1910, urging attendees not only to protect flora and fauna but to conserve “the supremacy of the Caucasian race in our land”.

You can get a sense of the centrality of eugenic theory to the early movement from the career of Madison Grant, the most important environmentalist of his generation.

We can thank Grant for saving the American bison, the bald eagle, the pronghorn antelope, the Alaskan bear and the fur seal, as well as, according to his biographer, contributing to the preservation of elephants, gorillas, koalas and many other charismatic species.

But Grant also campaigned for the racist Emergency Quota Act of 1921 and the Immigration Restriction Act of 1924, and wrote the bestselling The Passing of the Great Race, or The Racial Basis of European History, an impassioned defence of white supremacy that Hitler described as his personal “bible”.

The book’s popularity in Germany was not coincidental. Grant, like many of his colleagues, derived his environmentalism from a conservative Romanticism, the philosophical source for Nazi concepts about the importance of Lebensraum (living room) and Blut und Boden (blood and soil).

Modern eco-fascists still draw on the same Romantic contrast between the sublime hierarchies of nature and the supposedly effete degeneracy of modernity.

They also exploit the legacy of a tendency influential in environmental circles in much more recent times.

In 1968, Paul Ehrlich published a book called The Population Bomb, in which he argued that ecological destruction – and, indeed, almost all social problems – could be attributed to overpopulation.

As the historian Thomas Robertson notes, few signs of a mass environmental movement existed when The Population Bomb first appeared. Yet, “by the spring of 1970, Americans could hardly pick up a magazine or a newspaper without seeing mention of ecology and the environment”. That year, the first Earth Day attracted an astonishing 20 million people to environmental teach-ins, a result attributable at least in part to Ehrlich.

Today, his influence – and that of population theory more generally – has waned considerably, not least because the rate of world population growth has slowed substantially while his predictions of ever-worsening famines in the 1970s proved spectacularly wrong.

But progressive environmentalists also recognised the succour populationism provided to the extreme right.

The attribution of ecological destruction to demographic growth obscures the social relations through which, for instance, a mere 20 fossil fuel companies can be linked to more than one-third of greenhouse gas emissions in the modern era.

Worse still, arguments that (in theory) blame all people often (in practice) target particular people: usually the poor and the oppressed.

The Population Bomb itself opened with Ehrlich describing how he’d understood the case for population control “emotionally” during a visit to Delhi where, he said, the streets “seemed alive with people” and the “dust, noise, heat and cooking fires gave the scene a hellish aspect”. At the time, Delhi housed some 2.8 million while the population of Paris stood at about eight million – and yet it would be difficult to imagine Ehrlich reacting with equivalent disgust to crowds on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées.

Other populationists came to oppose not just fertility but also immigration, on the basis that, if the teeming masses from poor nations moved to the rich world, they’d adopt a western resource-heavy lifestyle. As a result, as academics Sebastian Normandin and Sean A Valles argue, America’s modern anti-immigrant movement “was built and led by – and in some cases is still led by – a network of conservationists and population control activists”.

The vast majority of greens now disavow the environmental populationist John Tanton, who, according to Susan A Berger, constructed many of the anti-Mexican organisations relied upon by Donald Trump as he electioneered for his border wall during the 2016 poll.

Yet the argument that ordinary people, rather than social structures, should be blamed for climate change still circulates – and invariably pushes in rightwing directions.

Think of the El Paso shooter and the document in which he justified his racial massacre.

“If we can get rid of enough people,” he wrote, “then our way of life can become more sustainable.”

The glibness with which he advocates environmental murder marks the El Paso perpetrator as distinctly fascist.

Fortunately, genuine fascists remain on the political margins in the English-speaking world. Nevertheless, we can increasingly imagine the space that eco-fascism might occupy. When asylum seekers fleeing floods and famines arrive on Australian shores in their millions, how will politicians respond?

Unless there’s a radical shift in the political culture, they will, presumably, rely upon the strategies perfected during decades of bipartisan anti-refugee campaigning, deploying the familiar arsenal of boat turnbacks, naval patrols and offshore detention, albeit on a much, much larger scale.

In other words, they’ll embrace an approach already advocated by European racist populists like Marine Le Pen’s National Rally, who posits massively intensified border policing as a “realistic” response to the inevitability of the environmental disaster.

Just as the stop-the-boats campaigners of recent decades depict refugee advocates as indifferent to drownings at sea, the supporters of “green” border policing will denounce climate activists for sabotaging “practical” responses to climate change with their utopianism.

It’s not difficult to imagine “eco-authoritarianism” or what Naomi Klein calls “climate barbarism”: a politics centred on the state making “our way of life” sustainable as the environment disintegrates. Future governments committed to this project will be able to draw upon the vast array of coercive powers they’ve acquired over the past decades: draconian anti-protest laws; secret trials and imprisonment; the deployment of the army to quell civil disturbances; and so on.

Eco-fascism represents a related but distinctive tendency. It will emerge not through the state but as a political movement, with people like the El Paso perpetrator violently defending climate privilege against immigrants, environmentalists and progressives.

We’re nowhere near that point yet. But it’s a lot less unimaginable than it should be.

Jeff Sparrow’s new book, Fascists Among Us: Online Hate and the Christchurch Massacre, is out now through Scribe.’

 

For more blogs and articles about white nationalism, environment and population growth click through.

Pension Systems and Budget Sustainability

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As populations age and work forces decline i.e. few taxpayers contributing to budgets, pension systems have been subjected to conflicting needs.  This includes preserving the tax base into the long term while catering to ageing electorates, in some cases dominated by pensioners or retirees.

State budgets are coming under more pressure to support pensioners

Pension and Budget Sustainability (Image copyright Pexels)

Following is an overview of the top five most sustainable systems including Australia which is a hybrid of state asset tested pension and the still developing private pension of superannuation system.

Further, an essential part of supporting the tax base is to use temporary residents churn over of international students, backpackers, temporary workers etc. as net financial contributors.

From The Nation:

‘Global top five most sustainable pension systems

WITH pension contributions expected to rise globally, a number of nations have developed models to reward their workforce for life after retirement.

As the retirement age and life expectancy continues to rise around the world, having a sustainable pension scheme is more important than ever

Thanks to gradually rising life expectancy and a higher state pension age, pension contributions are set to soar around the world. World Finance explores the top five countries with sustainable pension systems, where retirees can live particularly well with their pension pot.

Thanks to rising life expectancy and a higher state pension age, pension contributions are set to soar

Australia

Australia’s three-tier ‘superannuation’ pension system is one of the most touted in the world. It includes a tax-financed age pension, providing basic benefits, a company pension pot and the individual contribution to a retirement savings account. Employers are required to contribute 9.5 per cent of worker’s gross earnings, which totalled AUD2.3trn ($1.8tn) at the end of 2017.

Canada

Canada provides its workforce – especially low-income citizens – with the Canada Pension Plan, which is a universal flat-rate pension plus a supplement based on income. Voluntary pension plans were also recently introduced, and from 2019 until 2025, workplace contributions will increase by one percent to 5.95 percent.

Denmark

The average Danish pension pot is well funded due to its ‘folkepension’ – a universal pension scheme ensuring that pensioners receive a basic retirement income. One notable result of Denmark’s successful system is that, according to an OECD 2017 report, its private pension assets represented 209 percent of Denmark’s GDP in 2016.

Germany

Germany’s pay-as-you-earn state pension makes up its main retirement system, which provides a safety net for low-income earners. Occupational pensions are not compulsory but approximately 60 percent of all German workers participate – a number that is expected to grow in the coming years.

Switzerland

Ranked sixth in the world in 2017 by Mercer’s Global Pension Index, Switzerland’s public pension primarily depends on workers’ earnings. Conversely, the compulsory organisational pension depends on a worker’s age – meaning that with age comes a larger contribution. Swiss insurers and various banking foundations have also put voluntary schemes in place.

 

For more related blogs and articles on demography, economics, populist politics and younger generations click through.

 

Tactics Against Bipartisan Climate Change Policy in Australia – Limits to Growth?

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A recent ABC article ‘The day that plunged Australia’s climate change policy into 10 years of inertia‘, endeavoured to describe how climate change consensus was broken by former Liberal MP Andrew Robb who claimed he had followed the ‘Limits to Growth’ (LTG) theory via the Club of Rome but changed his mind, hence withdrew support on bipartisan support on carbon emission measures (?).

And so it was that Andrew Robb made one of the most extraordinary and — by most conventional measures — indefensible tactical decisions in the history of political chicanery.

Also reported in climate science denial blog in the USA Watts Up With That with post titled ‘How “The Limits to Growth” Broke Australia’s Bipartisan Carbon Tax’, as did Catallaxy Files in ‘Australia Follow the climate money and the time when Tony beat Malcolm by one vote’ which also promotes climate science denialism.

In fact the LTG theory, ‘a riddle wrapped up in an enigma’, is irrelevant to climate change as it was developed as a PR construct of liberal and environment ideas or theory then (misre)presented publicly as grounded and tested empirical science to confuse debates, then both opponents and protagonists.

The pseudo-science of LTG was developed and presented via the Club of Rome and applied by some of the participants and collaborators including Herman Daly’s ‘Steady-state economy’ (autarkist economy), Paul Ehrlich’s ‘population bomb’ and his Zero Population Growth (ZPG) colleague John ‘passive eugenics’ Tanton to support immigration restrictions for non-Europeans.

Interesting was that the Club of Rome was hosted on the Rockefeller (Standard Oil/Exxon) estate and sponsored by Fiat and VW, while ZPG had support from Rockefeller Brothers, Ford and Carnegie Foundations; strong whiff of fossil fuels, global corporates/oligarchs and eugenics.

LTG helped encourage a pincer movement of seemingly unrelated ideas or constraints which in fact protect the corporate and personal interests of such global players.  Daly’s autarkist Steady-state theory stresses nation states, avoidance of trade agreements (and environmental regulations) etc. while allowing long standing global corporates (with existing footprints) to operate without commercial, competitive or regulatory constraint (James Buchanan’s radical right libertarianism for all, i.e. ‘Public Choice Theory‘, except when there is state support for global corporates).

From University of Sussex on Limits to Growth or ‘Models of Doom‘:

‘An interdisciplinary team at Sussex University’s Science Policy Research Unit reviewed the structure and assumptions of the models used and published its finding in Models of Doom; showing that the forecasts of the world’s future are very sensitive to a few unduly pessimistic key assumptions. The Sussex scientists also claim that the Meadows et al. methods, data, and predictions are faulty, that their world models (and their Malthusian bias) do not accurately reflect reality.’

How could they promote not just junk science but inequitable libertarian economics to the masses for the benefit of the few and have ‘Turkeys vote for Christmas’?

Brexit is a good example, Trump also and Australia since Tampa refugee incident, i.e. dog whistling immigration, population growth, and white nationalism, then encourages borders, withdrawal from trade agreements and insular view of the world, while allowing global corporates to fly under the radar and conservative political parties to gain votes (especially amongst the upper median age cohort) to implement the right policies (or not at all).

 

The day that plunged Australia’s climate policy into 10 years of inertia

BY ANNABEL CRABBUPDATED SUN AT 1:28PM

Ten years ago Andrew Robb arrived at Parliament House intent upon an act of treachery.

No-one was expecting him. Robb was formally on leave from the Parliament undergoing treatment for his severe depression.

But the plan the Liberal MP nursed to himself that morning would not only bring about the political demise of his leader, Malcolm Turnbull, but blow apart Australia’s two great parties irrevocably just as they teetered toward consensus on climate change, the most divisive issue of the Australian political century.

They have never again been so close.

A decade later, according to the ABC’s Australia Talks National Survey, climate change is a matter of urgent community concern. Eighty-four per cent of respondents said that climate change was real and that action was warranted. When offered a range of 19 issues and asked which were of gravest personal concern, climate change ranked at number one.

As bushfires ravage the landscape and drought once again strangles vast tracts of the continent, the inability of the Australian Parliament to reach agreement on how to answer the threat of climate change — or even discuss it rationally — may well be one of the drivers of another shrieking headline from the Australia Talks research: 84 per cent of respondents also feel that Australian politicians are out of touch with the views of the people they represent.

This is the story — told on its 10th birthday — of a political event that changed the course of a nation’s history.

How bipartisan policy fell apart

Robb was on sick leave from his job as shadow minister for climate, managing the notoriously difficult transition from one anti-depressant medication to another.

In his absence, acting shadow minister for climate Ian Macfarlane had successfully negotiated, with the authority of Liberal leader Malcolm Turnbull, a deal with the Rudd government to land the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, or CPRS.

An extraordinary tactic

And so it was that Andrew Robb made one of the most extraordinary and — by most conventional measures — indefensible tactical decisions in the history of political chicanery.

Parliament House is no stranger to mental illness. Historically, its sufferers have covered their tracks, loath to be seen as vulnerable.

But this must be the only recorded occasion on which mental illness has been used as a tactic.

Robb ripped himself a scrap of paper and scrawled a note to Turnbull.

“The side effects of the medication I am on now make me very tired. I’d be really grateful if you could get me to my feet soon,” he wrote.

Turnbull called Robb to speak soon after. He rose, and denounced the proposed scheme in forensic detail, his words carrying significant weight as the erstwhile bearer of the relevant portfolio.

The deal never recovered. The meeting went on for six more hours. Turnbull — a streetfighter when cornered — added the numbers of shadow Cabinet votes to the “yes” votes in the party room and declared that he had a majority.

Leadership contest

The party room wasn’t buying it. Turnbull was cooked.

One week and one day later — December 1, 2009 — a ballot was held for the leadership of the Liberal Party.

Tony Abbott — who nominated against both Turnbull and shadow treasurer Joe Hockey — won by a single vote.

The Abbott opposition was born, with its strident campaign against Labor’s “great big new tax on everything”.

The next day, the emissions trading scheme legislation went to a vote in the Parliament and was defeated soundly.

Both the Coalition and the Greens voted against.

The Rudd government relinquished its attempts to put a price on carbon. Rudd himself was overthrown mid-2010. Julia Gillard staked her political life on installing a carbon price, but lost it at the 2013 election in the face of Abbott’s muscular anti-carbon-tax campaign.

Abbott installed his “Direct Action” model which survives to this day, despite Turnbull’s subsequent prime ministership, during which he tried and failed to introduce the National Energy Guarantee, a legislative device aimed at establishing reliable supply and reduced emissions from the energy sector….

….’You can still see the scars’

For Kane Thornton, chief executive of the Clean Energy Council, the past 10 years are a tale of intense frustration.

“What happened back then has just so fundamentally shaped the direction and the context for climate and energy policy ever since,” he says…..

…..Visiting Sydney this week, the founder of Bloomberg New Energy Finance, British-born Michael Liebreich, was brutal in his assessment of Australia’s contemporary energy situation.

“It’s unbelievable how you can have a country with such cheap solar power, such cheap wind power, frankly such cheap natural gas and yet you still have expensive power and an unreliable grid,” he told ABC’s AM.

“I mean, how do you do that? It’s a government failure.”

Turnbull, in an interview published on Saturday by The Guardian, said the climate debate in Parliament was hostage to “insurgents” inside the Coalition.

“There are plenty of odd beliefs out there and conspiracy theories but what I have always struggled to understand is why climate denialism still has the currency that it has, particularly given the evidence of the impact of climate change is now so apparent, and it is particularly apparent to people living in regional and rural Australia,” he said.

“Precisely what has been forecast is happening.”…..

…..Robb admits that his was an extraordinary intervention in a sliding-doors juncture of Australian political history.

“I’ve seen so often in my career where something monumental gets down to one vote. Then when the vote’s taken, it sticks, and the world adjusts. It was the beginning of Tony — who won by one vote. Democracy’s an amazing thing, really. And it does show you that if you’ve got half of the votes or just over half or just under, that can reflect community attitudes too,” he says.

“This is not a fault of democracy, it’s a fact.”

He mentions that when he was a much younger man, he was “a great student” of the Club of Rome, an association of scientists, bureaucrats, politicians and public thinkers who in 1972 published the book Limits To Growth, warning that the world’s resources could not withstand the depredations of ceaseless economic growth indefinitely.

Limits To Growth is still the highest-selling environmental book in the history of the world, having sold 30 million copies in more than 30 languages.

But Robb’s early fascination with the work gave way to distrust of its conclusions and primitive computer modelling; he says its warnings of resource exhaustion and economic collapse towards the end of the 20th century were overstated.

“The thing they didn’t talk about was technology. That you could find gas 300 kilometres offshore, for example, and find a way to bring it onshore. Because of this, the Club of Rome — which was quite a reputable group of people — looked more and more ridiculous as the years rolled on.”

The Club of Rome has its critics and its defenders; Limits To Growth was commonly derided by the 1990s as a misguided Doomsday scenario, but has enjoyed something of a renaissance lately. The CSIRO published a paper in 2008 finding that the book’s 30-year modelling of consequences from a “business as usual” approach to economic growth was essentially sound.

But what’s not deniable is that this work influenced one young man who grew up to be one member of a parliamentary party with a singular role to play in one vote on a policy that would either change or not change the course of a country.

Democracy, he says, is an amazing thing.

Or an infuriating thing. Or mysterious. Or random.’

 

For more articles and blog posts about population growth, immigration and white nationalism click through.

 

Australian Brexit?

Sam Roggeveen of the Lowy Institute has written about the potential of an ‘Australian Brexit’ due to a global political transformation (ideology and strategy) towards radical white nativist ideas, isolationism and putting pressure on mainstream parties to comply, while being presented as organic or the ‘people’s will’.

There has been gross over simplification of Brexit to supposedly avoid bureaucracy, the EU, Europe and increasing antipathy towards immigration by ageing electorates through populist politicians.

However, many would suggest Australia had a form of Brexit upon colonisation via the First Fleet 1888 by the British, then after Federation in 1901 the bi-partisan ‘White Australia Policy’ inspired by British eugenics movement (and finally ended after mostly through opposition by NGOs, churches etc.).

Fast forward to the supposed crisis of Tampa when then Australian Prime Ministers helped start the demonisation of refugees with able support from mainstream media including Murdoch’s NewsCorp, then carried further by society in creating antipathy towards non-Europeans; a new proxy white Australia policy.

Further, there are clear links between ideology, political and media tactics of white nativism or white nationalism inspired by eugenics, which has been mainstreamed in the US and UK; with further links onto the fringes of Europe.

White nationalism, white nativism or eugenics all share a clear architecture including astro turfing, manipulation of media, fake news etc., that can also be linked to radical right libertarians or elements of neo-liberalism by global corporates, via think tanks, to deflect attention away from tax avoidance, interference in domestic policies, cast doubt on climate change etc.

Brexit for Australia?

The new conventional wisdom in Canberra doesn’t stack up

By Sam Roggeveen

November 5, 2019 — 12.00am

It is Canberra’s new conventional wisdom: the government’s unexpected election victory gives Prime Minister Scott Morrison stature and stability that his recent predecessors all lacked. The last decade of political dysfunction is behind us. The trouble is, this view is based solely on very recent events in one country alone. What if we took a global perspective over a longer period?

A political transformation has been under way in Western democracies for decades now, quietly and in the background for most of that time, though in recent years it has broken cover. In the US it produced Donald Trump, in the UK Brexit, and in Europe the rise of new right-wing populist movements.

Western democracy has hollowed out. It has happened in two stages. First, the public has drifted away from major political parties, the institutions that once connected them to the political process. In every Western nation, mainstream centre-right and centre-left parties are in decline. In the early to mid-20th century, party affiliation was a question of class, religion and family inheritance – you voted a certain way because your parents and peers did too. But for decades now membership of the big parties has fallen and the share of the vote they can rely on has decreased.

In response (and this is stage two), the big parties have found new ways to survive. They have evolved from amateur mass-membership organisations to small, professionalised outfits financially reliant on big donors and, increasingly, the state. Other than at election time, the big parties don’t really need the public.

So, voters withdrew from political parties, and the parties responded with a withdrawal of their own. The result is that the public square is left empty and politics is hollow.

In Europe, right-wing populist parties have done well because the minority of voters who are attracted to those ideas have slipped from the grip of the big parties. But as France’s Emmanuel Macron and Germany’s Greens show, the big parties are not bleeding votes only to the right, they are losing them in the centre and on the left too.

In America, the weakening of parties helped mavericks like Trump and Bernie Sanders, who tied themselves to the big parties out of self-interest rather than conviction.

In the UK and Australia, the decline of the big parties has produced a different kind of instability. In both countries the voting system makes it hard for small parties to win seats even though their vote share has increased. Yet as the big parties have become less popular, they have also become less stable and more vulnerable to shocks from outsiders and ambitious MPs. That’s what caused Brexit, essentially an internal Tory Party dispute stirred up by Eurosceptic backbenchers and Nigel Farage’s UKIP.

It is also what has produced the leadership churn in Australian politics over the last decade, a succession of tight election results, and two periods of minority government. Australians are abandoning the major parties at record rates. At the same time, these shrinking and insular parties are increasingly cut off from a bored and unengaged Australian public.

Lacking genuine connections to a deep social base, major-party MPs look to their peer groups in politics and the media for inspiration, which is where they got the idea that changes of leadership might fix their problems and why, for instance, Morrison borrows Trumpian language on “negative globalism”.

The 2019 election resolved none of these underlying problems. True, the Liberal and Labor parties have now changed their rules so that leadership coups are harder to mount, but this is much more than just a leadership issue.

Again, if we broaden our view beyond Australian shores, we can see why. Angela Merkel has been German chancellor for 14 years, yet in that period, German politics has been completely transformed – Alternative fur Deutschland, a populist party that didn’t even exist when Merkel took office, is now the official opposition in the Bundestag.

It would be foolish to assume that Australian politics, still dominated by two parties the public cares little for, is suddenly immune to upheaval on that scale.

Sam Roggeveen is director of the International Security Program at the Lowy Institute and author of Our Very Own Brexit: Australia’s Hollow Politics and Where It Could Lead Us.’

For more articles and blogs about white nationalism, immigration and Australian politics click through.