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Politics by Postcode

By 27/10/2022blog

Much has changed around us over the latest 30 years and people who either relive in regional or rural Australia or engage activities who occur outside our capital cities.

A question each of us has to answer is how we respond to these changes.

Do we pretend they are not happening and ignore them? Do we say that we did not ask for these changes and were not consulted about them and that we should not have change because of something for which we did not ask?

Do we say that the forces behind these changes are too powerful for us, that there is not anything we can do about it and that we should accept defeat and find something else to do, or do we say that we shall try to negate these changes and adapt to them while retaining our culture and our lifestyle?

To answer these questions it is necessary to ask why we find ourselves in this situation and where it all began.

Some people would say it began with the Vietnam War and the age of protest. That era signalled the beginning of the rise of individualism and with that the lowering of the value and importance placed on community and family. Gradually our society has become more about rights and me and less about obligations and others.

However the political challenge began well before that. The beginning of the end of the ascendancy of regional and rural Australia began in the 1950s with the post-World War 2 decision to develop a manufacturing industry with a limited population. There were not enough people to take ethe jobs to the people and so the people had to be taken to the jobs. Thus began not only Australia’s well-publicised migration programme but also the attracting of people from the country to the cities in Australia’s south-east corner.

Despite the increase in Australia’s population, increasingly driven by migrants who largely congregate in capital cities, especially Sydney and Melbourne, and the decimation of manufacturing, this mindset has not changed. Today we see the results 75 per cent of the populations of New south Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia live in the capital cities of those states.

Meanwhile the consequences of the cultural revolution of the 1960s have been reinforced by the collapse of communism and become more apparent since the 1990s. Between the 1930s and 1980s politics in Anglo-Saxon countries and Western Europe were determined by communism. Either political parties, termed the right, opposed communism and central planning or were tolerant of central planning and communism. These parties were termed ‘the Left’.

However, the Berlin wall came down in 1989, putting an end to what was already a façade, as was evidenced by the free-market economic policies championed by the Labor Party in Australia in the 1980s. if the major parties in the West had been intellectually honest they would have wound up because the rationale for the existence of all of them ceased to exist.

However that was not possible because, even by then, politics was becoming a career and to have acted on principle would have put jobs on the line. As unapologetic socialist and Carr Government Education Minister Rod Cavalier put it more than 15 years ago:

‘The political class is a coterie. The coterie has its differences within – any such divisions are not about ideas or ideology. The factions have become executive placement agencies, disputes between them become serious only when they cannot agree on a placement. They are effectively united for themselves against the world.’

Consequently since the 1990s the terms left and right have become meaningless. Their only value is to disguise the fact that today, as institutions, the major parties do not believe in anything. They are not terms that give you a sense of somebody’s values or beliefs. Nor does identification with a major party.

The most accurate indicator of people’s values and beliefs is postcodes – where they live.

When Mark Latham was the federal Labor party leader almost 20 years ago, he spoke about “Tourists” and “Residents”. He said that the insiders live like tourists in their own country. There is a sense in which they don’t live in Australia at all.

They travel extensively, eat out, and buy in domestic help. They see the challenges of globalisation as an opportunity, a chance to further develop their identity and information skills. This abstract lifestyle has produced an abstract style of politics. Symbolic and ideological campaigns are given top priority This involves a particular methodology: adopting a predetermined position on issues and then looking for evidence to support that position.’

The outsiders, on the other hand – the people who live in the outer suburbs and the regions – are the Residents of Australia. Their values are pragmatic. They cannot distance themselves from the problems of the neighbourhood, and so good behaviour and good services are all important. There is no symbolism, and also no dogma, in the suburbs, Latham said. The Residents look for small, pragmatic improvements, and they are not interested in “big pictures”.

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