Australian by-elections underscore deepening alienation from political establishment


Australian by-elections underscore deepening alienation from political establishment

Mike Head

30 July 2018

Five by-elections held across Australia on Saturday gave a further revealing indication of widespread hostility towards the openly pro-big business program of the Liberal-National Coalition government, and disaffection from all parties of the official political establishment.

On the surface, the result means that the government’s majority in the lower house of parliament remains the same, just one seat. The opposition Labor Party retained the four seats it previously held, and the right-wing nationalist Centre Alliance (formerly the Nick Xenophon Team) kept its single seat.

But beneath the surface, the results point to a further breakup of the two-party parliamentary system that has served the interests of the corporate and financial elites since World War II. Candidates claiming to oppose the major parties picked up sizeable votes, as they have during the past decade.

Within the twisted framework of official politics, the voting patterns provided only a pale and distorted picture of the deep discontent over falling real wages, the rise of insecure work, the deteriorating state of health, education and other essential social services, and the rapidly escalating burden of housing and utility costs.

Despite large swings against the Coalition, and its decision to not even stand candidates in two of the five electorates, the opposition Labor Party’s vote barely rose from its historic lows. Nor did the vote for the Greens, who propped up the last Labor government from 2007 to 2013. Among wide layers of the population, the Greens are recognised as providing no progressive alternative to the two party setup.

Significantly, the four MPs who had been forced to quit…

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