Sunday, 9 August 2009

No "Tories" in Europe

In today's Age, an unnamed writer is calling for Australia's conservative parties to "watch how conservative parties overseas are embracing the challenge of tackling climate change".

The simple problem with this call, originally made by the Southern Cross Climate Coalition, is that what are "centre-right" parties in Europe or New Zealand or California are, economically and culturally, much more akin to the Australian Greens than to the Liberal or National Parties.

I will emphasise here that this characteristic is not confined, as I imagine some readers will think my analysis in recent posts could suggest, to climate change policy. It applies equally to other aspects of government policy, from welfare to foreign aid to education. Even Labor governments are less generous than Conservative ones have typically been in Europe. Especially in Western Australia and Queensland it was often Labor governments who most strongly supported ecologically destructive policies and refused to develop a strong public sector. Writers on the Fitzgerald Inquiry, for instance, note the continuity between Queensland's (Catholic) Labor governments between 1915 and 1957 and the policies of (National) Nicklin and Bjelke-Petersen governments between 1957 and 1989.

The net result is that differences in the overall size of the public sector become accepted by the public in each nation, but are not understood when labelling parties abroad. A party with policies like
  • withdrawing from the UN
  • abandoning foreign aid
  • compulsory military service
would be completely implausible in Europe, Canada or New Zealand. Yet, in outer metropolitan and rural Australia, such a party obtained a substantial proportion of the vote in 1998. More recently, Family First, which in spite of overwhelming evidence from rainfall records advocates a complete end to emissions targets, obtains ten percent of the vote in many suburbs.

It's time we had a uniform labelling for parties in all nations, whereby the different position of politics in different nations would be put into the fullest view it ever has. Australian academics might learn something they don't even suspect now, and it would be interesting to see how they responded in writing.

1 comment:

Jonathan Benney said...

Re the comment: "A party with policies like
- withdrawing from the UN
- abandoning foreign aid
- compulsory military service
would be completely implausible in Europe, Canada or New Zealand."

This is completely false! Have you seen the European Parliament elections, specifically groups such as these:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Identity,_Tradition,_Sovereignty