There’s a subtle shift at play in Australian politics – but when its done it could transform the country.
Is anyone else picking up on a subtle change in the political winds?
It got a sense of it last week with the results of the NSW State Election.
That might sound found funny since the ruling party was returned, barely a handful of seats changed hands, and it was pretty much business as usual.
But something is shifting.
Partly it struck me with Gladys Berejiklian’s victory speech, where she said it was a victory that showed that “someone with a long last name, and a woman, could be elected Premier.”
As someone who had a long last name and copped his fair share of ribbing when he was younger for a name the anglo kids had trouble getting their tongues around, I had a bit of a giggle at this.
And it’s true. When I was a kid, I would never have imagined that a woman with an Armenian background would be one day be Premier of any state in Australia. It was a different world back then.
And then it was followed up by comments from her Treasurer Dominic Perrottet, who went to lengths to say how monumental it was that someone who ‘couldn’t even speak English when she started school’ was now Premier, and what an inspiration that was to his four young daughters.
It was gushing.
And look, that’s all great. It definitely is an important victory in that regard.
But what’s going on here? The Liberal party is now the party for gender equality and immigrant opportunity?
Both the Premier and the Treasurer seemed very keen to impress the public with their progressive credentials.
What next? Are they going to be the party to stand up for panda bears and orang-utans?
That’s exhibit A. Hold that thought.
Exhibit B is the tough time that Bill Shorten’s been coping in recent weeks for not being Jacinda Ardern enough.
In the wake of the Christchurch massacre, Shorten got taken to task for this comment:
“Not all rightwing extremist hate speech ends in rightwing extremist violence”.
“Shame Shorten, you coward! How can you suggest that hatespeech doesn’t lead to evil?”
But that was the thing. What he actually said was:
“Not all rightwing extremist hate speech ends in rightwing extremist violence… but all rightwing extremist violence begins with rightwing extremist hate speech.”
Pretty clear what he’s trying to say there.
But nobody was listening.
Same story a few weeks earlier. He got slammed for suggesting that kids striking for climate should “protest after school hours.”
But again, that wasn’t actually what he said. The full quote was
“In an ideal world, they would protest after school hours and on weekends, but it’s a bit rich for the government to lecture school kids. This government’s been on strike about climate policy for the last five-and-a-half years”.
So why is Shorten getting such rough treatment? … from the very people who should be welcoming him as their hero?
If you ask me, to the progressive movement, he’s just not Jacinda Ardern enough. At a time when Jacinda was being the poster-child for progressives everywhere, Shorten was still flying a flag for the politics of middle-aged white men… because that’s just what he is.
No matter what Shorten does, he will never be the leader progressives are crying out for because he is just not Jacinda Ardern enough.
And that’s exhibit B.
So what’s the root cause here?
I reckon it’s a tilt in the collective psyche towards more progressive values. It’s a tilt that is forcing the Liberal party to sell their own progressive achievements, and it’s a tilt that means that Shorten can never be progressive enough as far as his base is concerned.
The major parties aren’t idiots. They know what sells. They know what polls well.
And so I think this shift is real.
And if that’s true, it’s very interesting. Because this is where real change happens.
Where the people lead, the leaders will follow.
So is this where we’re going?