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Rise of the right: The death throes of neo-liberalism or a new age of regression?

By Charlie Stuart

The first two decades of the twenty-first century have seen major changes in the way politics operates throughout the world. This is reflected in the ever-changing face of the media, and its growing influence in political matters.

The rise of the conservative right has been monumental. Donald Trump, the president without precedent, seems intent on delivering his agenda of anti-immigration and cutting social welfare. The UK’s decision to leave the European Union harks back to pre-war isolationism, while in Australia the rise of far-right parties like One Nation shows the desire of some to regress some aspects of social policy and limit multiculturalism.

As the political sphere becomes increasingly partisan, the media is following suit. Gone are the days of nuanced discussion, replaced by rigid belief. To allow any change to one’s arguments is deemed to constitute weakness in the arguments themselves. So while The Guardian are unapologetically leftist, on the other end of the spectrum folks like Andrew Bolt and Ray Hadley are given increasing licence to express their hardline views. Even the ABC, despite its attempts to remain centralist, has been framed as a leftist organisation by those on the other side.

Shifting the perception of the ABC to the left allows those on the far right to not seem so extreme, and create the impression they represent the ‘other half’ of the electorate. Pressure on Malcolm Turnbull from the right of his party has led to something of a power grab through social legislation.

Backbench LNP MPs recently attempted to alter the wording of 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, essentially calling for more leniency toward those who engage in racist speech. Though the bill has been defeated, for now at least, it shows the power of the faction to put its agenda at the heart of government policy. The move also gave Turnbull’s critics plenty of ammunition with which to attack him, especially as the bill was proposed, somewhat awkwardly, on national Harmony Day.

Those of a centralist of left persuasion need not despair quite yet. Trump is president, but as reported on a daily basis, he’s not doing great. Dogged by the Russian scandal and unable to pass key legislation, his Twitter rants are becoming increasingly neurotic, particularly regarding his apparent obsession with defeated presidential opponent Hillary Clinton. There’s a sense stateside that Trump’s ‘appeal’ is diminishing.


Here at home we have a prime minister at the nadir of his tenure. Opinion polls put the government ten points behind Labor in a two-party preference vote. This can be attributed to Malcolm Turnbull’s perceived capitulation to Georges Brandis and Christensen et al, though there is also the notion that despite being vocal on issues like 18C and marriage equality, this government hasn’t achieved very much.

The world today is fractured. Years of frustration with a barely representative two party system has led to reactionary voting throughout Western society, and an alarming rise in popularity for extreme parties. Few would be bold enough to predict how the political landscape will be shaped from here.

But it is a comfort to have access to the vast network of media available, so that high level decisions can be scrutinised and opinions informed. The hope has to be that a future electorate will be empowered to develop nuanced opinions and be able to make more informed political decisions, rather than simply follow the rhetoric of one side or the other. Till then, thank God, we still have political satire.

This article was first published on Charlie Stuart.



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  1. stephentardrew

    The evidence is glaring left, centrist, right it is the underlying architecture of neoliberalism and neoconservatism that are our nemesis and the irrational unscientific magical and mythical nonsense driving political imperatives world wide that are leading us down and endless rabbit hole of environmental degradation, biosphere threat, endless redistribution of wealth upwards and further impoverishment of the already poor. This done in the name of the invisible hand, which, by the way, is not invisible it is in fact the hand of corporate global oligopolists.

    The whole cultural paradigm is fractured and the left, centrist, right dichotomies are simply worn out platitudes for a system based upon rabid opinion and not scientific fact. Folks shifting the deck chairs ain’t going to work.

    Modern Monetary Theory is offering a viable and sustainable alternative however change means change and that is challenging the central tenants of an obliviously failed economic paradigm. Anything less and we are lost to a cruel and dystopian future.

    Yes it is that serious and Labor is no solution. Yes we need to get rid of the L-NP however unless we challenge the whole architecture Labor will struggle along until it falls upon its sword and back to the L-NP.

    Not much time to make the necessary changes before disaster once more befalls us. More of the same is a dogs breakfast and I think most progressives already know it however they are not being offered a viable alternative.

  2. Alan Baird

    Yes to the above. When the so-called “left” party is so often strangely quiet when something is seriously awry on the other side, you can bet they’re doing the same wrong thing. The family trust is the latest topic to arise in connection with tax avoidance. The LIbs are well into it. The Labs are quiet. What does this say? This is why the Labor Party is so seriously on the nose and this is but one issue. Yeah, I’m hardly likely to have a scintilla of interest in the Liberal Party, but when the Big Two both moan they’ve only got themselves to blame. That’s exactly how a GOP outsider got into the lodge and commenced doing standard GOP style Goldman Sachs appointments. Hillary, the Democrats and the GOP were all on the nose and rightly so. Or should that be Rightly so? TINA again.

  3. JohnL

    Left wing…..right wing……it’s still the same bird.

  4. Lawrence S. Roberts

    The Netherlands, U.K. and French socialist party’s in the doldrums and the A. L. P. It’s usual happy self to pick up the money and snipe. The Westminster System is designed to favour incumbent conservative partys, it looks like we are stuffed.

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