Reflection on Australia’s 2018 Political Crisis

Shifts in Ideologies Matter, Beyond a Political Party’s Identity

Dr Diann Rodgers-Healey

Former Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull

The sudden painful political annihilation of Malcolm Turnbull, former Prime Minister and Leader of the Liberal Party has begged the question, what was it all about?

Several different narratives are now trying to make sense of the debacle. The dominant narrative is that the “insurgency” as Turnbull called it, had emerged from the right conservative side led by Peter Dutton, who had been egged on by the former Prime Minister Tony Abbott. They were intent on aligning the Party to its core supporter conservative base, and were continuing their spiteful vengeance against Turnbull for deposing Abbott.

We witnessed the Party fighting and gasping for which stream of identity, right or moderate centre, would emerge through strength of numbers and gamesmanship to claim its badge to govern. The clamour grew in both the electorate and Parliament to say that it was appalling for the government to be so self-absorbed and imploding at the hands of the Party’s conservatives.

While many MPs registered the electorate’s discontent, and themselves recognised that they needed to focus on issues that matter to Australians, what was missing from the discourse was any sensitivity to what a shift to the right in the emerging government would mean in the electorate and especially to those who are on the margins of Australian norms, including racial, sexual and economic norms.

It was only recently that themes of racial exclusion reverberated when Senator Fraser Anning’s maiden speech advocated a return to the White Australia Policy. Although it is commendable that the government criticised the speech, it is worrying that a few weeks later, the electorate was put in a position to passively accept the possibility of a right-wing conservative led government, that would be unlikely to promote majority held inclusive and progressive Australian values.

With ideologies dominating motivations for policies against a backdrop of popularism, it is time we re-think strategies to discern which parties to vote for. We need to start considering what a party’s ideologies point to, manifest through their policy positions and in the level of party concurrence for them. What vision for the nation and its character do their policies culminate in? What is envisioned as the purpose of Australia in a global context? What spirit or values underlie its policies and are these aligned to that of an evolving nation on all its fronts?

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