Political Parties Hollowed Out and Identity Issues

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.

 

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.

Population Demographic Decline

Many believe that local, national and global population growth is exponential leading to calls to avoid immigration or cut, need for population control etc., but is it true?  No, according to experts, outside of the UN Population Division, population will peak mid century then decline while ageing further.

What does this mean for the world and nation state economies?  Competition for people whether immigration and temporary workers to fill gaps and support budgets.

From The Lowy Institute:

‘Harnessing demographic destiny

GRANT WYETH

Competition for the world’s best and brightest will intensify as global population growth slows. Is Australia ready?

Global Population will peak then decline

Managing Population Decline (Image copyright Pexels)

Once confident predictions that the world’s population will reach billion by the end of this century are beginning to be debunked. It is now appears more likely that the global population will hit a ceiling before reaching nine billion by mid-century, and then begin to decline.

This tapering of world population growth is being driven by two key revolutions. One is increasing urbanisation, with more and more people living in cities, which makes children less of an essential resource for families then they would be in rural areas. The other is female education and empowerment, with women deciding – when given the choice – that they desire no more than two children.

Such global trends have significant implications for individual countries, both in national capabilities and geostrategic calculations. This is particularly the case for Australia. Countries that are able to both retain and attract people will find themselves at a distinct advantage.

Currently there is a low-intensity competition for human capital between mostly Western states. These countries have recognised a basic demographic problem; that their birth rates are too low to replace their populations, and without immigration they will end up with elderly societies without the workers to sustain their living standards. Alongside this, attracting highly skilled migrants also boosts productivity.

Yet the population strategies of most of these countries are under threat by parochial narratives that place the political sustainability of their immigration programs at risk.

These narratives are born out of a paradox within the nation-state, where elements within these countries believe that the strategies of the state are undermining the nation. Such sentiment seems uninterested in economic imperatives, or indeed foreign policy concerns about their country’s capabilities in relation to others. Yet these issues are vital to a national interest, and therefore need to be aligned to how a country sees itself….

….. However, it would not be prudent for Australia to rely on this possibility.  By seeking to enhance its own capabilities, Australia can help to escape the influence of external forces. Which means in a world of declining birth rates, Australia’s immigration program should be seen as the country’s principal strategic asset. This indicates that Australia may need to develop something it currently lacks – a prominent positive public narrative around its highly successful immigration story.

A recent speech from Canada’s Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer offers a good example of the way Australia can develop a positive public narrative around immigration. Scheer highlighted the bravery of migration, the honour Canada feels at being chosen by migrants, and the prosperity that has developed in Canada as a consequence of these migrant flows. It is a speech that no politician in Australia could seemingly deliver (bar its requisite politicking) but is a sentiment that is embraced by all Canadian political parties (with the exception of the Quebec nationalist parties).

As a competitor to Australia for skilled labour, the message Scheer conveyed helps to reinforce support for Canada’s immigration program. And if national competition for people intensifies as global population declines, it will provide Canada with a distinct advantage that Australia currently cannot match.’

For more articles about population growth, immigration and NOM net overseas migration, click through.