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50 responses to “Political parties past”

  1. Peter Kemp

    Keep the bastards honest

    Said Chipp. And in its day, there was a lot of resonance with that, but sadly (for some) the party’s continuing relevance seemed to fade as time rolled on and Meg Lees’ cave in to Howard on GST appeared to be anything but keeping the Howardistas honest.

  2. Socratease

    One Nation had a legitimate role: it confirmed that the closer you live to the equator, the redder becomes your neck.

  3. paul of albury

    The Democrats concept of ‘keeping the bastards honest’ seemed to be based on the assumption that the dishonesty of the major parties favoured different interests and therefore the best way to keep them honest was to stay between them. This may have been relevant in 1977 but it’s way out of date now.

    I voted for them until the GST. While I felt betrayed at the time, with hindsight it was a wake up call to how essentially right wing the party had become and how naive I’d been seeing them as an alternative. The apparent dominance of the Andrew Murray faction over the Stott-Despoya wing reinforced this. By trying to stay attractive to both Liberal and Labor voters they had little value in an environment where there is little essential difference between the policies of the parties.

    If the Democrats existed to put a kinder appearance on Howard policies then Rudd has stolen their clothes.

    The Greens are for me better positioned, to the left of both. I guess in the past I thought of them as single issue compared to the Democrats but on actually looking at the Greens’ policies they seemed surprisingly relevant.

  4. Nickws

    The Dems took their cue from the sixties political upheavals that gave us Whitlamism and Holts & Gorton’s reforms in the major parties, they were never truly a new politics in and of themselves. That isn’t a slight against them, it actually proves they were pretty brave to try for a third party organisation. Of course now they refuse to see the Greens’ claim to be their natural successors, just like the traditional Left refuse to see the Greens as having a strong post-Left dynamic going on. Tough titty.

    As someone who grew up in the bush I have to say that Hansonism is a social tendency more than a political one. There isn’t really much constructive ‘let’s-change-things’ behaviour in it; it’s a knee jerk thing; it’s anti-this and anti-that before anything else. If the ONP was ever appealing to serious political actors they would have recruited at least one existing Independent MP to its ranks—instead the likes of Tony Windsor have attempted to create networks of RARA activists parallel to One Nation over the past decade.

    Now there’s an anti-endorsement if ever there was one.

  5. Peter Murphy

    Socratease – One Nation picked up most of their vote in the Brisbane “hinterland” – a zone reaching from Hervey Bay through Maryborough, Gympie, Nanango and to the west of Ipswich – and in the peripheries of other cities like Cairns and Townsville. They were inner bush, but they were generally not outback Queensland.

    Not that I miss One Nation, but I think the lack of an upper house in Queensland contributed to their demise. There are areas where multi-member electorates (with resulting lower quota) would have got one or two across the line even in the last election. But they’re gone and good riddance.

    Fortunately, lack of reasonable policies was more damming and had more immediate effects on the party (like the City Country Alliance clusterfuck of 1999). If One Nation had got its own version of Jean-Marie Le Pen, he could have kept them together for a couple more years… *shudder*

  6. paul of albury

    And on further thought by channelling disaffected votes back through a third party with a willingness to support a government mandate they arguably removed the need for the majors to be so concerned about voters’ views on their dishonesty

  7. gustaf

    I agree with Nickws and Peter Murphy at 4 and 5 that One Nation was about being anti-this and that and that they were strongest in inner bush areas. I believe they could never have been a sustainable political party for those reasons and also in my mind they were born of a frustration felt by struggling people that they weren’t allowed to express their views on immigration, welfare etc.

    Once the climate changed (and maybe a lot of people who read this blog will think it was for the worst) and people felt that their views could be aired and that they may be wrong but not necessarily evil (and maybe a lot of people who read this blog will think they were evil) it negated the need for One Nation.

  8. patrickg

    RIP Dems. You had a good run, ultimately Lees signed their death warrant by ignoring both the spirit and letter of the laws the party was founded upon. I like to think they typified many qualities sadly all too often missing in politics as practiced by Labor and Liberals alike. A careful, utilitarian approach based around what is actually good policy will always be welcome. I hope the Greens take up that mantle.

  9. robbo

    Agree 100% with patrickg. I truly lament losing a politician of the calibre of Andrew Bartlett, yet having the likes of bronwyn Bishop, Wilson Tuckey and Jennie Macklin remaining in Parliament.

    We surely do need an alternative to the bastard twins of Labor and Liberal, and I remain hopefull that the Greens will indeed become the party of consience, a trait sadly lacking in the other two.

  10. furious balancing

    David Winderlich has zero profile here. I hope he’s trounced by a Green at the next election. I think Mark Parnell has been really good value in the LC here in South Australia. Likewise with Xenophon shifting to fed. politics, I’d like to see the two he bought into the LC outed for some more innovative thinkers.

  11. BlackMage

    Both parties were useful at demonstrating the various reactions to the general convergence of the ‘majors’ on economic issues — One Nation representing populist, protectionist economics (while not being overtly ‘left-wing’, any more than any populist is ‘left-wing’) tied to hard-right social issues, and the Democrats adopting certain populist stands tied to a ‘liberal’ social agenda. The interesting thing is the odd convergence between the two on certain economic issues, reflecting that even the major parties conceded the ‘popular’ position on economics in Australia is more big-government than laissez-faire. A total failure of the market to sell its product, really.

    The Democrats did better than any minor party in Australian history, assuming you don’t count Labor, National/Country, or the Liberals (and their predecessor titles) as ‘minor’. And despite that they never won a House seat, never got much more than 10% of the vote, never got included in a televised candidates’ debate and never really looked close to becoming anything more than an influential spoiler. It’s a shame.

  12. Mark

    I’d agree with that, BlackMage.

  13. John D

    The Democrats were an effective balance of power party. Unfortunately, it became less and less clear what they actually stood for and their industial relations and GST decision meant that many Labor voters suddenly realised that the Democrats could no longer be used as a wake up call to Labor without risking that the Democrats would vote with the libs on a key issue.
    The other problem is that voting for minor parties only makes sense if it is a way of sending a specific message such as greens=concern with environment. In the end it was hard to say what message what voting Democrat was sending.

    At the moment I think there is a civil liberties niche that a minor party could move into.

  14. coconaut

    “successful in sustaining itself as a long term political player”. The Democrats lasted for 30 years, I reckon that counts! Don’t think much of the Greens, their social justice credentials are yet to be established. Basically I’m a swing/donkey voter now 🙁

  15. rumrebellious

    This is sad.

    I wasn’t around for the excitement of the Democrats, but I still remember the nightly political debates with friends that Pauline inspired. The fear, the protests, the angry confused voices on both sides, neither knowing where their central difference lay. Hence more yelling, loud angry denunciations, fingers pointed, even a bone. It was hell for leather everywhere you looked, city and bush, black and white, young and old. They were crazy times.

    Socratease, we have saying that goes something like; ‘The further south we go, the more frigid youse get’. The red-necks have nothing to do with the tropics. It’s just a bad dye job.

    Incidentally, HEMP seems to be also dying.

  16. FDB

    Say it ain’t so, Rummy!

    What will we do without Captain Bongaroo and his pearls of bleary wisdom?

  17. Paul Burns

    Wow! Socialist Alliance is bigger than One Nation. Never thought I’d see the day. Now that’s what I call a victory!

  18. Steve at the Pub

    One major difference between Socialist Alliance & One Nation: One Nation adherents were those who had held down a job.

  19. Wombo

    with all due respect, go jump in a lake. You clearly have *absolutely* no idea what you’re talking about, and are just being a git.

    Also, Socialist Alliane’s size or employment status notwithstanding, we will have to reregister federally this year too. The AEC reviews the status of registered political parties without parliamentary representation on an irregular basis now (unlike the NSWEC – which requires yearly registration, and which Socialist Alliance achieves every year) – usually in the lead up to federal elections.

    As one of them is due in the not too distant future, we are going to have to jump through their hoops again.

    It is, I should add, entirely possible that One Nation could achieve reregistration. Even likely, I should say.

  20. David Irving (no relation)

    furious, have I got a deal for you!

    The Greens have three very good candidates up for the Upper House next State Election, and we’re confident that at least one, and possibly two, of them will be joining Mark Parnell.

    Nickws, although the rump of the Dems may not accept that the Greens are their natural successor, you’d (possibly) be surprised at how many Greens are ex-Democrats.

  21. coconaut

    I wouldn’t be surprised at all

  22. Fran Barlow

    I can only endorse the thrust of the commentary here on the demise of the Democrats. While they were, for the most part, really worthy and well-intended, it really was unclear what a vote for them meant in practice.

    As to the One Nation crowd, their imminent demise of this bunch of ignorant reactionary xenophobic tabloid populist nutbags is something to greet with relief.

  23. furious balancing

    DI {nr}, that’s good to know about the Greens LC nominations, what are their names?

    I’m still pondering what to do in the lower house….it’s the first time I’ve seriously considered not preferencing Labor. I’m in Kaurna, and while I think John hill is an okay, I’m really bothered by the dominance the likes of Foley, Atchinson and Conlon have in the state Labor party.

    Out of curiosity are the Greens going to run a candidate in the seat of Chaffey?

  24. jules

    I think one of the reasons One Nation failed was that as soon as they got any traction Howard stole their thunder. It was all about the fear.

    Especially after Tampa.

    Tho in their favour they were pretty anti MAI, GATTs etc etc, along with the Greens, and the Democrats actually. (Black mage has already said this I spose.)

    Pity about HEMP, but MB had his chance and … if you know him you are probably surprised it lasted as long as it did. He hasn’t been able to generate the resonance among his potential target demographic that PH did. Relying on stoners to get pot legalised is probably fraught with problems to begin with.

  25. rumrebellious

    What will we do without Captain Bongaroo and his pearls of bleary wisdom?

    I imagine life will continue as always. Drug users and drug addicts will continue to be punished by the state for their personal choices, and they will remain dependent and enslaved to a criminal class whose primary concern is money, and without the support of the legal system to protect their industry, have only recourse to violence to enforce the payment of debts.

    I for one, do not consider that a good thing.

  26. David Irving (no relation)

    We’re trying to run candidates in every electorate, furious, although I don’t know if anyone’s nominated for Chaffey yet.

    I can’t remember the LC candidate details offhand, though. They all attended a number of “Meet the Candidates” sessions a couple of months ago, and I was pretty impressed with all of them.

  27. anthony nolan

    I am still fascinated by the role of the AEC in failing to adequately check One Nation’s member roles from day one. Something wrong with that.

  28. Geoff Robinson

    One Nation voters were mostly conservatives disappointed in the 1996-98 Howard govt, once the economy finally picked up they had less to complain about and drifted back to their natural home.Dems’ political space was annexed by Labor.

  29. Nickws

    once the economy finally picked up they had less to complain about and drifted back to their natural home

    Geoff, from the outside looking in (us looking at them) this is mostly right, but I don’t think the Hansonite tendency has ever really settled down, nor have they accepted that things are better with any of the issues that pushed their buttons a decade ago.

    If what they believe in is Australian Poujadism then it’s not a belief system that can ever be placated, IMHO. That million-strong support base dying off is more plausible than a million ex-ONP voters deciding they’re satisfied with the way things are—though of course the Coalition has pandered, and continues to pander, like crazy to these people, hence today’s announcement that Turnbull wants to bring back the ‘Pacific Solution’.

  30. Mark

    One Nation voters were mostly conservatives disappointed in the 1996-98 Howard govt

    Depends where you’re talking about, Geoff. They picked up 5 seats off Labor in the 1998 Queensland election, and came close to taking quite a few more. Many were safe ALP seats, as was Oxley when Hanson won it.

  31. Steve at the Pub

    For “One Nation voters” read: “People who, out of desperation, voted once for One Nation”

    In the state election at the time, One Quarter of Qlders who had a One Nation candidate presented to them voted for that candidate.

    These people were voting for a party that had, no history, no policies, no coherent party structure, no party discipline, and was held in scornful contempt by the news media.

    This was not “disaffected coaltion voters” or “rednecks”. This was the mother of all protest votes, one helluva bolt from the blue.

    What an achievement for one very ordinary female. No wonder the feminist movement was proudly cheering the achievement of their politically most successful sister.

    The Australian Democrats on the other hand, were far from a one-hit wonder. Their original turf, (keeping the bastards honest) may have kept them in business, but they abandoned this ground, perhaps seeing that sooner rather than later the major parties would muscle them out of this Harradine-like role.

    They drifted in search of a larger constituency for quite some time, the most laughable was their attempt in the late 1980’s to the “party of the bush”.

    We all know what are the core beliefs of the Greens, ALP, Liberals, Nationals, etc. The Democrats, without a similar readily recognised core mission statement eventually lost enough of their core constituency either through drift to the Greens, or via growing up. Without sufficient critical mass to sustain itself, the party just faded away to nothing.

  32. coconaut

    I read quite a bit about the Democrats. They were probably the most ideologically consistent party over the last thirty years: Keynesian social democratic progressive liberals – hard to articulate sure, but fairly consistent. Pro the rights of the individual but willing to temper them for the greater good if it was needed to ensure the disadvantaged were looked after. Much better than Labor or Liberal, both of whom I would have trouble saying what they stand for long term.

  33. coconaut

    … with a dash of libertarian populism (“keeping the bastards honest”).

    The new exec of the Dems don’t have a clue about this heritage, preferring to focus on the Christian Left angle (which is not really a substantial angle of the party’s legacy in my mind at all). Sad to watch it veer off into crazy land.

  34. Steve at the Pub

    Most aptly put Coconaut @ 32 & 33

  35. Paulus

    Coconaut, “the Christian Left angle”? I was quite a fan of the Dems back in the day, but they were never pandering to any section of the Christian vote — and indeed, with their liberal social policies, they were probably the party evangelical Christians loved to hate.

    Could you expand on what you mean?

  36. Mark

    The Uniting Church could have been described as the Democrats at prayer, Paulus! There was a lot of crossover between liberal mainline Protestant denominations and the Democrats.

  37. Jacques de Molay

    Wasn’t there a piece in Crikey recently about how the Democrats (what’s left of them) are now controlled by full on Christians? I think a few of the Democrats members protested about it on their forum so they closed the whole forum down or something.

  38. Jacques de Molay
  39. David Irving (no relation)

    SATP @ 31, it’s not often that I agree with you, but I think you’re on the money here.

  40. Liam

    Yeah, I think we’re stepping into brave new territory here, DI(nr).
    Pub Steve, would you please return to your usual militant populism, it’s not right that you should be expressing a reasonable and well-considered viewpoint.

  41. Ben Raue

    The Democrats never really had a base. There’s been a lot of analysis about how their vote wildly fluctuated and how the House and Senate votes were very different (as Antony Green recently analysed). I think the Democrats biggest problem was almost their entire vote was made up of undecideds between the major parties, and they tended to fluctuate. Their best result in 1990 was followed by an abysmal result in 1993.

    As well as not having deep roots in any voter group, they lacked deep roots in terms of party structure. They had very few councillors and state MPs. The Greens have now easily overtaken the Democrats in terms of records of electing state MPs in every state and territory except SA (and of course QLD & NT, where both parties have a zero record), even though we’re yet to overtake their record federally.

    These lack of deep roots meant that when they stumbled in the early 2000s they didn’t have the safety net.

  42. Steve at the Pub

    Gosh, Liam & David both!! The road to Damascus is seeing heavy traffic today!

  43. Nickws

    For “One Nation voters” read: “People who, out of desperation, voted once for One Nation”…

    These people were voting for a party that had, no history, no policies, no coherent party structure, no party discipline, and was held in scornful contempt by the news media.

    This was not “disaffected coaltion voters” or “rednecks”. This was the mother of all protest votes, one helluva bolt from the blue.

    ‘Johnny Coward’.

    They were voting against ‘Johnny Coward’ in ’98, SATP.

    (The Pacific Solution was the eventual kiss-and-make-up from him to them RE the ugly freakout over sane gun laws.)

    But it was the Coalition governments who were the original stand-ins for the PC Left and the feminazis back then.

    Anyway, at least everything was rectified by that million-strong primal scream. Right?

  44. coconaut

    There’s not so much difference between the Greens and Dems except that the Greens have the example of the Dems to learn from and so may avoid some problems. However, I see them making a lot of the same mistakes actually. And while their attention to local politics is superior to the Democrats in the 90s, the Greens lack the grassroots democratic ethos that sustained the Dems through several leadership turmoils. The consensus based model used by the Greens is easily captured by information gatekeepers.

  45. Oz

    Coconaut, you don’t know much about The Greens do you?

    Nothing “sustained” the Democrats through their leadership problems. They started collapsing and limped along until they were annihilated.

  46. coconaut

    Well Oz,

    The Natasha Stott Despoja v Meg Lees debacle wasn’t the first leadership turmoil in the Democrats, they had two or three equally dramatic leadership battles before that in the late 80s and early 90s. The reason the last one was so bad was the “gang of four” went against the members wishes … each of the other times the vote of the members decided the issue.

    How many people got to vote for Christine Milne as Deputy Leader of the Greens last year? Answer: 5 … the Greens parliamentary team. There’s nothing stable about that. For a minor party that is a fair-weather system that will break down. One vote one value is the only fair (and therefore strongest) way to decide leadership positions.

    So all I’m saying is that the Greens have a better focus on local politics, which will help them through “down patches”, but overall their organisational structure is very susceptible (more so than the Democrats IMO) to capture by party elites.

    I do find it a worry that Greens supporters seem to believe that because they’ve never had organisational turmoil they are invincible. They are overlooking the personal contribution made by Bob Brown who has been extraordinarily stable. Will Ludlam support Milne if she turns out to be a poor leader post 2010?

  47. David Irving (no relation)

    Um … coconaut … re Sen Milne being elected Deputy leader by the parliamentary wing of the Greens … sounds a bit like what the ALP, the Libs and the Nats do.

    As an active member of the Greens, I don’t actually have a problem with that, particularly given Sen Milne’s strength as a parliamentary performer.

  48. coconaut

    I notice Deputy leader of “the parliamentary wing” is distinction made only by members of the Greens, the Greens MPs themselves refer to her as Deputy leader.

    Anyway, that’s all semantics really. My advice is the Greens should focus on grassroots democracy (I’m not talking just about local council elections) and really try and harness people power – online ballots, open pre-selections, getup-style fundraising. However, that was my advice to the Democrats and they hated that advice too! So maybe I am wrong.

  49. coconaut

    Are you seriously saying you’re happy that 5 people decide who are the leaders of the Australian Greens?

  50. David Irving (no relation)

    Parliamentary leaders, coconaut. Sure.