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Middle Australia Needs To Reclaim It's Political Voice
Politics|May 26, 2021

Middle Australia Needs To Reclaim It's Political Voice

In Recent Years, Our Domestic Political Discourse Has Become Tiresome.
Caroline Di Russo

In recent years, our domestic political discourse has become pretty tiresome. It’s like watching the chihuahuas on the ends of the political spectrum yell at each other through a plate glass window as the rest of us look on partially bemused and partially disappointed at the state of it all. In the mix of the squabble, one thing invariably gets missed: the voice of middle Australia.

Who is middle Australia? Well, that’s a vexed question in itself. Ultimately, its subjective depending on your precise values and priorities and from where you are looking. 

For me, middle Australia are those people trying to keep their own show on the road with the least amount of fuss: they’re working, raising kids, paying the mortgage, saving for an annual holiday. And while middle Australia is not necessarily heavily politically engaged, it does ultimately view political issues though a prism of fairness and knows when someone is trying to sell them a bridge. 

For the most part, Australians are not politically dogmatic – they are aspirational and imperfect at the same time. In reality, the sentiment on the ground is more nuanced than our national discourse would have us believe. The notion that you can’t be centre-left without dreaming of becoming a southern province of China is as untrue and politically puerile as saying you can’t be a conservative unless you have sex in the dark.  

Middle Australia is the reason why the major federal political parties need a 40 per cent primary vote to take government. It also illustrates why, as the ALP has moved further and further to the left, their primary vote has plummeted from 43.38 per cent in 2007 when Kevin Rudd sold himself as a centrist to 33.3 per cent in 2019 when Bill Shorten told us the financial cost of his climate change policy didn’t matter because the consequences of doing nothing were greater. 

The fact is, the cost and consequences of all policy matters and particularly any policy, which is likely to affect something as fundamental as the cost of living. 

Sure, you can fix a sprained ankle by amputating your leg – but do you have to?

And while Australians do care about the environment and reducing pollution, they also have the immediate concern of being able to pay their household bills. The immediacy of that latter concern doesn’t mean Australians don’t care, it just means they understand balance, consequence, and nuance. That is more than we can say for most of the political class, the activist set and the commentariat – and yes, I’m more than mildly aware I fall into the last category. 

The same view can be taken of the COVID19 response. The progressives want us scared witless, locked down and mothered by big government – and any variation on that theme means you want people to die. Whereas the middle wants us to be safe while allowing the economy to function as far as is practicable without detracting materially from the health response. Sure, you can fix a sprained ankle by amputating your leg – but do you have to? 

Despite the middle being drowned out in the fray, they usually take their revenge at balance, consequence, and nuance. That is more than we can say for most of the political class, the activist set and the commentariat – and yes, I’m more than mildly aware I fall into the last category. 

The same view can be taken of the COVID19 response. The progressives want us scared witless, locked down and mothered by big government – and any variation on that theme means you want people to die. Whereas the middle wants us to be safe while allowing the economy to function as far as is practicable without detracting materially from the health response. Sure, you can fix a sprained ankle by amputating your leg – but do you have to? 

Despite the middle being drowned out in the fray, they usually take their revenge at the ballot box. It’s where the reclamation occurs. The last three ‘climate change’ elections tell us this is so.

Recently, and somewhat ironically, Anthony Albanese came out and said the ALP were ‘competitive’. 

Competitive at what? Tanking isn’t a sport and you sure as hell don’t get priority draft picks for losing an election. In fact, I would prefer a stronger opposition to keep the federal government more focused because that’s a win for all of us.

In any event, if either party wants to be competitive, they have to listen to the middle. 

 

Caroline Di Russo is a commercial litigator, commentator and columnist. With over 10 years’ experience, she specialises in commercial disputes, commercial insolvency and reconstruction.