I Don’t Get It: Australia Politics (Auspol101)


Words | Harry Fraser

G’day to all the readers who would like to know a bit more about the circus that is Australian politics or Auspol for those diehard political junkies. I will attempt to explain various terms, ideas and political institutions, particularly those unique to the land down under.

Australian Labor Party – one of the two major political parties in Australia. Main ideological goals are reducing inequality by championing workers’ rights, access to healthcare and equal opportunity in education. Labor sees the role of the government as correcting the worst inequality caused by capitalism in maintaining social welfare programs to economically and socially support working class Australians. This means greater government intervention in the form of progressive taxation, expansion of Medicare and greater funding to education. Interestingly, they still support coal exports. Just putting that out there.

Canberra Bubble – If you ask journalists and academics what the Canberra Bubble is, you will be surprised when they tell you it doesn’t exist. So to define it, I will have to describe it in the rough words of Scomo. It usually gets thrown around as a response whenever Scomo is asked something challenging. He says that ordinary Aussies don’t care about things like press freedom and corruption and he prefers to talk about things they do care about, like the cricket. According to Scomo, the Canberra Bubble is the insular political sphere filled with Canberra politicians and the press gallery. Those inside the bubble are out of touch with ordinary Aussies and get caught up with scheming and the toxic culture of parliament. But at least we can trust Scomo, who is by his own admission outside the bubble. Funny that.

Coalition – in Australia this refers to the way the Liberal Party and the National Party form an alliance of sorts. Labor runs a candidate in every seat during elections and therefore would be able to form a majority in Parliament. On the other hand, the Liberals don’t do this. In more rural seats, the Libs let the Nationals run candidates while they take the more urban areas. So two parties pool their seats to form a Coalition. The Nationals are a smaller party so for them, this arrangement gives them a greater voice in Parliament than they would otherwise have. The position of Deputy Prime Minister is always given to the National Party leader while the Prime Minister is a Liberal.

Conservative – in essence, conservatism opposes change, at least sudden change. They value free enterprise, the protection of private property and traditional social values. Many conservatives want to preserve the current state of things or even return to the values of a former time.

Liberal – this one is really hard to define because in different contexts, liberal has so many different meanings. Traditionally, liberalism refers to enlightenment ideals around individualism and liberty that emerged a few hundred years ago. Think American Revolution. Translated to today, this embodies ideas of small government, that is, less government intervention in people’s lives because people know what is best for themselves. Liberalism holds the free market in high regard and discourages government intervention in the economy. This means less taxation and free trade. Along the lines of this approach, liberals support free speech, secularism, equality before the law and the free press. Free being the key word here guys. Saying that, liberal means somewhat the opposite in other contexts. Many, particularly in the United States, divide political beliefs upon whether you are conservative (see above) or liberal. In this case, liberals support the involvement of the government in correcting social wrongs, such as inequality of opportunity and harsh income inequality. In the Australian context though, liberal usually refers to the party itself.

Liberal Party – the other major political party in Australia. The Liberal Party embodies the classic liberal ideals of small government, free trade and lower taxes as well as some new ones like border security, budget surpluses and fighting for small businesses. Now I’m going to break it down to a VERY basic level to show what this looks like IRL. Smaller government means less spending on public and social services, such as healthcare,
welfare and education. Less spending means less debt for the government.
Tax rates are usually lowered in accordance with liberal ideals and the flow on effect of this is less income for the government. So basically, they want more money coming in than going out (by cutting funding). In the end they would love to minimise the presence of the government with less tax and less spending. They also love coal.

Moderate – this is a category for people who sit towards the middle of the political spectrum. Usually they shy away from anything radical when it comes to ideology and prefer instead to find a happy middle ground. Many believe in the mixed market economy, where capitalism is regulated to avoid extreme inequality and the exploitation that comes with unbridled capitalism.

National Party – Formerly the Country Party, the Nationals fight for regional Australia. Politically and socially they align to conservative values, similar to the Liberals, of small government and the free market. In an unusual and ongoing paradox however, the Nationals support a sort of agrarian socialism. They believe in government subsidies and welfare for the farming, agriculture and resource sectors. The Nationals have faced significant criticism for their hybridity when it comes to economic ideology. The Nationals are Joe Goldberg from the Netflix Original Series You and coal is the poor woman inside the Perspex chamber. Literally obsessed.

Neoliberalism – a series of economic policies that gained popularity in the late 20th century. It promoted a return to the laissez faire approach and resulted in significant levels of deregulation of financial markets and privatisation. These days neoliberalism is being critiqued for the impact of its policies. It increased market volatility, which many argue resulted in the Global Financial Crisis of 2008-2009. In Australia, neoliberalism has widened income disparity and wealth gaps leading to greater socio-
economic inequality. Most notably for young Aussies, we have neoliberalism to thank for creating a housing bubble and pricing us out of the property market.

Progressive – to be a progressive means that you support social reform. Progressives are not by default more left-wing but rather are the opposite of conservatives. Progressives believe in changes to economic and social policies that will make the world a more equitable and modern place. Progressives don’t want things to stay as they are, while conservatives usually do.

Pulling a Scomo – this is when you fuck off despite being needed the most during a crisis. Can also refer to shaking someone’s hand despite their physical resistance.

“Where’s Johnny? Someone just ordered five packs of 24 nuggets for ten dollars and he’s on nug duty!”

“Yeah nah can’t find him, must be pulling a Scomo.”