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Conservative parties have become post-democratic: the Voice No campaign is another blow.

The 21st century international Right which has hijacked the old conservative parties is post-democratic. The use that the Coalition parties are making of the Voice debate shows the Australian inflection of this trend.

In the USA, the MAGA wing has taken over the already radicalising Republican Party. The conservatives of old tried to ride the tiger of popular grievance. They needed to in order to garner enough votes to win government for plutocrat policies. Now the big cat is eating the party’s face. A Trump (or copycat) win in the 2024 election would mean dire outcomes for America’s battered democratic systems. Trump is forecasting executing generals and shoplifters, sending the National Guard into cities to “combat crime,” mass militarised deportations and purging the civil service of anyone not strictly devoted to his cult. As many as 50,000 employees would be targeted. He has threatened to investigate news organisations for treason if he wins.

Directly after a violent mob invaded their workplace in 2021, 147 Republican congresspeople continued to refuse to certify Joe Biden’s electoral victory despite the fact that almost all of them knew it was the most secure election in US history.

The UK Tories threw their country over a cliff with Brexit built on lies and bigotry. The economy is savaged. The living standard is declining. The attempt to implement ideological-extreme economic policy was a catastrophe. Like the Republicans, they are forced to foment deadly culture war hatreds to distract the public from their failures.

Both the Republicans and the Tories have the advantage of deeply flawed electoral systems to maintain their hold on power. The absence of compulsory voting is the plutocrat’s friend.

The Republicans have the electoral college, a long history of suppressing the vote, and gerrymandered states with ever more partisan control of voting. The diligent work to subvert representation is well established.

The Tories worked to damage the independence of their electoral commission and introduced the unnecessary obstacle of voter ID in echo of Republican anti-democratic gambits. They simultaneously introduced suppression of the media, protest, and whistleblowers.

Australia is blessed by comparison. Our independent system of Electoral Commissions is critical to maintaining faith in the integrity of the system. Our compulsory voting and compulsory preferential voting are both protections from the machinations of oligarchs.

In the pandemic era, the mass inequalities of neoliberal capitalism have been exposed in much greater clarity. “Essential” workers were sacrificed while the white collar class worked from home in much greater comfort. The savings and reliable income of the upper cohort protected them from the terror of losing everything. Governments around the affluent world were forced to look at measures to stop the precariat becoming homeless and starved.

Voters are less tolerant of the old narratives that keep us in our place having seen so glaringly the chasm in pandemic experience.

The Australian Liberal Party has no interest in returning to its more moderate past where it balanced the needs of money with that of the worker and role of government. That version of itself has a chance to win government, but it can no longer acknowledge that the three forces have a legitimate voice. Workers are slackers. Government is the problem. “Woke” forces – like the Labor Party and and an independent media – are an impediment to their goals. The current Right no longer believes their opposition has a legitimate right to govern.

The NSW Liberals managed the first Australian attack on an electoral system that forces parties to campaign on viable platforms. Stripping the preferential system of the “compulsory” aspect gave them a leg up at the last election, although it wasn’t enough.

It will take much more work for the parties of the Right to cut away at the democratic processes in Australia that impede their push towards a more illiberal democracy.

The Voice to Parliament is being used as one of their tools.

Peta Credlin admitted in 2017 on Sky News that there had been no “carbon tax.” She explained, “It wasn’t a carbon tax, as you know. It was many other things in nomenclature terms but we made it a carbon tax.” She described this reframing as “brutal retail politics.” And, she pointed out, that Tony Abbott used that perversion of the truth to overthrow Julia Gillard within six months.

The Voice is being used in precisely this deceitful “wedge issue” role to damage Albanese. Credlin is herself one of the generals directing the battle against a mere advisory body intended to help raise the wellbeing of First Nations people. And the wedge is fracturing the nation.

The use of culture war topics can be relatively trivial – such as the battle against induction cooktops. It can also be devastating, literally life and death, in the vindictive campaigns against First Nations people, refugees and trans people (as the vanguard for reversing marriage equality reforms). The point is to forge an anti-“woke” identity within the base: those coopted will never be able to vote for the demonised centre, let alone the Left. They will have lost the ability to see the facts to be debated, with all educated “elites” despised as the enemy dedicated to deception. Compassion and nuance are portrayed as weakness.

The No campaign, as a tool against democracy, has another facet. This role is a much longer-term gameplay. (And we see in almost a century of work against egalitarian reforms how long-term the vision on the international Right actually is.)

The second goal is to break faith in the democratic project itself. The base longs for the “honesty” of post-democratic authoritarianism where “elites” no longer deceive the populace about having a say. Trump’s MAGA crowds bay for the blood of military leaders and even Republican politicians who have not paid obeisance to their cult leader assiduously enough.

Around the Australian federal and state elections in 2022, the radicalised base spread conspiracies borrowed from the American sphere. Dominion voting machines were skewing the vote, even though those Trump-myth machines are not in use here. We vote on paper, in case they hadn’t noticed. Votes were, the Australian conspiracists claimed, thrown out or brought in.

The AEC’s Twitter/X account is tirelessly battling the cascade of lies on social media that are spreading saying that the AEC itself and the referendum processes are fraudulent. Peter Dutton exacerbated that conspiracy thinking in his declarations about the use of ticks not crosses meaning the referendum was “rigged.”

The latest polls suggest that while Dutton’s inexcusable decision to turn the Voice referendum into a wedge issue might prevent the referendum passing, it has damaged his own standing with voters. We must resist these culture war distractions wielded by divisive politicians and their spin doctors.

If the referendum fails, the Right – from parliament to the media and the social media swamps – will have caused great harm to First Nations people and the populace more broadly. The reiteration of voter fraud theories will have augmented the idea that voting is corrupted and the government is illegitimate. If the referendum succeeds, that latter message will gain in volume.

It is imperative that Liberal Party leaders contradict those rumours of a broken democratic process firmly if they want to prove the claim that they are post-democratic wrong.

 

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26 comments

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  1. New England Cocky

    An excellent analysis of the usually unseen forces behind Australian politics. Recommended reading. Thank you Lucy.

    ”The problem is that no-one has explained the Voice to Boofhead Duddo in a way he can understand.

    Quite simply, the Voice is a dedicated body that exists to help shape government policy.

    Like Newscorpse, but for Indigenous Australians”. Thanks to The Shovel 101023

  2. Lucy Hamilton

    Well said, Cocky. They all know that detail comes in the (renotiable) legislation that parliament negotiates after a referendum is successful. They pretend they don’t know that to frighten the underinformed.

  3. Clakka

    Indeed Lucy,

    Many have been boggled because they don’t understand the process. It would have been so easy for Labor and the ‘YES’ campaign to do a graphic flow-chart to make plain how the Referendum / legislation works, and then to get the Voice in operation, the preferred process during after legislation. But they didn’t. They just let the post-truth, ‘culture war’ cookers walk all over them.

    Dutton made his dirty decision after Littleproud limply announced the Nats’ concensus after they found Price to do the revisionist deconstructing, misdirecting and lying for them.

    They of course had the filth already latent in the gutter ready to be resuscitated , eg. IPA, CIS, CPAC, Mundine, etc. No matter the referendum outcome, the LNP can never go back from this new m.o.

    In having the ever expedient low-life, Abbott, at Lachlan’s side, they now have a direct line to the disassembling devil.

    They have now embedded the greed and expedience of the plutocrats. Their process of turning ordinary dinkum bogans into raving conspiracists, whacking our politics and crippling the democratic project.

    Money will flow from the international cadre of plutocrats.

    IMHO, Albo & Labor have no choice but to enact absolute truth-telling in promulgation by MPs, their officers and parties. It’s a big call, and I doubt any of them will like it – so it’s bound to be a slim chance.

  4. Harry Lime

    Diissemble,Clakka?

  5. Andrew Smith

    The conservatives may want the ‘No’ to The Voice referendum prevailing, but if it does, it will be the end of the Liberal Party and will be more the QLD LNP, then complain no one wants to vote for them.

  6. GL

    The LNP do want, eventually (meaning never), an Indigenious voice but strictly on their terms. Which will mean it will be a useless, totally toothless and powerless piece of legislation that won’t be in the the constitution and can therefore be ignored when it suits them.

    When the referendum falls over (I’m really hoping it won’t, but fear and relentless negativity can work wonders) The Reichspud may well find that he, the LNP and other assorted RRWNJ’s, may bitterly rue their decision to resorting to baseless Trump and Repug style attacks in his blind anger towards Labor.

  7. Stuart Anderson

    Dutton knows he is currently unelectable. The whole point of being in politics is to get elected , then implement your policies. So what is his plan to get elected? I think he wants to do a John Howard a la 2001. He is hoping Trump will get elected, and there is a chance that might happen. If Trump is re-elected Australia will change. John Howard said ‘the times would suit his leadership’. Dutton thinks his ‘strong-man’ hard Right credentials, his orchestration of deep seated Australian fears (China Yellow Peril, shadowy elites threatening our backyards etc) combined with Australia’s ‘special relationship’ with the US and his alignment with Trump will shift susceptible voters towards him.
    If he cant get a majority in the House of Reps, he will try to split Labors vote and muddy the waters generally. Like Bannon said, flood the zone with shit. The Voice Referendum shows the outline of this approach, it will be sharpened leading up the 2025 election

  8. Clakka

    HL,
    Nah, disassemble. But could be dissemble if you want.

    Regards Clakka

  9. Bob

    LNP is a special kind of hypocrisy. Their opposition to the ‘Yes’ is disingenuous spoiler tactics. Their is a split in the ‘No’ camp which MSM and Labor are very good at ignoring. It’d be good if the public were told how much of the ‘No’ vote is pro-Makarata & Treaty. Either way, what Labor does next in terms of listening, closing the gap and setting up a treaty is going to define the future of Labor.

  10. Stable Genius

    While you’re “Looking Over There” at The Voice, Lucy, Albanese has signed crazy qualifications and migration pacts with the ultra-nationalist Modi, hiked student visas to 850K and net migration to 450K, brought on the worst rental and homelessness crisis, and entrenched housing un-affordability.

    The comparison with Trump is way overblown. Last time I looked, Dutton wasn’t even in power. Morrison hasn’t been in power for 16 months. Egged on by Pearson, Albanese has badly misplayed The Voice, now he’s having a strategic cry, but the sky will not fall in, deal with it.

  11. Terence Mills

    Albanese has said that if the referendum goes down he will not seek to legislate a Voice, so it’s back to square one .

    If only those politicians who shoved us into a referendum had thought about this whole thing in a more considered and rational way.

    It would have been sensible to legislate the Voice during the first term of a Labor government, get all the wrinkles sorted out and get it running smoothly : legislation and regulation allow that flexibility. Then, in a second Labor term of government consider the need to have a referendum to entrench the Voice if that was considered absolutely necessary.

    ‘Could have saved all this heartache !

  12. Toryhere

    The whole thing was sunk because it was proposed in a hippy, wanky way. “Voice”? How proggie. How meaningless. It sounds like it was developed by the sort of ad agency staffed with 1960s rejects.

    The Constitution sets out how the Parliament is to be constituted and how it is to be elected. It sets out the powers of that Parliament. It also sets out how the High Court will be constituted. The proposed ATI advisory body is clearly meant to be a body elected by ATI people with a brief to advise the government of the day on ATI affairs.

    It is either another layer of bureaucracy, with an unusual way of appointing its staff, or a quasi Parliament just for ATI people to elect. If it is the first, it should not be referred to in the Constitution which does not deal with setting up bureaucratic organisations. If it is the second, then its basic form, means of election and purpose need to be specified in the Constitution.

    It is no good pretending, as the Yes campaign has done, that the proposed body is not constitutionally something very different than we have had before. They have to show why this radical departure from past constitutional practice is going to help ATI people.

  13. A Commentator

    Fair minded people are likely to be disappointed with the referendum result on Saturday.
    Nonetheless, it is up to the proponents of change to advance a most compelling and persuasive case.
    The YES campaign seems not to have resonated.
    I don’t think the widespread calling opponents- “racist and ill informed” has been a successful way of getting the undecided population on side.
    On the ABC today, I heard Tanya Plibersek make a simple point, when questioned about the lack of detail.
    * Governments have taxation powers in the constitution, but the types of taxes and the rates aren’t specified.
    * The federal government has national defence responsibility, but the constitution doesn’t specify the numbers on the armed forces, or the number of aircraft we have.
    These are simple points to rebut the nit picking of the NO campaign. But we have hardly heard such simple compelling points

  14. Lucy Hamilton

    A Commentator: they are made but they’re not clickbait so they don’t get amplified. This is one of my points in the articles on the topics. The Right are masterful at taking advantage of our broken media model. The media has a responsibility to report truth not to both-sides with disinformation. It needs a radical overhaul to be allowed to use the label “news.”

  15. Lucy Hamilton

    Toryhere (and Terence): the point is listening to the Uluru Statement. The constitution aspect is so that a new government can at any time re-legislate the SHAPE of the Voice, but we always have to have a body of its sort. Our past governments (LNP) have been quick to ditch them rather than reform. This can be reformed indefinitely.
    Terence ^ : Albo was listening to the Uluru Statement process as he was asked. It might have also been more sensible to wait until we weren’t in an inflation spiral but that would be scant comfort to the FN people who asked us to listen and to act.

  16. Lucy Hamilton

    Stable: You are looking in a short term fashion at everything. We have had substantial labor shortages. The attacks on refugees have been a disguise to cover the huge cohorts of short term migrant labour numbers the LNP was bringing in. As demanded by wealthy donors. All our problems are based on a lack of infrastructure, to be blamed on neoliberal orthodoxies which have crippled our ability to believe infrastructure builds community and prosperity.
    Your short term perspective also carries over to the growth of the Far Right in politics in US, UK and Aus. Just because they aren’t in power in the US and Aus does not mean that the work isn’t in progress. The Right in America has been building this thing since the Great Depression/New Deal, since the Cold War, since the Civil Rights movement. Look up competitive authoritarianism. Orban is the clearest example. voted in and then tilted the playing field so far the it is almost impossible to defeat the incumbent. Morrison and co were well down that path. Happy to give you my three articles looking at the parallels in US, UK and Aus from 2021 which acquired me a former UN ambassador as a mentor. Having been teaching global politics in the US over the Trump years, he said my account of the damage there was the best he’d seen at the time. So be as scathing as you like about me as a “chicken little.” People with much greater expertise than you are worried about the illiberal trend of former “conservative” parties.

  17. Caz

    To all the nay sayers. This is what the Statement from the Heart asked for. The judiciary and the Parliament went over it with a fine tooth comb and decided it was constitutional. So what would have been the headlines if Albanese said “ I’m going to do it my way. I I’m ignoring your request. “ you would be down on him like a ton of bricks. If you are hell bent on finding a way of destroying hope of FNP I can guarantee you will find one.

  18. A Commentator

    I think it is a little simplistic to blame the media for the likely failure of the referendum. The structure of the media is known, and a competent political strategy comprehends this.
    Nonetheless, research shows the majority of people don’t trust the msm. And its influence appears to be in steep decline.
    More people obtain information from social media, and tend to choose an outlet or orientation that reinforces their views.
    For example, my Facebook feed had plenty of adverts for the Voice. I didn’t see any that put the case as succinctly as Tanya Plibersek.
    When the negative factors and actors were always entirely predictable, and they were in this case, a competent political and communication strategy is required.
    The YES case deserved a far better strategy

  19. New England Cocky

    @ AC: So you offered to design the necessary question? NO!! …. You just want to whinge and cherry pick the polling data.

    But wait a short minute ….. is the early voting counted BEFORE Referendum Day on 14 October? Uhm ….. so how can any news soource claim to have any ifdea about what the polling has been so far when not even the SAEC should know.

  20. Lucy Hamilton

    Caz nails it.
    A Commentator. Of course that is simplistic. I know you’ve read others of mine, so you know the interweaving of factors I have been describing.

    This article has received some traction. It’s worth noting. The link from the ultra free market think tanks to the No campaign is quite marked. The difficulty of pinning it all to the Atlas Network (which I’ve mentioned) is that they’re very cunning about covering tracks. Listen to the podcast “We Don’t Talk About Leo – 3 ep miniseries for the Machiavellian games being played out by the plutocrats to achieve their goals.

    https://epress.lib.uts.edu.au/journals/index.php/mcs/article/view/8813

  21. A Commentator

    I think it is fair to say all those lined up against the YES campaign were entirely predictable. There were no surprises.
    A competent political strategy deals with known obstacles, and has contingencies for the unpredictable ones.
    The YES campaign didn’t cut through and it wasn’t helped by the labelling of people as racist and ignorant.
    I have a YES poster up, and it has attracted a little conversation with neighbours.
    So I suppose some of the views I’m expressing are based in those conversations The name calling hasn’t helped persuade any of my neighbours. I don’t think any are over reliant on shock jocks either.

    I doubt whether my experience is unique

    I will add- if we take the position that if furthering the cause of Australia’s indigenous people requires media reform, we’re stuffed.

  22. Terence Mills

    Cocky

    No votes, early or postal, will be opened or counted until the close of the polls on the 14 th October.

  23. andyfiftysix

    Stable, Labor has not mishandled the voice. It has played by marcus de queensberry rules. Dutton has played the trump card. Trumpism is not overblown. He has polluted popular thinking . Lies are deliberate and easily spread, the truth is hard to establish through the fog. Especially when nearly 1/2 the field believes the lies before even thinking. Lots of so called intelligent people are now believing in all sorts of conspiracies. And australians are no better than the yanks we used to laugh at. Its easier to scare the horses than bringing them back once set free.

    Remember when Albo said he was going to “play” fair? I hope now he smacks Dutton with more corruption probes, hit the bastard where it hurts.

    As for your numbers of students and immigrants or what ever, long term we need the numbers. We will not be able to face the international community going forward by not taking our fair share of the global population. If we dont provide the infrustructure, its nobody’s fault but our own. It will be another failure to think ahead of our noses. We have form…….

  24. Lucy Hamilton

    Well said, AndyFiftySix
    Blinkers as to the way the Right is approaching politics do us no good at all. They have burnt the rule book.

  25. Skuze Me

    What I find baffling is that former Victorian Labor strategist Kos Samaras, now a director at RedBridge Polling has regularly repeated that
    “A No vote won’t have won, but a Yes loss would reflect the failure of Albanese to deliver on the detail”.
    Kos, of course is invited back many a time by the likes of right-wing radio stooge Neil Mitchell to repeat the blatant disinformation.

  26. Steve Davis

    Lucy, I understand your passion and frustration — we are living through a terrible period in history — but we must identify, we must know, the enemy.

    It’s not quite correct to refer to the Right’s approach to politics. What we are dealing with is liberalism with the mask off.

    We cannot expect any good to come from a movement driven by endless personal acquisition; a movement that has created a legal framework that not only protects such acquisition to the detriment of the community, it facilitates such acquisition.

    Any threat to future acquisition, from any quarter, no matter how slight or illusory, will be resisted by any means available.

    And so we have the Voice debate.

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