Peak Democracy….?

8 06 2019

I’m BacK! Make a coffee and read my grim take on the Australian Electoral scene from 1950 to 2030. (Lonnnng Rave from my friend John Barker)

Trends in Australian Politics Described in 4 Simple Graphs

John Barker PhD

One week on and the explanations of the 2019 Australian Federal election are already getting very detailed and complex. Nick Evershed’s analysis in the Guardian (22May) believable, but is probably only understandable by a few.I’ve tried to boil it down to 4 graphs – 3 are historical, one predictive – which are about as simple as they can be made. Some people shrink away from graphs, so the following description might help.

The axes of the graphs show two major parameters – the “socio-economic index (SOI)” and the percentage at that SOI level. The SOI aggregates a lot of things, but mainly income, education and social status. Broadly, the higher the index, the more wealthy, usually more educated and a greater sense of affluence and social fulfillment. Of course there are many exceptions, but I think that these are the main drivers.

The first graph depicts Australia in and before about 1950. There are two political parties (despite minor issues, the Liberal Party and the Country (National) Party are joined at the hip, so are aggregated as the LNP). The LNP is depicted in blue and has its peak to the right of the median SOI. They are the “bosses, bank managers, shop owners and farmers. In other words, the “SOI better-off” tended to vote LNP, tailing off rapidly to the Left, which has a similar-looking and similar-sized curve for the ALP. In 1950, the ALP voters are mainly the “working class”, ie manual laborers, clerical assistants and shop-assistants. Note that the grey curve, which is the total of all voters, is fairly narrow- that is the difference of affluence between the average LNP voter and the average Labor voter was not great. There are little humps at the far-left and far-right, representing, respectively, the few very wealthy and the few very poor- ie unemployed.

The second graph depicts the scene from about the mid-1950s until about 1980. The famous Labor split of 1955 created the Democratic Labor Party (DLP), with its chief strategist and Tony Abbott-mentor BA Santamaria, which, although it shared some general social justice policies with the ALP, was otherwise staunchly conservative and ant-Left. Its main effect was to appeal to a significant number of poorly-educated “working-class” (ie Labor) voters and deliver its second preferences to the NLP. The graph shows the combined LNP-DLP vote, which was enough to exclude Labor from office until 1972. During this period, Australians, on average (and including Labor voters), grew more affluent- illustrated by the grey overall curve moving to the right, and broadening somewhat- meaning the gap between the more- and less- affluent was widening. The number of very wealthy was growing, as was the number of under- and partly employed. This widening gap- which is more evident in the USA, seems to be the main reason for the resentment of the poorer groups on the mid-left of the next group- the ALP.

The third graph depicts Australia in 2019. The median of the SOI has continued to move to the right- “on average” Australians are wealthier than ever, but many more are further from the average on both sides. The less- affluent and less-well-educated on the left have found a champion in Pauline Hanson and the fairly affluent, inner-city dwellers, with the capacity for social concern, now identify with The Greens. The Greens have taken a sizeable chunk of Labor voters, but generally give their second preference to Labor. The far-right of the grey and blue curves has grown disproportionately, with the top 10% having a very high SOI. What is hard to show on this simple graph is the increased number of “SOI-Elite”, who can direct millions of dollars of their “own” fortunes at whatever cause they wish.

So what? All of this is pretty obvious- at least when it is laid out in a few simple graphs. What we have now is 5 major political groups- the LNP, the ALP, the Greens, the One Nation and the “SOI-Elite”. This last group generally don’t stand for election, but sponsor others to do their bidding- they are the “rent-seekers”. The two smaller groups- the ON and Greens- are essentially extremists or idealists- the ON, comprising about 10%, are being cultivated to blame and resent some visible social groups- Muslims, Asians, African Gangs, etc for their misfortunes and blame the ALP’s globalist, distributive policies for having created these groups as well as having abandoned the “working-class” as they (the ALP) have become more affluent. The Greens imagine an ideal world which they believe can be created in a very short time-frame and decry anyone who is less optimistic- including the ALP. Their idealism has attracted about 10% of the voters and have hardened their views in their endeavor to attract more voters.

The word “elite” has shifted recently from meaning a select group displaying extreme (and usually commendable) attributes – like athleticism, scholarship, bravery or wealth – to become an epithet – an insult implying a group who are indifferent to the well-being of the public-at-large. This shift is not just a semantic quibble- the word has been weaponised by both the Right and the Left. Oddly, the Right, in both the USA and Australia has classified the 10% Greens and probably an equal number of the ALP as “inner-city elites”. Not long ago, no-one would consider a group comprising about 20% of the population as “elite”. But the Right has done just that. On the other hand, the Left has started using “elite” to describe the top 1% of the SOI as “elite”- more technically correct, but as an epithet, not a commendation.

What happens next? The fourth graph predicts Australia in about 2030. It is markedly different from the previous three graphs. The ALP has completely disappeared and One Nation (or something similar) now commands a large chunk of the population, most of which has moved dramatically to the left of the SOI, but with a long tail that goes to the far right of the graph. The LNP has also shrunk, but has moved up in the SOI. There is a small group, which had its origin in the Greens, that is now called “Dissidents” that is just to the right of the middle of the SOI. This graph is essentially what one sees now in most of Africa and Asia and what is clearly happening in the USA. It depicts a totalitarian state- the economy, as we presently know it has collapsed- mainly because oil prices have collapsed due to electric vehicles, coal prices have collapsed through China moving to inland gas and renewables for its electricity and China has withdrawn its full-fee-paying students from Australia (worth $15 billion in 2018) and stopped building apartments in the capitals because of Australia’s craven alliance with the increasingly unfriendly USA. The Indian economy has collapsed under the weight of intense air and land pollution and water shortages due to climate change.The remaining resource industries are fully automated and are controlled by global screen-jockeys. The LNP members are rather like the Soviet “Nomenklatura”- open-followers of the ruling elite, who “manage” the remaining economy and police the large under-employed classes – who vote for the government in sham elections, for fear of further reprisals. The Green/Dissident group is allowed to survive to give the appearance of an open society and so that the government can easily keep an eye on them.

A post-apocalyptic dystopia? Certainly. I have spent most of the past two years travelling across China, Central Asia, Africa and India, with some time in Europe, Cuba, USA and Mexico. It already exists in most of these countries. I cannot see how Australia can avoid this, now that it has confirmed its preferred economic direction as being more “resource intensive”. This is known as the “resource curse” with added features. In many countries, the high export-demand for resources has created unbalanced economies with high currency values, but little or no manufacturing. Fluctuation in resource exports creates a chaotic downward spiral. In Australia’s case, the systemic reduction in demand for its resources (which have become highly automated), together with a dramatic weakening in otherwise-compensating sectors (education, construction and climate change- reduced agriculture) creates a negative economic cascade.

Can it be avoided? Could it have been avoided if Labor had won the 2019 election? Probably not. Australia is – and always has been – hostage to geopolitics. China saved us from the GFC 2008 by its own GFC counter- measures. That won’t happen again. And Australia has little or no “economic resilience” left.



6 responses

8 06 2019

The stupid runs strong in our voting public.

26 06 2019
Blue Peter

Friedrich Nietzsche comes to mind. “madness is something rare in individuals – but in groups, parties, peoples, ages, it is the rule.”

9 06 2019

Bloody depressing! Yes, as said above, most voters are stupid.
We are SO screwed. (Not that there was much hope anyway….)

9 06 2019

>> There is an accepted truism that when it comes to politics what appears to be a conspiracy is usually just the result of poor government decisions. It is a logical conclusion given that conspiracies require clever conspirators and politicians are generally not seen as being clever. This of course is not correct, its a belief acquired because politicians are continually criticized by the media and even more so by their colleagues. Like or loath him John Howard was a smart politician – he did after all survive 10 years as PM and won an election after involving us in an illegal war in Iraq. Having said that, how many bad decisions can be made on one issue before we have to conclude that no government could be that incompetent with out intent? And how many bad decisions are allowed to continue because there has been a conspiracy of silence enforced by the need for party unity and the lack of whistle blower protection? Malcolm Turnbull managed to delay an inquiry into the banking sector, perhaps the only time he ever had the support of his entire party colleagues. The fact that the then government was hounded by the opposition to hold the inquiry is seen as a vindication that a multi party democracy is self regulating and cannot provide the cross party cooperation needed to sustain a conspiracy. However there have been instances when such cooperation feeds mutual self interest such as political donations or adherence to a mutually shared doctrine like market economics, something that occurred when Keating embraced the market ideas of Milton Friedman. This meant there was no political party able to challenge the dangers of free trade or the reliance on an economy dependent on growth. Markets are about money, not morality.
>> In 1970 475,000 cars were made in Australia, the 10th highest rate in the world producing an export industry which saw cars shipped to Asia, NZ and the US. Australia was one of only 13 countries with the capabilities to design and develop mass market cars from scratch. Much the same applied for rolling stock, buses tractors and shipbuilding which contributed $1.7 billion directly in value added to Australia’s Gross Domestic Product. At its peak the ship construction industry employed approximately 14,600 people across a variety of occupations such as shipwrights, engineers and naval architects and supplied a defense industry as well as the local shipping industry that is now almost all foreign owned. Shipbuilding, like any manufacturing industry is a driver of innovation and we became the worlds best at producing fast ferries one of which (Incat) held the coveted Blue Riband award for the fastest crossing of the Atlantic ocean and were later acquired by the US navy where they were built in the US under license. We were also the 3rd nation to launch our own satellite from our own country because we had at that time a space industry.
>> Australia has now become a resource mine for the rest of the world and leave it unable to wean itself away from a resource based economy and highly vulnerable to price swings in just a few commodities. This switch from a diverse economy was achieved through a number of economic decisions which had the cumulative effect of limiting export opportunities and exponentially increasing our demand for imports. In 2018 our total imports came to $A314.0b or about $A12,560 per person. But it was made up largely of goods we once manufactured in Australia – Machinery, cars, white goods, furniture, bedding, lighting and electrical components necessary to supply the 221,877 houses we build every year. Australia now imports over 1million cars at a cost of US $29.4 b as well as $4.4b in spare parts which could have been made locally all of which has to be paid for by exports which are are predominately resources with coal, ores, precious metals and gas making up the majority while Food (grains, meat & primary products) only another 13.9% . We are now one of the worlds biggest exporters of non renewable resources with Newcastle as the worlds biggest coal port.
>> So if we want to take action on climate change we must buy the solar panels that were once made here, as well as the wind turbines and much of the electrics. We will have to pay for these with our resource exports by increasing mining or land clearing and then pay again for the machinery to dig out the minerals. And for every increase in population we will need to pay for that extra $12,560 he or she takes in imports. With a population growth of 395,100 last year this is obviously impossible. We have been conned by economists who used GDP as a indicator of success while aware that it remained insensitive to poverty, unemployment, mortgage debt and balance of payments. Whether it was a conspiracy or just a succession of bad decisions is now immaterial , we are stuffed

11 06 2019

He’s not exactly wrong, except more likely it will be some kind of puppet government (if we’re “lucky”) controlled by China. We’re already probably 50% there now. China hasn’t got the “huff” with us, they’re simply extending their previous soft power (political donation$) into hard power. And rubbing our noses in it.

China has a strangle hold on it’s populace which extends far beyond it’s borders. However, I wonder how the CCP will deal with the run down to collapse? Probably the same way, historically, they (and other totalitarian regimes eg North Korea) have – let millions starve and die.

22 06 2019

China, it’s rulers consider the long term. And that means vertical integration, moving its 1 percenters north into Siberia & south into Australia & Antarctica as climate change changes. I will never vote greens again to save the last of what ever baubles a, “thin wallet crowd pleb”, that I am has…

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