On the left side of the political spectrum, the battle lines between Australia's social classes used to be clear: the working class, represented by the unions, were pitted against the landed local elite and the bourgeoisie. The narrative was nativist and to a degree, Marxist. It was that the white working man needed to be protected against the Coolie who would undercut his wages, that the goods he manufactured or produce he grew would be given preference over cheap imported goods through trade protection, and that capital should be regulated through labour laws and strong unions so as to more equitably share the surplus value he helped create.
It was argued that Australia was held back by restrictive trade policies for most of the 20th century, and in many ways this was true. Imported goods were expensive in Australia. Even locally manufactured cars were far more dear for an Australian worker than his counterpart in the United States. Overall, goods were expensive and economic velocity was lower. This could be considered the price to be paid for maintaining local industry that provided a decent living for the average worker. The social returns that flowed from the dignity of a real job from a private enterprise were thought to exceed the opportunity cost of cheaper consumer products. Since the 'modernisation' reforms of Hawke and Keating, which to be fair, were made in the backdrop of a globalising economy and a rising Asian manufacturing base, our own industries have disappeared to a lack of competitiveness that may not have been able to be prevented.
Other developed manufacturing nations such as Japan, Germany and even the United States dealt with this scenario by developing highly specialised industrial capacities and sophisticated technological innovation that could not be easily copied or put out of business by cheap foreign labour. Australia's failure to adapt similarly has not been catastrophic, as many had predicted. Over the past thirty years, an explosion in bank credit fueled a housing boom which drove up construction, immigrants poured in stimulating demand (whilst straining infrastructure and services budgets), a mining boom flushed capital cities and mining towns and our federal treasury with a torrent of Chinese money.
Australia 'exported' education to its Asian neighbours (although enough have stayed and competed with locals for jobs that the benefit of this so-called export becomes difficult to measure), and hugely expanded the welfare state, and therefore future liabilities, through this ironically titled 'economic liberalisation' period from 1983 to today.
The Australian success story, of selling services to each other and avoiding high unemployment, unlike our European counterparts since the economic tumult of 2007, is about to enter the decade sans-mining boom where it will finally be tested. The commodities market does not look like it will enter the much-awaited 'super-cycle' phase since it's not in China's next five year plan to continue her nation-building phase to the scale of the past decade. Even the old chestnut of 'Big Australia', meaning little more than marginalising the old Australia to an increasingly insignificant white minority by demographically swamping it with fecund aliens from the global south won't fix these fundamental imbalances.
In the face of the current predicament, the response of the Coalition has been to pay lip service to 'economic reform' by reducing business taxes and making small tinkers to the hugely expensive and inequitable superannuation legislation. Labor's response, to grandfather negative gearing, is too little, too late.
The 'ideas boom' will save us, or so we are told. This is no more than a feeble attempt to capitalise on the Silicone Valley pop-fetish for technological 'disruption' and 'paradigm shifts'. This new cult of Steve Jobs and Apple and IT 'gurus' who will magically transform life as we know it using the power of 'science' and 'imagination' should be revealed for what they are: low-rent sales-copy charlatans peddling their new-age pseudo tech-revolution to the self-congratulatory bourgeoisie.
Drunk on its own righteousness, the rainbow coalition is becoming ever-more brazen in its attempts to invert the valuation of social categories and public morality. Former Army Lieutenant-General, now Grand Poohbar of the Diversity Council of Australia David Morrison presents us with this latest mum-morality scolding, the #WordsAtWork campaign, detailing how to not say supposedly insensitive things to wymyn, ethnics and the handicapped in the workplace.In the face of deteriorating standards of living, rising unemployment, falling wages, unaffordable housing and ethnic crime, this kind of tut-tutting would run the risk of alienating their congregation and reigniting the anti-authoritarian impulse still embedded in the Australian psyche. To think that the red-blooded Aussie battler will cower and be shamed by these finger-wagging demagogues is to seriously underestimate him.
The failure of the political left to represent the forgotten people, the white working class and farmers, their own original political base, will likely be their undoing. If the ethos of the Liberal party is free markets, Zionism and Chinese investment, then that of Labor and the Greens is refugees, Aborigines, stronk wymyn and Jihadis. Neither consider the patrimony of White Australians to be anything other than fodder to attract votes and achieve a moral high, for having created a 'multicultural success story' that is 'the envy of the world'.
The reification of the racial and class interests of the largest voting group in our society cannot be indefinitely suppressed. The rise of Trump in the United States is evidence of this. The Australian political system holds less potential for mainstream party outsiders than the U.S and has not allowed Nationalist parties to influence voting and debate as in Europe.
Dire as this may seem, the lack of 'safety valves' may set the stage for far greater disruption than the political establishment is prepared for. The relative comfort and abundance that is still enjoyed by her historical majority continues to serve as barrier to political mobilisation and an awakening of identity. The potentials arising from the unfolding of the neo-liberal experiment present great opportunity.