Tasmanian Labor and Queensland Nationals

Could Tasmanian Labor go the way of the Queensland Nationals? One it was common to argue that Queensland was politically distinct from the rest of Australia, the special 1987 issues of Social Alternatives was an example. The Bjelke-Petersen regime and the dominance of conservative politics by the Country/National Party provided evidence for this argument. Yet Queensland had once been a political leader; it was the first state where liberals and conservatives coalesced in opposition to Labor: the Griffith McIlwraith coalition. Labor polled strongly in Queensland after federation largely on the basis of its support for White Australia. In all of these aspects Queensland anticipated the trend of Australian politics. Now Queensland exceptionalism is long past, the final nail in its coffin was the rise of an  ex-Liberal to leadership of the merged Liberal National Party. It is true that some die hard Liberals complained about a National party takeover of the merged party but in practice this merely demonstrated the recasting of the Liberals as a conservative party. Tasmania was exceptional before Federation, it was the poorest state and one in which organised labour was weak. The Labor Party in Tasmania emerged as a response to Federation, with five electorates and six Senators it was a necessity for the federal Labor party to organise in Tasmania. Federation gave Tasmanian primary producers access to national markets and it also meant direct financial support for Tasmania. Australian federalism may be centralist but it is also highly redistributive by international standards. Federation seemed to largely end Tasmanian exceptionalism, national tariff protection, cheap labour and cheap energy encouraged industrialisation. However Tasmanian politics is now as divergent from the national pattern as was Queensland politics in the days of Joh, the most recent poll puts the Greens level pegging with Labor. Tasmania’s low skilled and relatively highly unionised workforce may now be as much of a remnant of the past as was its 19th century agricultural economy in the early 20th century. Could Tasmanian Labor find itself, like the Queensland National Party, restricted to a declining electoral base? Perhaps the residual strength of Labor’s Tasmanian base is actually counterproductive, just as the Queensland Nationals for a long time believed that the disportionately rural distribution of Queensland’s population would secure them against the Liberals   However the ability of the Queensland Liberals to supplant the Nationals required the Liberals to exclude ‘small l liberal’ elements, in 1983 Queensland right of centre voters made clear their disdain for a ‘liberal’ Liberal party. If the Greens were ever to achieve their dream of supplanting Labor in Tasmania it would be at the cost of becoming rather like the modern Labor party.

One thought on “Tasmanian Labor and Queensland Nationals

  1. united says:

    Obama is probably the most centrist president we have had in the last 10 administrations. You need to look at what he is doing and not the way it is spun on TV. The crime here is that Americans have become so hypnotized by the box in our living rooms that we no longer think about the actions of our leaders. Obama is just as plugged into the Military Industrial Complex as Bush was. Obama is continuing almost all of the Bush era policies (except for Nukes and Gays in the Military). He is even expanding Afghanistan and now opening up more oil drilling of all things. Americans need to get informed rather than hypnotized.

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