Fix the economy, destroy the polity: Australia since 1983

Many significant economic changes were effected in Australia after the election of the Hawke-Keating government in 1983. Both Labor and the Coalition thereafter supported a wide ranging program of economic reform. In this short paper I will argue that, without deliberate intent, this shared project has marched in step with a profound corruption of political life. Moreover, unchecked this is a development that threatens to destroy Australia’s hitherto robust democracy.

Since 1983, political conflict has increasingly come to focus on the short term. Opportunism and manufactured difference now dominate the argument between the rival parties. Public trust in politics and public disaffection from politics has grown. Without systemic change, this undermining of effective political and policy capacity can embed destructive cynicism and untrusting disengagement. It will cauterise citizen affiliation to the formal political system and our collective ability to respond to pressing longer term issues — via

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