In the odd moments that I have to view and write about politics outside NZ at present, I happened upon a Wall Street Journal article this morning about the election contest in aussie that got me thinking.
Australia is leaning toward electing its first conservative government in six years, to be led by a man considered by some to have been unelectable due to his tough conservative views on issues ranging from climate change to abortion and gay marriage.
Tony Abbott, leader of the opposition, goes into the Sept. 7 election with his backing parties in pole position. His Liberal National coalition has pulled clear of the center-left Labor government in opinion polls, after both sides were briefly tied as recently as three weeks ago.
That is certainly the case if you read the most recent Roy Morgan poll. The majority is likely to be small but enough
However it was the other part of the article that I found most interesting.
Still, many voters are cautious about Mr. Abbott, whose personal ratings continue to lag those of Mr. Rudd, even as opinion polls point toward a big victory for the Liberal National coalition. “He’s still unpopular, that’s the paradox,” said Zareh Ghazarian, a Melbourne-based political analyst at Monash University. “It highlights how, in the Australia system, we’re looking at the parties rather than the people leading them.”
Mr. Abbott was unavailable to be interviewed for this article.
The opposition leader’s record as health minister in the last conservative government under John Howard is unpopular with some voters, especially his views toward abortion. Younger Australians, in particular, dislike his stance on issues like global warming. Mr. Abbott once referred to arguments about the dangers of climate change as “absolute crap.” He also opposes same-sex marriages.
My italics. With the aussies I’ve met over the last couple of years, this is definitely the impression you get. Even more than in NZ, the aussies are voting for what they consider are the most effective parties rather than the weasel running them. And they are both weasels and are generally perceived by the public there as being weasels.
As a political activist I don’t have a high opinion of Kevin Rudd. His erratic egocentricity and factional style of politics has effectively allowed the room for the Liberals to consolidate. It is not that the Liberals are popular because they are not. Especially amongst the australians less than 40, who find the conservatism and clear misogyny of the current Liberal party almost unfathomable to understand.
What is clear is that the Australian Labour caucus with its self-destructive fractionalisation and triumph of egotism in its caucus has managed to make themselves unelectable to the majority of voters. The Australian electorate will be voting against them. Ironically, from what I am hearing from activists over there, is that the party machinery, targeting and mobilisation is as good as I have ever heard about. It is entirely possible that they may be able to scrape a slim victory for the left simply because polling techniques are becoming increasingly less effective as the dominance of listed landlines diminishes.
However the media in Australia are (to put it mildly) strongly partisan in their own interests, just as they are here. But the NZ Herald’s self interested campaign against constraining advertising in the electoral reforms bill of 2007 is miniscule compared to the type of media campaigns that the media baron owned media do in aussie. They come down on the side of the interests of the money that own them with scare campaigns on everything from refugees to taxation on mining. They seize on any signs of fractures in a left-wing parties.
This type of personal self-indulgence inside a left wing caucus both here and there is something that doesn’t favour the cause that activists put their time and effort into. It is something that can be ill-afforded both here and obviously in Australia.
As I slowly drift away from being active in the Labour party and concentrate more on other more productive interests, it becomes more and more apparent to me how much I detest unproductive factionalism. I spent the 90’s largely ignoring it inside Labour and focused on the task of how to win elections. This got steadily more difficult through the noughts as the Labour party shuddered in a stasis to avoid it.
That was why I took to The Standard with such vigour slightly more than 6 years ago because here was a chance to do something outside of the stifling wasteland of an increasingly caucus centric party.