Monday, February 06, 2017

Monday Forum - Australia's political imbroglios

I have been working on some longer term writing projects, some of which may start to some up soon. I love the hidden stories one finds!

A case in point is the story of Camp Victory, a KNIL (Dutch East Indies Army) camp at Casino in Northern NSW. This photo shows Dutch soldiers at nearby Evans Head. I knew about the camp, I knew that it occupied a place in the history of the Indonesian Revolution, but had no idea of the complexity involved. Did you know, for example, that the Dutch East Indies Administration is the only official Government-in-exile ever established on Australian soil?

This forum, it is hard to go past politics.

In my last Forum I posed the question of the administrative competence of the Trump administration, a question triggered by the migration Executive Order. Events since then have been a bit of a roller-coaster. The obvious administrative problems with the Order were its ambiguity and its impact on existing visas. This first forced a series of clarifications such as the applicability to green card holders, the second triggered the legal cases and consequent uncertainties.

One effect of the whole controversy is that it totally overrode Prime Minister Turnbull's attempt to set out directions for the Turnbull-Joyce Government though his press club speech to the point that I have yet to read it. The latest public opinion polls give Labor a lead on a two party preferred basis of 54-46 partly due to the rise in support for One Nation. Personally,  while I understand the causes behind the rise in the One Nation vote, I am a little bemused by the extent to which it is holding despite the strangeness of some of Ms Hanson's views. To my mind, this is low grade populism, unlikely to build a sustained political movement. Am I wrong?

The Australian Parliament resumes this week. Having been trumped and thus lost the opportunity to set a new direction, the Australian PM faces a new set of distractions.

One is the gay marriage issue. Here the PM is caught between a rock and a hard place, between a plebiscite approach that can't easily get up and a conservative wing in his own Party that won't support a change without a plebiscite and maybe not even then. He has an Abbott doing a Rudd, with Cory Bernadi threatening to set up a new conservative party.

Actually, from my viewpoint, the sooner Senator Bernadi goes the better. An Adelaide city boy, I have seen no evidence that he understands the rest of the country well enough to build a decent political base. To my mind, he confuses deeply held views among a relatively narrow slice of a national electorate with chances of political success. In total, Bernadi's supporters are significant, but I doubt they are strong enough at particular electoral level to give him any real chance of gaining lower house seats.

In retrospect, the PM's decision to change the Senate voting arrangements to remove minor parties was unwise. We now have a a proliferation of centre-right or right groups that are far more significant than the previous somewhat ramshackle cross-bench.

This aids Mr Shorten for the present. Labor's main challenge, the Greens, are suffering their own internal tensions. One Nation is actually Labor's biggest threat, for the party does have appeal in some traditional Labor seats.

As always, feel free to go in whatever direction you want regardless of what I have said here or the topics covered.          .


2 tanners said...

I'd suggest, Jim that ONP is not Labor's biggest threat. Labor is. Same for the LNP. On the basis of today's poll and historical splits, it's quite possible that if the 40% represented by the combined Lib/Nat/ONP were turned into a formal Coalition, Pauline might have the numbers to be Deputy PM. She has just said that her ambition is to be PM. I can already visualise a credible path.

Jim Belshaw said...

Morning, 2 tanners. What a shuddering prospect! I think I would agree that the biggest threats to the main parties are the main parties themselves.

have you seen the latest Fairfax stuff on Australia's political tribes? From Brisbane

Its quite interesting because it cuts voters in different ways. Its not just what you believe but also how much weight you put on individual things and where you live.

The now departing Senator B believes in conservative social values but is also a neo-conservative on economic issues. His constituency is those who also believe in both or, at least, will be prepared take some trade-off on one in return for the other and who also believe that he will be a better deliverer than the existing parties. And that's quite an ask.

2 tanners said...

Yes, a panel remarked that Hanson had it easy because she could espouse populist policies without having to make them work, or even make sure the numbers added up. Bernardi will get the same easy run, I suspect, even if he stays as a party of one. Until the majors wake up to the damage they are doing themselves and address it (don't ask me when or how!) we are going to see more and more tribalism. BTW tribalists tend to be contemptuous of inconvenient facts, which worsens the problem.

Winton Bates said...

Jim, please explain: "low grade populism".

Jim Belshaw said...

Hi Winton. I will try.

That remark was triggered by a back of mind comparison between Ms Hanson's stated views and my knowledge of Australian populist movements in particular, remembering that I class myself as belonging to a particular populist thread in political terms.

Most populist movements combine a perceived threat or disadvantage with a positive message. An Australian example is the dominance of the metros that impedes country development. This is associated with the idea of the virtues of country life as compared to the city. The political response is action to overcome the perceived disadvantage.

You can see this pattern in both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. In the case of Mr Trump, he has articulated a number of concerns that include problems (decline in manufacturing, decline in living standards among certain groups), an internal enemy (the system, the elites, the establishment), an external threat (muslims, immigrants, other countries ripping the US off), perceived virtues that attach to the US people (hard working, more than carried their share). He has then proposed solutions linked to these various issues encapsulated in slogans such as clean the swamp and make America Great Again.

Populism starts with genuine problems that have been ignored, with groups that feel that they have been neglected. In the US case, both Trump and Sanders point to inequality, to the ways that particular groups have been ignored, even denigrated. The responses contain a mix of yin and yang, positives and negatives. Most populist movements do have some positive impacts. There is often a sparkle of new ideas at the start. Many may not be sensible, but they are posing new questions.

Whether populist movements are positive in the longer term depends on the mix of ying and yang, the positives and the negatives. Some of the worst are those who develop and apply rigidly defined solutions. The Nazis or Peronistas come to mind.

I said that Ms Hanson was low grade populism. Her message is primarily negative, lacking in positives, full of yang with little yin. There is nothing in her vision that will provide coherence to the movement she is seeking to form beyond a rather vague Australian nationalism.

2t, will respond to you later.

Jim Belshaw said...

Hi 2t. Don't you think that Labor and Liberal are deeply tribal? Perhaps the problem from the viewpoint of the major parties is just that there are more tribes!

2 tanners said...

Jim, I do consider the major parties to be tribal, more the Liberals than Labor. Labor is riven by formal factions which are tribal in an organisational sense but less so in a real political sense. E.g. the NSW Right would find it hard to say what they stand for, except more power for the NSW Right. The LNP, on the other hand, is divided by fundamentalist Christians vs others, climate, whether city vs country is a major or minor problem etc. And it's not limited to the major parties - the NSW hard left greens with their 'tear down capitalism' manifesto opposing the mainstream party or Ms HAnson's continued inability to maintain her few numbers.

I think we have a long way to go, however, before the majors wake up from their internal fighting and the electorate sees that if, out of revulsion for politics, you elect someone else, you will invariably end up with ... a politician.

Anonymous said...

Pleased you explained "low grade" populism Jim.

My immediate thought was to "half-life" as in radioactive substances. Compared to the "weapons grade" populism routinely employed by our betters - the self described elites. If you are comforted by "Ms Hanson"'s lack of coherence then you are, unfortunately, branding yourself as an elite, imo.

And what actually is wrong with "a vague Australian nationalism"? It's sold heaps of beer and washing powder over many years, and along the way provided many able bodied youths for our various wars - no?


Anonymous said...

On "elites" I thought the following rant by a commenter on an article in The Oz gave a good, if rough, definition:

"You still talk over the stupid people, and they don't hear you. They talk back to you, telling you you don't hear them, and you can't hear it. The people think you are stupid, and you think the people are stupid."

It's relevance to Hanson is quite plain to me, at least: on immigration, for instance, she presently articulates a view of 'Australia' which is shared by a significant majority of her countrymen - I think I saw recently it was something like 80%

It is just not good enough to dismiss this view as "low grade populism" and lacking of positive solutions. The problem, uncomfortable as it might be, is that you disagree with her solutions.

I'm no particular fan of Hanson, but to simply dismiss the views she espouses as "low grade populism" is not particularly helpful imo.


Jim Belshaw said...

From Poll Bludger reporting on the Latest Essential Research poll findings: "Other findings are that 49% disapprove of Donald Trump’s self-styled Muslim ban, with only 36% in favour. At least some of this would appear to be down to questions of implementation, as the gap is narrower on the question of whether Australia should do something similar, with 41% in support and 46% opposed."

Jim Belshaw said...

Morning kvd. Added last for information. Response to your comments will follow once I have finished my Express column.

Anonymous said...

Just adding some more info:

1. Essential polling reported 21 Sept 2016:

The Essential poll asked more than 1000 respondents whether they would support or oppose Pauline Hanson’s proposed ban on Muslim immigration.

Sixty per cent of Liberal voters, 40 per cent of Labor voters and 34 per cent of Greens voters said they would support the ban.

2. From Kevin Bonham's "Field Guide" to polling:

Essential Report is a weekly online poll and the house pollster for the Crikey website's subscriber newsletter. Essential's respondents are selected from a panel of around 100,000 voters, and about 1000 are polled each week, by sending out an email offering small shopping credit rewards for participation. Unusually, Essential publishes rolling results that are the sum of each week's poll and the last week's poll. The purpose of this strategy is to reduce bouncing and the impact of brief kneejerk reactions on the poll.


Just for info, as I said.


ps re 80% - was a typo. Apologies, but points remain.