1. For the past decade, beginning in the late-2000s, the major Australian parties seem to be racked by internal feuds and, in the case of labor, successive coups by rival leaders. What explains this seemingly strange phenomenon? What are the factors that have contributed to what seems like personality politics overtaking ideological coherence and party discipline?
If you look at Australia’s 116-year old federal parliament there are many examples of similar past leadership changes. However modern media and communications has provided unprecedented access and real-time coverage for such leadership challenges which have often been conveyed only in terms of personalities. This has obviously lifted the level of accountability on political parties and in 2013 Labor introduced significant reforms to its leadership election process to ensure future stability and this has paid dividends for Labor with an unprecedented unity and stability since 2013. The Liberal-National government continues to suffer from internal leadership dissent.
2. Australian politics have been unusually volatile even by Western standards. This seems ironic, given how the country has done much better than most of its peers vis-à-vis the Global Financial Crisis. What is going on here? Are we witnessing the “Americanization” of Australian politics? Is there deep-seated ideological polarization in the country?
The Labor Government of 2007-2013 provided Australia with strong economic leadership which protected hundreds of thousands of Australian jobs and saved the Australian economy from the fate that befell many of its trading partners in the region and across the globe. However many working Australians still feel the same disenchantment that has caused the surge of populism for anti-establishment candidates in other advanced democracies around the world. However, one of the effects of compulsory voting has been that Australian politics is less susceptible to the sort of extremist rhetoric that has recently been seen in the US and Europe. Australian Labor has always been the party of fairness and egalitarianism. We continue to develop policies that respond to the desire for more fairness and accountability amongst voters. At the recent election our focus was on fair access to healthcare, education, job opportunities and tax reform – policy initiatives that would mitigate the effects of globalization and inequality which are hurt working people around the world.
3. A bout of right-wing populism and anti-immigrant sentiment has bedeviled both America and Western Europe in recent years. What about Australia, given its stringent measures against illegal migration? What about the response to the recent terror-related events, with ISIS-affiliate individuals engaging in violence against civilians? Should we be worried about the rise of Le Pen-like, if not Trump-like, figures in the country? Or Australian politics is expected to remain ‘boring’ and ‘stale’ in relative terms?
Australian Labor is proud of our multicultural society and the anti-discrimination and anti-hate protections federal and state Labor governments have put into law. We will fight to keep those protections in place despite support for their reform within the current government and amongst some right-wing fringe groups. Despite the success of Australian multi-culturalism, Australia is not completely immune to anti-immigrant sentiment, but it is important to note these views do not have widespread support in the Australian community. Labor strongly opposes the types of anti-immigrant sentiment espoused by Trump-like leaders around the world.
By Howard Lee
His Majesty’s “Loyal” Opposition
The Westminsterial Parliamentary system which our Nation’s founding fathers and mothers agreed upon, was one that afforded the Opposition the title of “His Majesty’s Loyal Opposition. The Loyal Opposition is an integral and irreplaceable branch of the Parliamentary/ Legislative institution. This is not just the case here in Malaya, and subsequently Malaysia, but also across the Commonwealth Realm. Canada, India, Australia to name but a few.
On the rising fascistic approaches taken to polemiscise politics and gain a winning edge in parliamentary elections worldwide, Michael Ignatieff, a former leader of the Loyal Opposition in the Canadian Parliament once said: "The opposition performs an adversarial function critical to democracy itself... Governments have no right to question the loyalty of those who oppose them. Adversaries remain citizens of the same state, common subjects of the same sovereign, servants of the same law.
We, the Opposition in Malaysia today are neither given the resources nor the institutional respect to carry out our job effectively; in fact we are strategically starved of it by the ‘deep state’ and decades of demonization by the Ruling, using the very resources we are starved of. The Oppression of the Opposition by the Ruling is getting increasingly more sophisticated; yet we are expected to deliver more than ever before, as the ruling regime is worse than it has ever been.