Tipping point: One in four voters sick and tired of major parties

Snowy Hydro CEO Paul Broad and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull address the media after his tour of the Snowy Hydro Tumut 3 power station in Talbingo, NSW, on Thursday 16 March 2017. fedpol Photo: Alex Ellinghausen Photo: Alex Ellinghausen is poised for widespread political instability as more than one in four voters flee the two-party system, political analysts say.
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Disgust and disappointment with major parties is approaching historic levels as ns follow British and Americans voters and reject new age politics.

A major realignment of political fault lines looms and if Europe and America are any indications, n politics could revert to protectionism versus free trade.

Previously, a 25 per cent primary vote for non-governing parties has been a red warning light for major n political parties.

In the 2016 federal election, the warning light started blinking deep amber, with a primary vote of 23 per cent for the minor parties in the House of Representatives.

Now, opinion poll after poll point to the vote for the minor parties breaching the 25 per cent tipping point at the next federal election due in 2019.

The 25 per cent threshhold has been broken through three times since Federation.

Each was followed by massive political dislocation with political fault lines shifting and major parties crashing to oblivion, rising out of the ashes or embracing platforms espoused by new minor parties.

Two former Kevin Rudd staffers believe is at a political tipping point

Lachlan Harris, co-founder of One Big Switch, and Andrew Charlton, co-founder of AlphaBeta, said the deep disruption to the n system played out in three stages: firstly, factions within major parties come under extreme pressure; secondly major parties form alliances with minor parties and, thirdly, major parties reform or collapse.

“We are in stage 1 now with the [Cory] Bernardi split, Labor’s sudden shift towards labour protectionism and the threats to Turnbull’s leadership,” they said.

“The second stage took off in Western with the preference deal between the Liberals and One Nation.

“Exactly where this instability takes us is impossible to divine, and the process will ebb and flow, as individual minor parties explode in popularity, and implode under the weight of expectations. But the data clearly suggests a one in 100-year structural unbundling of our politics may well be under way.”

The binary reality of the two-party system has been the experience of most voters but ns had their first taste of minority government from the get-go when neither the protectionists nor the free traders won majority support in 1901.

But those early advocates of closed borders formed minority government thanks to the support of the Labour Party (15.8 per cent) but when the working class nearly doubled to 31 per cent in 1903 a seismic shift hit n politics: the divide shifted from protectionist versus free trade to labor versus conservative.

Fast forward to the Depression when 1931 and 1934 elections saw Jack Lang’s n Labor Party (NSW) destroy a Labor government and deeply damage the ALP as one in four voters fled voters fled to minor parties.

By 1941, the United Party had been in Coalition government for 10 years when leader Robert Menzies was forced out as leader leaving the conservatives to limp along under National leader Arthur Fadden. Two years later, ns voted them out. Although Labor’s John Curtin became prime minister, a quarter of voters supported minor parties of a conservative persuasion. Menzies, heeding the clarion cliche that disunity is death, built the Liberal Party out of the ashes and from 1949 gifted the Coalition a record 23 years in government.

Monash University political scientist Zareh Ghazarian did not believe that the last hurrah for the two-party system was looming.

“Minor parties have certainly come out of nowhere in recent years but that does mean the two-party system is in trouble,” Dr Ghazarian said.

“You won’t see minor parties in government. The major parties will still dominate results in the lower house but it is the Senate that the smaller ones will continue to make headway.”

However Dr Ghazarian, whose latest book is The Making of a Party System: Minor Parties in the n Senate, said the one major party most likely to suffer big time will be the Nationals.

“You can see it in last weekend’s West n result,” he said.

“One Nation is treading on their territory and Barnaby Joyce has the job ahead to convince his heartland that the Nationals are still hard-headed but soft-hearted.

“For that matter, Labor too is shifting. No longer are social issues at the forefront. For Bill Shorten it’s back to old-school issues, wages and conditions … Sunday rates.”

Research fellow with the free market think tank the Institute of Public Affairs, Daniel Wild, said minor parties emerged to fill the void created by voter concern about about free speech, national sovereignty, and crime.

“Oligarchies have formed around the western world because there are these permanent political classes that cannot be dislodged via elections. This class includes the major political parties, the taxpayer funded media, much of the academia, the bureaucracy, and many large corporations. Many people feel they just don’t get a say any more,” he said.

“In the case of Brexit, voters were fed up with the left wing political establishment which cared more about attending cocktail parties in Brussels than addressing real and immediate issues at home.”

“The gendered traffic lights in Melbourne is a small but telling example. Bureaucrats were more concerned with politically correct virtue signalling to make themselves feel good rather than fixing real problems people face every day, like traffic congestion and crime.”