scott-puttingtheaustralian-2003.pdf (365.04 kB)
Putting the Australian Labor Party in international perspective
conference contributionposted on 2003-01-01, 00:00 authored by Andrew ScottAndrew Scott
This paper assesses the Australian Labor Party's current debates over future directions with reference to attempts by the left of centre political parties in other western nations, especially in Western Europe, to deal with the end of the economic "golden age" since the early 1970s and the widespread resurgence of neo-liberal ideologies since the late 1970s. The dominant recent view of such comparisons has been through the ideological lens of the "Third Way". This vision however tends not to see relevant variations between the experiences of social democratic parties in individual Western European nations as they have sought to deal with adverse circumstances since the early 1970s. Nor does the Third Way view sufficiently extend to the widely varying background landscapes: that is, the different levels of historical achievement by left of centre parties in the different nations. Some social democratic parties in European countries are pursuing more progressive political agendas than the British Labour Party under Tony Blair and they are starting from a very different basis of policy achievement and political strength than either the British or Australian labour parties. The nature and extent of these international differences need now to be highlighted from an Australian political perspective in order to better inform the current debate about the range of options for the ALP and the current comparative condition of the Australian party system. As part of this analysis, the relationship between the erosion of the traditional blue-collar support bases of the major left of centre parties in various nations, amid economic restructuring and challenges to traditional immigration patterns, and the rise of support for anti-immigrant policies and parties, need to be carefully examined and evaluated.