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.