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Hallam: In case you haven’t noticed, the whole world has been turned on its head

Peter Dutton’s flirt with nuclear power is almost as unexpected as the Liberals voting to divest our big grocery retailers to stop price gouging. Does anybody still believe in anything anymore, asks writes Greg Hallam

Jul 09, 2024, updated Jul 10, 2024
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese (right) and Opposition Leader Peter Dutton have both suffered drops in the latest opinion polls. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese (right) and Opposition Leader Peter Dutton have both suffered drops in the latest opinion polls. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

How many times have you heard the aphorism “ the world has gone crazy ?” Especially of late!

Our central political beliefs are being turned on their head, and then some. Left and right have seemingly crossed over.

As a people, or indeed a nation, we tend to have anchor points in group thought across a generation, such as – global trade is good,  intervention in the market place is verboten, and individual rights are fundamental to our liberal democratic society.Well, at least we did until recently.

In the space of just two weeks the Federal Opposition Leader Peter Dutton has turned those paradigms on their head, purposefully so.

Firstly , by proposing the partial nationalisation of the nation’s energy network to usher in a new era of nuclear energy.Wham.!

Then signalling that Liberal MPs and Senators will side with the National Party and Greens in the federal parliament to vote to impose divestiture on big grocery companies because of their oligopolistic hold on supply chains, especially farmers, and price gouging consumers. Bam!

If Labor had proposed that over the last 40 years, the term “reds under the beds” and “communists “ would have abounded. This is heady stuff folks, a big sweeping realignment of the left, centre and right in Australian politics. Make no mistake about that.

On reflection why should Australia be different to North America, Europe and the UK. There is a generation of pissed-off punters, for whom globalisation delivered nothing, or at least that’s what they now believe.

We did it, for what?

Globally renowned Harvard Professor Michael Sandel, in his most recent book “the Tyranny of Merit” chronicles the rise of left wing individualism, based on the concept of a meritocracy, which he so brilliantly called the “ rhetoric of rising”.

It became an article of faith, that through education, we could create a level playing field where all benefitted. Learn new skills, re-tool, work smarter, etc and Bob’s your Uncle.

As we now know that didn’t happen. The working class were used to being stiffed, but the middle class certainly wasn’t, and deeply resents it.

The central tenet, that if you both studied and worked hard you could make it, was in fact a chimera. Worse still, if you didn’t make it, it was your fault.

Sandel is no newcomer to society’s chagrin with the order of things. Back in 1998 he wrote Democracy’s Discontent First Edition which first raised a loss of faith in our institutions and the need to value blue collar work, and both rekindle civic virtues and a more generous public life.

He is no screaming lefty – to the contrary he talks about the intellectual lefts “ Bonfire of Vanities”. In truth , they created the space for Donald Trump, Netanyahu and their ilk to sow their divisive simplistic trope.

Large numbers of working class voters in America rejected Hillary Clinton, more than they embraced Trump, and so on the list goes around the globe.

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Many have forgotten Mark Latham’s furtive “ triangulation “ theory of politics in the mid 90s when, as Labor Opposition leader he tried to flip the political narrative from economics to such things as reading for kids, amongst other switch hits.

It was a political strategy of wrong-footing your opponent above all else.

Peter Dutton gets all that, he has represented an outer metropolitan seat for close on 20 years and understands cross over politics . He has hitched his star to the tradies vote and outlying metropolitan and regional seats.

In short, he is eschewing the teals, greens and inner city intellectual core of the modern Labor Party for a narrow, but rich vein of seats .

No one in the Coalition has yet forgotten Howard’s battlers success. But nor should they dismiss the impact Workchoices had on that cohort. It was Howard’s bette noir . Yes tradies are aspirational folk, but touch their penalties? .

Can Peter Dutton do it ? Is he believable? What about Industrial Relations. Would you have Albo or Dutto at your suburban BBQ? The questions abound.

Back in good old Queensland, budding Premier David Crisafulli has largely eschewed following Dutton down the populist climate change sceptic and pro-nuclear road. Indeed, he has matched Premier Miles’ policy stance opting for the centre.

Are you confused yet?

It might also just be that Crisafulli is the front runner in Queensland, while nationally Dutton has to be bold coming from behind and winning back Opposition after one term in office .

Forget most of you once thought about what the parties believed, modern politics looks like spaghetti junction. It’s all malleable and interchangeable and loops back on itself. .

One thing is for certain , even the magnetic North and South poles flip over every 300,000 years.

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