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Day to Day Politics: Where did it all go wrong? Part seven (conclusion)

Author’s Note:

Thus far in this series I have covered ‘Where it all began’, ‘Newspapers’, ‘Electronic media’, ‘Right-wing feral opinion’, Democracy torn asunder’ and ‘If you’re racist don’t read it’. At the beginning I said that my observations would be random. This is the last of the series and deals with which party is suited to govern in a highly complex world. It is collated from earlier articles I have written for The AIMN that deal with the decline of our democracy.

Are the political ideologies of today suited to address the problems of tomorrow?”

Before we can even begin to answer that question we need to have a clear understanding of just what they are. But we have to keep in mind the often subtle (or not so subtle variances) differences and interpretations that universally exist. For example, the term Liberal means an entirely different thing (it means socialism) in the USA.  And in the United Kingdom it takes on another meaning. Even Democracy itself has interpretations that take on complex variances from country to country. Socialism takes on many shades of grey often depending on an historical time frame.

In a recent piece I was presented a case for ”The Common good” being at the center of every political philosophy. I described what I thought to be the fundamental political ideologies. They are as follows.

What is a conservative?

I would say that Conservatives (LNP) believe in personal responsibility, limited government, free markets, individual liberty and traditional values. They believe the role of government should be to provide people the freedom necessary to pursue their own goals.  Conservative policies generally emphasize the empowerment of the individual to solve problems. And they are cautious about change or innovation, typically in politics or religion.

What is a neo-conservative?

Neo-conservatism goes back to the 30s however in its modern form it is identified with George W Bush who embraced unbridled capitalism, corporate greed together with literalist Christianity to form a modern neo conservatism. Carl Rove, Donald Rumsfeld and others added global superiority to the mix believing that America in all aspects was above the rest of the world. A further element in this mix is Tea Party Republican politics.

What is a social progressive?

My view is that Social democrats (Labor) believe in government action to achieve equal opportunity and equality for all.  That it is the duty of the government to alleviate social ills and to protect civil liberties and individual and human rights thus believing the role of the government should be to guarantee that no one is in need.  Progressive policies generally emphasise the need for the government to solve problems.

A friend after reading my piece agreed with the general thrust of it but decidedly (and rightly so on reflection) disagreed with my analytical take on the isms (his comments are edited for the sake of brevity):

“First up – the ideological comparison. Covering conservatism, neo-conservatism and social democratic traditions misses two major theories: socialism and liberalism. To my mind, the three ‘fundamental’ ideologies are socialism, liberalism and conservatism. Neo-conservatism and social democratic traditions are just derivatives of the above (both are kind of attempts to mix *some* liberalism in with the other, but primarily in a one-dimensional way). I’d say libertarianism is also a derivative ideology, but one with a different genesis”.

“There are a few ways to conceptualise the three main ideologies – perhaps the best is to look at them from their own world view of paradigm. Understanding how the adherents actually view the world goes a long way to explaining the resulting ideas that are put forward. Conservatism: Civilisation (order & tradition) – Anarchy (social disintegration) Socialism: Oppressors (rich, elites, owners of capital) – oppressed (poor, minority groups) Liberalism: Freedom (of the individual) – Coercion (subordination of another’s will or action by force or pressure)” “Your definition of conservatism is rather off the mark, but that often happens in Australia. In the UK, Canada and most European nations, there are conservative and liberal parties that are radically different in outlook. You’ve tried to tie them together – which has happened in Australian politics with the emergence of the Liberal Party – but philosophically they are miles apart. “I would say that Conservatives (LNP) believe in personal responsibility, limited government, free markets, individual liberty and traditional values. They believe the role of government should be to provide people the freedom necessary to pursue their own goals”.

His response was rather lengthy and a very worthwhile read. I concede that my take was limited to Australia. That was my intent for the audience I was addressing. I saw social progressives like myself as a modern extension of socialism and I left out Liberalism because I believed it no longer existed in Australia, in its original form and had morphed into conservatism. This may have been a mistake because there will be those who believe that true Liberalism might very well be the answer to my question.

Before addressing my question, ‘Are the political ideologies of today suited to address the problems of tomorrow?’ I feel a need to explain why I feel it essential to ask it in the first place.

There is no better example of the deterioration in Australian politics than the way both major parties have tackled the issue of asylum seekers. Nothing encapsulates more, than a willingness to forego decency, principle, fairness and empathy for fellow human beings simply to achieve political power. When political parties throw away these basic human tenants they lose all credibility. So far have our standards sunk that we must now suffer the indignity of being lectured on human rights other countries.

The problem requires a bi partisan approach and while then opposition leader, Tony Abbott refused every offer. Instead he opted to solicit the votes of the racists and gutter fringe dwellers in our society. And in doing so set about demonising those who were simple seeking freedom. The blame for this lies squarely at the foot of the then Prime Minister. And the Labor party stands condemned for its acquiescence.

Australian politics has descended into a murky pit of corruption, vindictiveness and scandal on both sides. The pursuit of power for powers sake has taken on an importance that relegates the common good to a distant second. Personal gain has surpassed public service. People of questionable character hold high office and influence. Big business has become the senior advisor.

Economics has become the barometer of a successful society rather than the well-being of the people.

Public discourse is no longer a healthy adversarial debate about ideas. It has now adopted a king hit mentality replacing truth with propaganda and leaves it to the public to decide what truth is.

The conservatives have coerced the right wing media into supporting them and the language of journalism has descended into biased unsupported rhetoric. As a result the support for far right politics by a far right opinionated media threatens the way we conduct democracy.

Tony Abbott’s ongoing contempt for our democratic conventions and institutions only served to uphold the low opinion people have of politicians.

We have never had an opposition leader like Abbott and we have never had an opposition leader as our leader. If you take my point.

The pugilist Abbott did not transformed into a national leader that even now continues to trash everything with negative invective and muted sarcasm. The man who set new lows in negativity and obstructionism in opposition took us to new lows in government.

Whilst I have used asylum seekers as the catalyst for my question it is not the only one. He sought as opposition leader to trash many of the Parliaments practices and did so at an accelerated pace aided and abetted by a rogue speaker. Retribution replaced respect and it’s a dog ensued.

Political controversy and conflict has always been with us and probably always will be, but for the future of our democracy it needs to be tempered with a contest of ideas. Better people need to be elected to parliament. People with a wide range of experiences. Not just party hacks but people with character, with desire for change, for truth, for equality, for justice and with an honourable understanding of what public service is.

This then leads me back to my question …

Are the political ideologies of today suited to address the problems of tomorrow?


The Australian Liberal ideology that I grew up with no longer exists. It exists in England and is espoused by Liberal Democrats leader Nick Clegg. He is on a crusade to reform his party further arguing that Left versus Right is no longer relevant:

It is not often you’ll hear me say this, but I agree with Tony Blair. In his words “the big difference is no longer between left and right, it is between open and closed.

So what is an open society?

It is a society where powerful citizens are free to shape their own lives. It has five vital features:

i) social mobility, so that all are free to rise;

ii) dispersed power in politics, the media and the economy;

iii) transparency, and the sharing of knowledge and information;iv) a fair distribution of wealth and property; and

v) an internationalist outlook

By contrast a closed society is one in which:

i) a child’s opportunities are decided by the circumstances of their birth

ii) power is hoarded by the elite

iii) information is jealously guarded

iv) wealth accumulates in the hands of the few, not the many; and

v) narrow nationalism trumps enlightened internationalism

Closed societies – opaque, hierarchical, insular – are the sorts of society my party has opposed for over a hundred and fifty years.

If you read the full speech it is easy to understand why there are those who believe that Liberalism in its purest form is arguably the best and most suited political philosophy for addressing the problems of tomorrow.


The Australian Prime Minister these days rarely uses the word liberal. This is because the Liberal and National parties (what is the difference) have now fully converted to American style Tea Party Republicanism. It is obvious by speech, action and policy. The once soft edge of small ‘L’ Liberalism has been expunged from the party but for a few tiny remnants. Its current course of vindictive political witch hunting may very well put in place a series of retaliatory Royal Commissions that that will further erode political public image and damage our democracy irrevocably.

To quote Ross Gittens:

“It takes innocence greater than I can muster to believe the motive for the inquiry is to bring justice to the program ‘s victims rather than to embarrass the Coalition ‘s political opponents by raking over one of their more celebrated stuff-ups. One thing we can be sure of is that when next Labor returns to power it will lose no time in retaliating, as will that government ‘s eventual Coalition successor. Advantage-seeking retaliation will become a bigger part of the political debate”.

Truth has been the first casualty in its Tea Party conservative conversion. Secrecy and lies is its replacement. Characterless, boys club, leadership with fear mongering negativity that abounds every day.  Its profound fear of science as a threat to capitalism together with its blind reluctance to change in my view makes it unsuitable for addressing the problems of tomorrow. I find that the most objectionable feature of the conservative attitude is its propensity to reject well-substantiated new knowledge because it dislikes some of the consequences which may follow from it.

There are real facts in life.

As Friedrich Hayek “Road to Serfdom” says:

“By refusing to face the facts, the conservative only weakens his own position. Frequently the conclusions which rationalist presumption draws from new scientific insights do not at all follow from them. But only by actively taking part in the elaboration of the consequences of new discoveries do we learn whether or not they fit into our world picture and, if so, how”.

The Social Progressives.

In my following comments I will refrain from including the Greens in this discussion in so much as I don’t see them as a genuine answer to my question. They may play a realistic role in the answer but not one of total resolution.

The Labor Party is in a state of ambivalence not knowing whether it should cling to long held traditions or disperse with them. It has to modernise but is hamstrung by allegiances and commitments to affiliated organisations (Unions) that in the public eye are detrimental to its image.

It has lost the compassionate vote to the Greens and is not prepared to regain it because it risks alienating the middle ground. It fails to see that to regain government it has to turn politics as we know it on its head and start a new politic. And I don’t mean structural but a kind of reverse of Abbotts propaganda and one liners. Like making “we can do better” as repetitive as “stop the boats”.

While on the one hand it sees the need for reform, power plays from within make it almost impossible, although they have made a start with the democratisation of leadership selection.

It has a good heart and its policy ideas are streets ahead of the conservatives. They are making progress at brand marketing and public relations. Creating progressive narratives that have passion and purpose with a dose of charismatic flair as seem in the last election. If they are to regain government in the short term many unpalatable decisions will have to be made. The alternative is a wait our turn attitude.

As to the question …

“Are the political ideologies of today suited to address the problems of tomorrow?”

Well let me put it this way. I am born and bred of the left but I don’t have a closed mind. I do believe that the problems of today and tomorrow are so overwhelming that they require solutions that go beyond an ideology first mentality. A politic that puts it all aside and simply says. ‘’What serves the common good’’

My thought for the day.

“The common good should be at the centre of any political philosophy. However it is more likely to be found on the left than the right”.



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  1. kerri

    “The conservatives have coerced the right wing media into supporting them and the language of journalism has descended into biased unsupported rhetoric. As a result the support for far right politics by a far right opinionated media threatens the way we conduct democracy.”
    This one’s a bit chicken and egg for mine?

  2. Charybds

    I think you are pulling your punches here John …

  3. Terry2

    Tony Abbott is engaged in a ‘world tour’ giving speeches to anybody prepared to listen but mainly to the media. This from today’s SMH :

    His objective is to embellish his threadbare legacy and to massage a very compliant Australian media. The one reason he stayed on in politics, and it wasn’t to serve the people of Warringah, was to take his revenge on Turnbull. Abbott has an absolute faith in a ‘second coming’ just that in this case it’s his not Jesus.

    Turnbull entered into a Faustian pack to get the numbers to topple Abbott and fundamental to that was that he had to commit to take same sex marriage to a plebiscite and not allow a parliamentary vote in its place. He probably thought at the time that, despite his better judgement, he could live with this and it’s likely that he anticipated that the plebiscite would not get through the Senate anyhow. It now appears that the plebiscite will not get Labor support and there will be a strident move to have the parliament vote on SSM : the problem for Turnbull is that he will have to consistently, for the remainder of his term, block a parliamentary vote and that could be hard to justify without appearing as stubborn obstinacy.

  4. Harquebus

    “Are the political ideologies of today suited to address the problems of tomorrow?”
    Absolutely not.

    To address tomorrows problems we must first identify what has caused today’s. Something not realized by politicians, journalists and John Lord.

    “Although the original authors of The Limits to Growth, led by Donella Meadows, caution against tying their predictions too tightly to a specific year, the actual trends of the past four decades are not far off from the what was predicted by the study’s models. A recent paper examining the original 1972 study goes so far as to say that the study’s predictions are well on course to being borne out.”
    “All the while, governments cling to the idea that “green capitalism” will magically pull humanity out of the frying pan.”
    “As long as we have an economic system that allows private capital to accumulate without limit on a finite planet, and externalize the costs, in a system that requires endless growth, there is no real prospect of making the drastic changes necessary to head off a very painful future.”

    “Any social system based on the use of non-renewable resources is by definition unsustainable. Non-renewable means it will eventually run out. If you hyper-exploit your non-renewable surroundings, you will deplete them and die.”
    “Due to industrial civilization’s insatiable appetite for growth, we have exceeded the planet’s carrying capacity.”
    “changing light bulbs, going vegan, shorter showers, recycling, taking public transport — have nothing to do with shifting power away from corporations, or stopping the growth economy that is destroying the planet.”
    “Those in power get too many benefits from destroying the planet to allow systematic changes which would reduce their privilege.”
    “those in power are killing the planet and they are exploiting the poor”
    “We need to fight for what we love, fight harder than we have ever thought we could fight, because the bottom line is that any option in which industrial civilization remains, results in a dead planet.”

  5. wammm

    Another good labor read, Lord.
    Did you miss the grave insult to the rabbott and complete disregard for the basic premise of Australian culture.
    Terry2, love your reference to faust.
    Just had 15 minutes on the phone to my grandchildren(13-15) on the way to school(vic) :
    nearly fell over when their mum said they are ‘wetting themselves’ at the thought of president trump’ and that ‘obama should change the rules and take another 3 years or become our president. I must admit, that I have never discussed politics with them and I live 3000km away but I agree the septics deserve trump as much as we deserved and got the rabbott.
    ps at least bush reads the very hungry caterpillar which puts him in front of donald.

  6. cornlegend

    “Tony Abbott is engaged in a ‘world tour’ ” and having just arrived back from over there let me tell you he is having an impact.
    Boris Johnson is spruiking his “turn the boats around:” re Syria, and in France and Belgium I was not ready for the growing anti Muslim feeling, and Abbott and his “plan” are both fairly well known with the public. Demos just pop up everywhere and are so common they hardly get mentioned in the Media.
    I fear large parts of Europe are heading further Right.
    In Greece, a young taxi driver introduced me to the “President Trump, PC Game which seemed popular with his mates. I looked it up
    ” Make America Great Again The Trump Presidency PC Games
    In this tremendously patriotic game, guide President Trump as he
    builds the wall, defeats ISIS, and overcomes the globalists by
    making America rich through great trade deals!

    (c) Maverick Game Studio”

  7. cornlegend

    In the local Media today it seems Tony still holds hope
    “Tony Abbott has told right-wing allies in Britain that he believes he has a reasonable chance of becoming prime minister again, Fairfax Media has learned.
    A senior Liberal source close to Mr Abbott said the former prime minister maintained a “good chance” of returning to the job because he is popular with the party membership compared to Malcolm Turnbull.

    Mr Turnbull is widely perceived within the party to have failed to live up to expectations, scraped through the election with just a one-seat majority and continues to perform poorly in the polls.

    The source said the outcome of the upcoming NSW State Council of the Liberal Party on October 22 was an important opportunity for Mr Abbott to showcase to the Parliamentary Party his strength with the wider membership. There, his Federal Electorate Conference (FEC) will propose a motion for democratic reform of the party. It is likely to be opposed by the left wing of the party, but has a greater chance of succeeding than ever before.
    The change would enable the party membership, which is predominantly right-wing, to have a greater say in pre-selecting candidates.”

  8. Andreas Bimba

    ” any option in which industrial civilization remains, results in a dead planet.”

    What utter crap. We mine iron ore – it will eventually run out so we will all die? Greed and environmental destruction needs to be constrained – agreed and the answer is functioning democracy that is not corrupted by money or lobbyists, which we don’t currently have, an effective media and informed electorate, an effective judiciary and progressive taxation. We more or less had this about 40 years ago but the money men staged a slow coup detat. We must take back our democracy.

    There are way to many of us to support with your peasant agrarian utopia and the environmental costs of this low productivity lifestyle will still be massive. How many hectares of garden does each of the earth’s billions require.


    John many good comments but nothing about breaking free of our corrupt duopoly and introducing proportional representation voting for the lower houses of our parliaments as is almost universal in continental Europe.

    Then the Labor Party can split between a working class true labour party and a centre left (or right) social democratic party, the Liberals can split into a small ‘L’ Liberal party and a Libertarianist Tea party, the Nationals can split between an agrarian socialist party and a right wing mining party, the affable Greek Senator from South Australia can form a truly national party, the Greens can increase their vote and One Nation can choke on its own vomit.

    Politics is now too diverse for the old two party system and large numbers of people are feeling they are not being represented. A diverse multi party system will be more chaotic but it will definitely be more democratic and is more likely to address our most serious challenges of global warming, economic and environmental sustainability, full employment, social justice and equity and having an economy sufficiently robust to support the level of government services we have come to expect.

  9. Harquebus

    Andreas Bimba

    400pm CO2 exceeded and will not fall below for thousands of years to come.
    Ocean ecosystems are collapsing due to over exploitation, acidification and increasing temperatures.
    The sixth mass extinction event is currently under way and we are on the list.
    Soils are being degraded and can not support agriculture without the constant use of fertilizers.
    Ice shelves are collapsing, glaciers are retreating and Arctic ice is disappearing.
    Desertification is increasing, forests are dying and waterways are being polluted to death.
    Global temperatures are increasing and will blast through 2degC.
    Finite resources are being exploited as if they are infinite.
    Replenishable resources are being consumed faster than they can replenish.

    This is just off the top of my head.

    How many hectares per person can our dying world provide?

    “From Monday August 8, we will be living on credit because in eight months we would have consumed the natural capital that our planet can renew in a year.”

    Industrial civilization is killing us.


  10. Kaye Lee

    Also passing by largely unnoticed….

    Neither James Ashby nor Mal Brough will be charged over the copying of Peter Slipper’s diary, after the Australian Federal Police dropped its investigation.

    The AFP wrote to Brough, and the letter was quoted in the Australian:

    “I write to advise you of the outcome of the Australian Federal Police ‘AFP’ investigation into the allegation a former staff member of then speaker of the House of Representatives Peter Slipper had disclosed parliamentary diary entries of Mr Slipper without his authority … A review of the evidence available to support a potential prosecution has determined the evidence is not sufficient to prove all elements of the relevant offence, being the disclosures of information by Commonwealth officers as described in section 70 of the Crime Act 1914 (CTH). As a result, the AFP will be taking no further action in relation to the matter.”

    I guess Brough admitting on national television wasn’t proof enough?

  11. Matters Not

    There are nine ‘likely lads’ in prison in KL waiting to see if their ‘exposure’ will be punished. Malaysia still believes that it’s quite legitimate to administer corporal punishment. Their ‘weapon’ of choice is the ‘rattan’. One or two ‘strokes’ will make them ‘sit up’ as it were and take notice of different cultural practices. On the flight home, their seats will be vacant. Standing for the whole journey will be their choice.

    But it probably won’t happen. Tourism is too important. Perhaps the police will let them listen in to a flogging. They have a strange sense of humour.

  12. Terry2

    One of them is an “advisor” to Chrissy Pyne : makes you wonder what exactly goes on in Pyne’s office and what sort of advice is he getting ?

  13. Matters Not

    makes you wonder what exactly goes on in Pyne’s office

    If ‘stroked’, standing will be de rigueur. Apparently, the physical scars heal in a month or so, but the mental scars last a lifetime.

  14. Steve Laing -

    Harq – I totally agree with your diagnosis, yet our leaders seem more concerned about how to blame those who disagree with them. Its like watching a cancer victim worrying about their athletes foot. People are just blanking out the problem because it is too big to deal with.

  15. Harquebus

    Steve Laing.
    Thanks mate.
    Unfettered growth is cancer.

  16. johnlord2013

    To address tomorrows problems we must first identify what has caused today’s. Something not realized by politicians, journalists and John Lord.
    Think I have covered that over the series.

  17. Andreas Bimba


    Most of your points are reasonable but to abandon the power of science and engineering is to abandon the solution which is most likely to be accepted and that can work. Yes we are at 400ppm and Dr James Hansen has said we must get down to 350ppm by reforestation, improved agricultural practices which should consume 100ppm of the CO2 which leaves a carbon budget of 50ppm to transition the worlds economy to zero net greenhouse gas emissions. Currently his team has calculated that global CO2 emissions must be cut by 6% p.a. starting now. The more delay the higher the rate of reduction required which will obviously cost more.

    From Dr James Hansen’s article:

    “These results emphasise the urgency of initiating emissions reduction [171]. As discussed above, keeping global climate close to the Holocene range requires a long-term atmospheric CO2 level of about 350 ppm or less, with other climate forcings similar to today’s levels. If emissions reduction had begun in 2005, reduction at 3.5%/year would have achieved 350 ppm at 2100. Now the requirement is at least 6%/year. Delay of emissions reductions until 2020 requires a reduction rate of 15%/year to achieve 350 ppm in 2100. If we assume only 50 GtC reforestation, and begin emissions reduction in 2013, the required reduction rate becomes about 9%/year”.

  18. Kaye Lee

    So what do we do in Australia? Repeal the price on carbon and increase emissions for the first time in a decade.

    The latest government emissions data – released in late December – recorded a 1.3 per cent increase in emissions across 2014-15, largely due to increased land clearing and a surge of brown coal power generation. It also shows Australia’s emissions are on track for a further 6 per cent increase to 2020.

    RepuTex found that, on these trends, Australian emissions would still not reach a peak before 2030, taking pollution beyond the historical high set almost a decade ago.

  19. Andreas Bimba

    Well said Kaye. As a profligate user of energy by world standards and having been beneficiaries of over a century of industrialisation, Australia should really aim for a higher per annum green house gas emission reduction than the global 6%.

  20. jim

    “Tony Abbott did not stop the boats Abbot refused every offer for refugee resettlement . Instead he opted to solicit the votes of the racists and gutter fringe dwellers in our society. And in doing so set about demonising those who were simple seeking freedom. The blame for this lies squarely at the foot of the then Prime Minister. And the Labor party stands condemned for its acquiescence. a bit more to it than that though,…..What largely stopped the boats, was the announcement by Kevin Rudd on the 19th July 2013 that in future any persons coming by boat and found to be a refugee would not be settled in Australia. This was BIGGEST DROP in refugees ever! We may argue about the wisdom of that policy, but it effectively crippled the business case of the people-smugglers. between 9.July and September, people arriving by boat fell from 4,145 ….to…… 837 and the number of boats fell from 47 to 15. The trend largely continued after that time. so the numbers mostly fell two months before the LNP lied its way into power then they carried on but totally/fully secretive (so easy to do with the MSM on your side) tONY aBBOTT DID NOT STOP THE BOATS a common LNP lie.

  21. Steve Laing -

    One of the great issues of climate change (and there are many) is that in order to try and effectively deal with it, we are going to need more energy – a lot more energy. Additionally, growing trees is not going to be anywhere near enough to fix enough carbon, given 10 times the amount is held in the oceans as in the land biosphere. Effectively we need to do the exact opposite of what we are doing now, i.e. bury it deep under the ground, effectively making it inert again.

    But we could, and we should be driving for much higher targets than we currently are, though I do feel that it is already too late. I would(n’t) recommend reading Earthmasters by Clive Hamilton if you want to get a real understanding of the precipice we have probably already walked off, but like Wile E. Coyote, most people haven’t realised it yet. At some point soon, they are going to look down, but by that point it will already be too late.

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