In fact in those days it would never have occurred to most people that there was any need to classify political beliefs in any other way than a simple left-right continuum. The Coalition was therefore right-wing (but not too extreme) and Labor was left-wing (but not too extreme). Everybody had the same views on social and cultural issues.
|John Gorton, Australia's first socially left PM|
During the brief life of the Whitlam Government most grassroots Labor supporters were still economic left/social right. The leadership of the party was divided, with old school Labor figures being focused on left-wing economic agendas while the new breed increasingly focused on radical social causes whilst still being left-wing on economic issues.
What’s really interesting is that at about the same time the Coalition started moving leftward on social/cultural issues as well. The Gorton Coalition Government of 1968-71 was, by the standards of the times, quite left-wing on social and cultural issues.
By the late 70s Labor had become economic left/social left and the Coalition was economic right/social left.
Then came the 80s and strange things happened to the Labor Party. During the ascendancy of Bob Hawke and Paul Keating Labor shifted dramatically rightwards on economic issues (in fact they were further right than the coalition for a while).That shift has never been reversed.
Labor today is solidly in the economic right/social left camp. The Coalition is also solidly in the economic right/social left camp. The parties are effectively interchangeable, which explains the volatility of Australian politics in this era. Voters know that whichever side they vote for nothing changes and they’re understandably disillusioned. That’s also pretty much the situation in other Anglosphere countries. In Britain the Conservative Party is hard-right on economics and hard-left on social issues. It’s indistinguishable from the Blairite wing of the Labour Party. The Corbynite wing of Labour makes some noises about actual economic left issues but whether they would pursue such policies in office is another matter. In any case it seems unlikely that the Americans would allow Jeremy Corbyn to become PM.
|Bob Hawke and Paul Keating, destroyer of the traditional Labor Party|
What’s important about all this is that there are two significant constituencies that are entirely ignored by mainstream politics. One of these is the Old School conservative constituency, the people who are right-wing on both economic and social issues. These people simply have no representation. Some, a tiny handful, drift into areas like the alt-right (in Australia they might be One Nation supporters). As far as mainstream politics and the media are concerned these people are Nazis.
The other ignored constituency is the Old School Left - the ones who are left on economic issues but right-wing on social/cultural issues. As far as mainstream politics and the media are concerned these people don’t even exist. They cannot exist. They are the political establishment’s worst nightmare. They are Woke Capital’s worst nightmare. They are powerless because they have no leaders. If they ever find leaders then everything is up for grabs. The whole political landscape will be reshaped.
What’s also interesting is that some of the more intelligent people in the alt-right and dissident right subcultures are starting to have doubts about that whole being right-wing on economic issues thing. They’re starting to think that maybe the free market isn’t powerful magic after all, that maybe GDP growth doesn’t mean very much, that maybe GDP growth is pretty worthless if ordinary people can’t afford to buy a house and raise a family even though back in the 1960s ordinary people could afford to do both those things. It’s only a very small number of alt-right and dissident right people who are having such doubts, but the ones having the doubts tend to be the ones with the brains.
So the future is interesting, with large groups of people effectively completely disenfranchised and either ignored or reviled. It’s a potentially unstable situation. All it needs is someone with the imagination and the ability to light the fuse.