I’ve been writing for a while about the global emergence of a three party system, consisting of (a) the Trumpist right, (b) a green-socialist-social democratic left and (c) the remains of the former consensus between hard and soft versions of neoliberalism. How does this analysis look after the Federal election and Labor’s defeat?
The first point to observe is the crucial role of essentially random shocks. As with Trump and Brexit, we’d be having a very different discussion if Labor had managed a couple of percentage points more. But that didn’t happen, and Labor’s shock at the result has turned into a complete collapse.
Second, it briefly appeared that Morrison might make a break with Trumpism and try to regain the centre ground. The most notable move in this direction was the elevation of Ken Wyatt to Cabinet as Minister for Indigenous Australians, and Wyatt’s attempt to raise the idea of constitutional recognition. But in the face of the predictable Trumpist reaction, Morrison has left Wyatt in the lurch, putting him in the sadly familiar position of token representative.
Meanwhile, Labor has retreated dramatically from the leftwing positions it took to the election. The direction of the shift is no surprise. Despite his nominal membership of the Labor Left, Albanese has been pushing a rightwing line for some time, notably when Labor looked like losing the Longman by-election. Still, the extent of the capitulation is striking, including voting for massively regressive tax cuts.
The result is a big opportunity for the Greens, now the only party supporting a recognisably left, or even social-democratic position. If policy positions were all that mattered, they ought to take a substantial share of Labor’s support. It may be, however, that the well-publicized internal problems of the Greens, combined with historical antipathy from elements the Labor left will prevent this from happening.
As far as I’m concerned though, I can’t imagine any circumstances under which I would support Albanese’s version of Labor over the Greens. Those who still take labels like “Labor Left” seriously need to rethink their position.