History doesn't repeat itself, but it rhymes
July 21, 2017 5:18 PM   Subscribe

Sixty-odd years ago, at the height of the Cold War, the Australian Labor Party (a predominantly working class political party founded in the union movement, and with a large, largely Irish and Italian, Catholic constituency) was torn apart when a faction of social and religious conservatives, citing the threat of Communism, split off to form the Democratic Labor Party. Led by Catholic hardliner B.A. Santamaria, the DLP would keep the ALP in opposition for almost two decades, giving the (right of centre, and then predominantly mainstream Protestant) Liberal Party a long spell in office. Now, lead by Santamaria's intellectual heirs, the same thing may be happening again—this time to the Liberal Party.

The two heirs are the former Prime Minister and lapsed seminarian Tony Abbott, best known for undermining governments, biting into raw onions and other displays of machismo, who cited Santamaria as his inspiration for entering politics, and Cory Bernardi, a fellow ultraconservative, who recently left the Liberal Party to found a new party, the Australian Conservatives. Abbott is pushing the Liberal Party to change its candidate selection processes, allowing the rank and file (recently swollen with the membership of outer-suburban megachurches) more control, while Bernardi's Conservatives (recently merged with the Pentecostal/Dominionist party Family First) are threatening to take part of the Liberals' member base should this fail.
posted by acb (18 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Huh, NSW politics is nowhere near as trashy or inconsequential as it's depicted on Rake.
posted by infinitewindow at 8:19 PM on July 21, 2017 [3 favorites]

The DLP kept Labor out of power by preferencing the Liberals. I don't see Bernardi's party preferencing Labor.
posted by Panthalassa at 10:37 PM on July 21, 2017 [4 favorites]

For those playing along outside Australia: the Liberal party (who currently hold the Prime Ministership) is anything but "liberal". They are the conservative, right wing of Australian politics.. And yet I suspect that by USA standards they might be considered somewhat left of centre.
posted by Philby at 11:04 PM on July 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

Given the way US liberals have been behaving lately, beginning to think the point of confusion is actually diminishing.


Anyway. Bernadi's claims of his party having, like, 100,000 supporters probably just reflects the number of people (including myself) who signed up to his email list for the lulz.
posted by Jimbob at 11:12 PM on July 21, 2017 [3 favorites]

Abbott and Bernardi fucking deserve each other. Split, then, and a pox on both their houses.

Hopefully, Labor will grow up and grow a spine in time to not be an absolute shitshow.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 3:13 AM on July 22, 2017

Yeah they won't.
posted by Jimbob at 4:31 AM on July 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

Meanwhile, the Greens are in trouble, with a rift between the hard left (Rhiannon) and the Sensible Centrists™ (DiNatale) briefly overshadowed by them having lost two of their senators (including the very savvy Scott Ludlam) who had discovered that they were dual nationals and thus ineligible. The government is making noises about prosecuting them to claw back salaries, something they waived for a Family First politician, which suggests that the underlying principle is IOKIYAC.

If the Right damage each other enough, Labor could walk into office without having done anything to deserve it.
posted by acb at 5:05 AM on July 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

Anyway. Bernadi's claims of his party having, like, 100,000 supporters

They have the support (and largesse) of Gina Rinehart. Rupert Murdoch's presumably waiting for them to prove themselves as being politically competent, but should they do so, they'll have the Australian and Daily Telegraph backing them to the hilt. That and the fact that a lot of outer-suburban Liberal seats are stacked by right-wing megachurches and run religious-authoritarian candidates rather than classic Menziesite Liberals means that, should the Warringah motion fail, the Conservatives may well end up becoming a significant electoral force, taking a bunch of outer-suburban lower-house seats and a few senate seats, and possibly holding the balance of power over a Liberal/National minority government. So, more or less the same situation as today, only formalised.
posted by acb at 5:10 AM on July 22, 2017

the Liberal party (who currently hold the Prime Ministership) is anything but "liberal". They are the conservative, right wing of Australian politics

While always having been right of centre, the Liberal Party was, at least at the start, “liberal”, though in the classic (John Stuart Mill) sense of the word rather than the vernacular American usage. Menzies specifically made a point of not calling his party the Conservative Party, because of the ugly reactionaries that label attracted. Their view of liberalism was one based on the rightness of privilege and the status quo, though; if you're a property-owning WASP male, the government shouldn't be telling you what to do (or taxing you steeply to elevate your inferiors to your level).
posted by acb at 5:14 AM on July 22, 2017 [4 favorites]

>They are the conservative, right wing of Australian politics.

sounds pretty "Liberal" to me, in the old-school sense of 19th century usage.

"Neo-liberalism" today is basically bank-shot weak-tea socialism (privatization + gov't subsidies).

I just discovered the term Ordoliberalism last week and that basically defines my political preference, more or less.
posted by Heywood Mogroot III at 6:58 AM on July 22, 2017

I caught that dual citizenship stuff. Cant believe that's even a thing, that someone wouldn't know they're a dual citizen, and that they'd both be the in the same party.
posted by Yowser at 7:22 AM on July 22, 2017

outer-suburban Liberal seats are stacked by right-wing megachurches

Yeah I know those people, I'm from the north-eastern suburbs of Adelaide. They don't much like Catholics. They're responsible for Family First, not Bernadi, but I guess anything could happen.
posted by Jimbob at 2:27 PM on July 22, 2017

They may dislike Catholics, but they hate secularists and “cultural Marxists” even more.
posted by acb at 4:21 PM on July 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

Anyway. Bernadi's claims of his party having, like, 100,000 supporters

"The laws of mathematics are very commendable, but the only law that applies in Australia is the law of Australia".
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:53 PM on July 22, 2017

The Warringah reforms have won the New South Wales Liberal Party ballot, getting 62% of the vote.

Assuming that the powers that be don't derail them, perhaps we can expect to see the Australian Conservatives/Family First shrivel to nothingness, their membership joining the Liberal Party en masse and purging it of the last vestiges of any form of liberalism. This may make it less likely to hold power than a mutual-voting pact with the Liberals and Conservatives preferencing each other (which would have allowed people to vote Liberal without actually voting for the wild-eyed God-botherers, washing their hands of the political reality that invariably ensued); if the Liberal Party becomes literally a party of Trumpian populists and theocratic authoritarians, that might put a limit on its appeal that not even News Corp. and Cambridge Analytica can fix.
posted by acb at 10:09 AM on July 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

Dad used to have Santamaria's grey-hued TV spot Point of View on at dinnertime on whatever night it was on, on whatever channel. No idea what he was talking about, I just remember it was dusty old man gibberish. I will say one thing for old Bob: his rag A.D. 2000 (to which Dad subscribed, naturally) used to come in a Mylar (or whatever) plastic sleeve that seemed like it was custom-built to hold something like 20 or 30 comics at a time. I had no access to "proper" comic book sleeves so that was how I organised my collection.

Santamaria was (unsurprisingly) a Fascist, an enlistment-dodger, and it seems he was banging his secretary. So, standard Catholic conservative stuff. Everything about this scenario smells like fucking eyebrow-dandruff.
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:06 PM on July 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

that someone wouldn't know they're a dual citizen,

I think it's really common.

My partner went through naturalization about ten years ago to become an Australian citizen.
Early this year she discovered she was actually an Australian citizen at birth.
Neither she nor the immigration department had known.
posted by compound eye at 2:52 AM on July 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

Meanwhile, the Greens are in trouble ... having lost two of their senators (including the very savvy Scott Ludlam) who had discovered that they were dual nationals and thus ineligible.

This whole business made me realise that as an Australian who became a dual UK national in 2007, I can no longer become an Australian Federal MP (not that I have any plans in that direction, but it's another reminder of opportunities passing over time). I knew about the "foreign power" clause in the Constitution, but at some level must have assumed that the introduction of dual citizenship in 2002 addressed it.

But any Australian (not only dual citizens, but by virtue of being Commonwealth citizens) can run in a UK general election. Clearly, therefore, my best chance of ruling my homeland is to become the British prime minister and reinvade it. The chances have to be better than winning a referendum to amend subsection 44(i) of the Constitution.

A United Kingdom of Great Britain, Northern Ireland and Australia is a tempting prospect on environmental grounds, when we have Britain giving up its coal addiction while Australia doubles down on coal mining. Given the countries' relative economic performance since 2008, it's also Britain's best chance of surviving Brexit. Suddenly that "Empire 2.0" business makes sense...
posted by rory at 4:50 AM on July 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

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