The sheer vacuousness of Australian (and indeed global) party politics is shown by the LNP victory in Queensland. As is stated in this article, voters have 'voted for change'. That is all: they were vaguely fed up and voted for a change. Well, they'll get one, just as NSW did before them. They will get a slightly quickened pace of neoliberal destitution. The bottom line is that in the current situation of competition between Labor's slightly socially muted neoliberalism, and the Coalition's slightly less social neoliberalism there is no obvious choice and voters simply challenge incumbency based on factors that are whimsical and irrelevant. This is one reason why there is so much focus on personalities, on tiny blunders, on minor issues today, because these are the only things that constitute points of differentiation, lightning rods for mass discontent. Let's go further: 'twas ever thus, more or less. Politics is generally hegemonic in this way, with broad consensus between parties. What's exceptional is when you get a Whitlam moment, at which a party actually pushes through significant changes, in which a new hegemony is partly established.
It's an obvious piece of commentary, but I think still bears noting, that the victory of the Coalition in NSW, and their ability to rule with support from the Shooters and Christians in the Upper House means that the far right have a serious influence now in NSW. OF course, their influence is marginal, and mainly confined to ramping up shooting in national parks and prayer in schools. The exacerbates though what is genuinely awful situation of having the Coalition in government – given that Labour is really already clearly on the right of the political spectrum by any reasonable measure, we're dealing with a radical right-wing government already.
This is dissimilar to the situation federally inasmuch as the need for support from independents federally for Labour to rule means that Labour is not simply dragged to the left by the Greens – more's the pity.
Optimism about the Australian economic outlook is premised on the idea that Chinese demand for resource exports will carry Australia through. I do not believe that the resources sector is really capable of keeping the Aus economy afloat, and that what is really keeping it afloat is precisely the myth of its own robustness. But in any case, it seems dubious to think that the Chinese demand will last forever. To wit, a couple of pieces by Bloomberg correspondent William Pesek. Firstly, this general piece, warning about the stability of the Chinese economy. Secondly, a more specific warning directed at Australia.
The Australian economy has kept rumbling forward for the last couple of years like a headless chicken. "Look how it runs around! It's not dead!" But, sooner or later, chickens must come home to rot. The key point of vulnerability and volubility in the Australian economy is the house price bubble. This is now deflating everywhere but Sydney. In conjunction, the economy has just nosedived into recession (though not by the strict definition by which only several quarters of recession is counted as recession). The blame for the latter is being placed on the weather, much as it was in the UK earlier this year. But you put these two things together and one may see the crucial puncture. Of course, given a global situation in which capital has nowhere to go, and with Australian interest rates still so high, mass capital flight is not upon us yet. But we may finally see the adjustment to house prices and dollar that we've been waiting for.
Update The chicken is teetering, woohoo.
Here's an interesting little nugget: private schools in NSW are allowed to exclude students on the grounds of their sexuality. An interesting way to turn this around, it occurs to me, might be to establish a gay-only private school, pending what I think is the almost inevitable abolition of this law.
This story is a little confusing to the capsule narrative I have of Tanya Plibersek, viz. that she's about the most left-wing federal Labor MP in NSW. Here she appears as the right fringe of the Left, demanding action against WikiLeaks. It is hard to imagine how she can be called left-wing at all on this basis. It's an odd thing for her to say, because the ALP strategy for retaining her seat seems to be to compete with the Greens on a left-wing terrain. Perhaps with the precedent being set in Melbourne of the Libs preferencing Labor, a new strategy of wooing Liberal preferences is to be expected in the inner city.