An almost-universal feature of current Australian political commentary is the idea that the process of major party breakdown is a symmetrical one, affecting both side of politics equally. At a global level, this is broadly true. European social democratic parties have faced huge challenges arising from their complicity in austerity, and their inability to formulate a coherent response to racism and xenophobia. Quite a few, like PASOK in Greece, have disappeared altogether.
In Australia, the situation is very different. The rise of the Greens, and the formation of an effective Labor-Green coalition, long predates the crisis of neoliberalism. And the coalition has become more stable over time, not less. As Labor has moved, slowly but substantially, to the left on most issues, the Labor-Green coalition has come to resemble, more and more, the permanent coalition between the Liberals and Nationals (nearly always treated as a single party in Australian discussion. The issue of refugees has provided the most important single point of difference, but hasn’t driven the kind of collapse seen in Europe. Moreover, there has been no sign of any kind of radical or populist left alternative to the Labor-Green party. Rather, the remains of the old Marxist left have continued their gradual decline.
The contrast with the chaos within the LNP, and in its fractious relationship with the various far-right groups* it now relies on for support could not be more evident, and has been discussed at great length. I’m just hoping that we can get past the ritual need for balance, and recognise that, in Australia, this problem is specfic to the right.
The fact that the right is in a chaotic and chronic mess doesn’t mean they will necessarily lose. Labor has shown the capacity to mess things up massively, even without any serious ideological divisions, as in the Rudd-Gillard feud and the spectacular corruption of the NSW party. But that’s just day-to-day politics.
The bigger picture is that the Australian left is making a successful adjustment to the collapse of neoliberalism, while the right is not.
* There are also the centrist independents, most of whom hold seats that would normally belong to the LNP.