Coalition politics and the end of market liberalism

Lots of commentators are making a fuss over the prospect of the Greens taking the seat of Batman following the likely and unlamented departure of Labor MP David Feeney (if not under S44 then at the next election). The underlying claim is that the election of Greens candidates represents an existential threat to Labor. This is typical of a commentariat mindset that sees anything other than majority Labor or LNP governments as recipes for disaster (the phrase “hung parliament” is indicative), even though we have decades of experience of such governments operating successfully both federally and in (I think) every state and territory. The reality is that, however fractious their relationship may be at times, Labor and the Greens constitute a centre-left coalition. As I said a year ago

For Labor that means giving up the idea that the Greens are a temporary irritant that will go the way of the DLP, if they are abused and/or ignored long enough. For the Greens, it means abandoning Third Way rhetoric suggesting that they represent an unaligned alternative to a two-party duopoly.

The details of the alignment between the two will vary according to the circumstances, from formal coalition to general support, but there is no alternative.

The problem of coalition politics is much more problematic on the right. Despite the frictions, I’m not thinking primarily of the LNP “coalition” (so rusted together that, even where they aren’t merged, the two are lumped together as a single “major party” in most commentary). Rather, the problem is the relationship between the LNP as a whole and the tribalist/Trumpist right, represented in various forms by One Nation, the Liberal Democratic Party, Bernardi’s Conservatives* as well as a large faction within the LNP itself. These two groups have nothing in common except that they have common enemies, and even that common ground is limited. They all hate greenies and unions, but the overt racism of One Nation and the religious bigotry of Bernardi repel lots of mainstream LNP types, while the Trumpist base is suspicious of banks and multinationals.

Most importantly, the ideological framework of market liberalism (aka neoliberalism, economic rationalism) and so on has lost its power, which always rested more on the idea that There Is No Alternative than on any positive appeal. Sermons about the need for reform, budget surpluses, more competitive tax regimes and so on no longer get the kind of automatic approval from the political class as a whole that they used to. So, the mainstream LNP no longer stands for anything in particular. Meanwhile, the Trumpists want nostalgic gesture politics without any concern for coherence or practical consequences.

For the immediate future, at least, politics in Australia has resolved itself into a struggle between two coalitions. Both are going to be fractious, but the big problems are going to be found on the right.

* There’s also the Katter party, but Katter is too idiosyncratic to fit into any classification.

30 thoughts on “Coalition politics and the end of market liberalism

  1. @I am and will always be Not Trampis
    You might like to state what “repairs” are actually necessary while 1.8 million are un/underemployed and wages stagnant. It’s hard to believe but while MYEFO is projecting a surplus in 2023-24 unemployment remains at 5%! We get a surplus on the backs of the (700,000) unemployed. It’s morally inexcusable.

  2. I am and will always be Not Trampis :
    I do not think you understand my point. Only an economic illiterate would argue against budget repair however you do not attempt it by strangling the economy as say Wayne Swan did in his last budget. He reduced GDP growth by 0.7 percentage points and merely weakened the economy.
    Moreoever if the reason the budget is in deficit is because of things done to revenue ( i.e. petrol excise and income tax cuts) then it is silly to redress that by spending cuts.

    You’re right this far: I don’t understand your point. Did you want me to understand your point?

  3. JD I am sorry I thought you had an understanding of economics.

    Ralph go no further than the article by Farrell and Quiggin on Hard Keynesianism on this blog.

    I would repair as quick as nominal growth could allow it.Thus the faster it is the quicker the repair and the slower it is the slower the repair.

    The coalition has been doing this. all the ‘repair’ has been cyclical. the structural deficit is the same as it was when it gained office.

  4. I’m not so sure about the idea that the Greens win seats from the Labor Left (mentioned in this thread but also around the place quite often). Looking at their lower house seats and who they won them off:
    Federal – Melbourne (Labor Left)
    NSW – Newtown (new seat, no incumbent)

  5. sorry, incomplete post above was posted by accident, to continue:
    Federal – Melbourne (Labor Left)
    NSW – Newtown (new seat, no incumbent)
    – Balmain (Labor left)
    – Ballina (Nationals)
    VIC – Melbourne (Labor Left)
    – Prahran (Liberals)
    – Northcote (Labor Right)
    QLD – Maiwar (Liberals)

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