Society

The Right’s Demographic Debacle

As we Victorians lamented and endured yet another state-wide lockdown caused by the incompetence of Premier Dan Andrews and his ALP government’s failed hotel quarantine regime, a few other equally depressing thoughts also came to mind. For as tiresome and unnecessary as this latest lockdown undoubtedly was, the sad fact remains that Andrews and the ALP continue to be broadly popular, and are on track to win yet another term of government come the next election, due in 2022.

What explains this paradox? Presumably, as the theory goes, in a democracy any governing party that exhibits enough bunglings and failures will be voted out at the next election, installing even the flimsiest opposition into power under the hope of even the merest improvements in delivery and competence: any evidence to the contrary is a scenario surely not worth contemplating.  

The most recent failures that have occurred in the hotel quarantine program—coming on top of last year’s hotel quarantine catastrophe where the decision to place notions of diversity and “identity” over rigor and competence led to the deaths of hundreds of Victorians—are just the tip of the iceberg. A litany of other recent fiascos is also all too easily recalled: the branch-stacking scandal, the non-construction of the East-West Link, the blowouts on the Metro Tunnel, or the gang riots at Moomba. In fact, hardly a month has gone by without an ALP ineptitude of some kind or another.

This essay appears in June’s Quadrant.
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Yet in spite of all of this, Andrews and the ALP remain, and the ALP has now held power in Victoria for seventeen of the last twenty-one years. Their tenure is predicted to increase, given the recent redrawing of state electoral boundaries in favour of the ALP. This development obviously spells further doom to the already dwindling Liberals—a point made by the Herald Sun’s James Campbell, among others.

And it is in the details of such restructures that the answer to the Andrews paradox is revealed. As has happened in a variety of locales across the Western world, large-scale demographic change has heavily favoured parties of the Left, rendering the Right impotent and largely useless. The situation is most obvious in places like California and Canada, and now, with the recent inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, throughout the US.

And so too it is here in Victoria. The Liberals’ share of the overall vote declines as their dominance in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs is eclipsed by the growth in population (and the associated ALP vote) in other parts of town. The ALP is now comfortably ahead in the immigration-fuelled, high-growth regions of Melbourne’s north and west, holding all but three of the thirteen seats that have populations of 10 per cent more than the state average. The ALP also holds all of the fifteen fastest-growing suburban areas and almost forty of the forty-five electorates with the greatest number of (soon to be ALP-voting) children.

Thus, to answer our initial paradox: the incompetence of Andrews and his government—which is substantial, given not only these latest debacles, but the amount of high-ranking staff and party members that have left his team—is almost irrelevant, as “the people” are overwhelmingly on his and the ALP’s side. With the Liberals losing middle-income local “progressives” and lower-income migrants, they are pushing against demography.

Which is why Andrews can be as incompetent as he likes, as nothing the opposition says or does really matters much. A switch of leadership from Michael O’Brien—a man almost unknown to the broader Victorian public—to Tim Smith, or whomever, will do little to change the attitudes and voting habits of the bulk of the people in the increasingly important western half of the city: that is, a people which views the Liberal Party as an anachronism and votes accordingly.

This realisation must have dawned among the wiser heads of the Victorian Liberals. A brief glance overseas at the broader movements and correlations between immigration, demographic change and left-of-centre political dominance should have made this long evident.

This explicit connection between immigration and a leftward shift in politics was outlined by Helen Andrews last year in the article “How Early Immigration Shifted Our Politics Permanently to the Left” in the American Conservative, concerning the twentieth-century US experience. Ann Coulter was writing about the subject in 2015, and Michael Anton in his 2020 book The Stakes describes how his once Republican home state of California came to be coloured a deeply toned, and deeply dysfunctional, Democratic blue.

Thus the Victorian Liberals are yet another right-of-centre party that is finally having to confront the (largely predictable) consequences of the gaping contradictions inherent in their own policies and ideology. Their decades-long reliance on immigration to stoke economic growth (John Howard, for example, doubled the immigration intake) did achieve the narrow economic goal of a sufficiently buoyant economy (almost thirty years without a recession, before Covid). Yet their failure to contend with the deeper electoral changes that such a demographic shift has wrought has left them in a rather pathetic position, unable to exert influence on events.

The Right therefore finds itself at an impasse. Howard’s dream that the Liberals were a “broad church” that was able to unite “both economic liberalism and social conservatism” was always a fantasy. As Victoria has shown, social and economic liberalism—which emaciates social capital, erodes the birth-rate, and is reliant on immigration for economic growth—destroys the possibility of any type of healthy, socially-conservative society. This sad truth is occasionally acknowledged by the federal Liberal Party, as they make cosmetic changes to the social fabric (such as Morrison’s recent change to the National Anthem) whilst continuing full-steam-ahead with the demographic and economic changes that have made themselves and their party increasingly irrelevant.

The larger effects brought about by these demographic changes may now be so deeply baked into the electoral cake that right-of-centre parties—particularly socially conservative ones, rather than economically laissez-faire—are consigned to political oblivion. The recent US electoral result seems to confirm this trend.

Yet, given the Right’s role in bringing about their own demise by prioritising the short-term and short-sighted economic impetus of mass-immigration over any broader, longer-term notions of the national good, it’s hard to feel much sympathy. As the latest hotel quarantine disaster has shown*, the Right are now merely spectators, watching with bemusement and anger as the latest leftist leader struts and frets upon the stage, lurching from one crisis to another.

Online editor’s notewhen Ryan Anderson sat down to write this lament for a dying Victoria there had been three lockdowns. Since June’s Quadrant went to press the state has been subjected to a fourth, with all the customary irrational and inconsistent restrictions on normal life and commerce.

Ryan J. Anderson is a teacher and essayist based in Melbourne

12 comments
  • Ian MacKenzie

    I’m unconvinced that demographics is the main driver of Victoria’s woes. After all NSW has a similar immigration intake but remains a Coalition state, although admittedly with a number of Green-Left Ministers (Environment and Education come to mind). If “the Right are now merely spectators” in Victoria, then they surely have only themselves to blame. They seem to be self-absorbed with infighting and unable to promote an electable leader. Hawke’s dictum about being able to govern yourselves is as true now as 40 years ago. Victorian Liberals seem to be unsure what they stand for, and consequently voters are unsure as well. Why vote for a faux ALP when you can vote for the real thing?
    Given the state of modern Victoria, one wonders how much worse it would need to get for a Coalition state government to be elected. Apparently a corrupt police force, incompetent judiciary and Marxist education system are enough to drive an exodus north, but not enough to change the government. Perhaps that is the only solution for the oppressed Victorian Right. If you’ve got any get-up-and-go, do just that.

  • Alistair

    For what its worth I think there is a need to re-think the nature of the “Cultural Wars”
    There are actually three culture wars.
    The first was in the eighteenth century where the Liberals defeated the Conservatives.
    The second was middle of last century when the Socialists defeated Liberals. It is a mistake to think that the Liberal Party has anything to do with conservatism. They are a socialist party with a liberal rump. What the so-called “conservative” Liberals were/are ‘fighting’ to preserve is the remnants of Liberalism.
    We are now in the middle of the third culture war – where the hard left is fighting against the technocratic soft left. Think Bernie Sanders vs Hilary Clinton. Antifa/Black lives matter vs Biden.
    In Victoria soft socialism vs Chairman Dan.

  • pgang

    ‘As we Victorians lamented and endured yet another state-wide lockdown caused by the incompetence of Premier Dan Andrews and his ALP government’s failed hotel quarantine regime…’
    This is a false premise that we see repeated frequently. The existence of lock-downs and the hotel quarantine regime are mutually exclusive. Andrews’ incompetence (or rather, his leadership in and of itself, as much of what is considered incompetent is intentional), overlays both of these subsets.
    Yes, the hotel quarantining was a debacle. Yes, the lock-downs are a debacle. But the lock-downs and the quarantining are separate issues.
    Lock-downs have always been, since the beginning, in all states and nations, a joke. They do not occur in Victoria just because of poorly managed, forced hotel quarantining (which in itself is of highly questionable value in managing a corona-virus outbreak), they occur because the Vic government loves lock-downs.
    The statement above implies that the lock-downs are necessary. They are not and never have been.

  • pgang

    Ian Mac, I agree. Present an alternative and the people will take notice. In our local council, for example, the Labor Party dominates because they are a well-oiled, well-financed corruption machine. The Libs are a petty rabble and the Independents are either too independent, or they are an infighting rabble.
    It is not necessarily a Labor council, as for many years previous the Mayor was an independent.
    So with Labor in charge their developer mates get a hand up (as most of them have the good sense to be Labor donors), rate payers are just mugs, and we get lots of money wasted on green and vanity projects rather than on the collection of our garbage (which now only occurs once a fortnight).

  • pgang

    ‘The recent US electoral result seems to confirm this trend.’
    Such a statement merely reinforces the uninformed nature of this article, given that the results of the presidential election were, and remain in dispute. In fact there was a huge swing to conservatives in the lower house.
    An almost-concluded forensic recount in Maricopa County will be telling.

  • Harry Lee

    Few non-marxists understand that the ALP and the Greens, and all their allies in all the public services -which includes the education and legal systems, and the ABC and SBS- are enemies of human flourishing. Human flourishing can be best achieved in the context of freedom combined with the requirements of personal productivity and contributory, non-violent citizenship. It is obvious that the ALP and Greens, and their supporters, are totally opposed to these requirements of proper human activity. This is despite their ignorance and/or malice in proclaiming their (fake/false) compassion for selected underprivileged (but actually parasitic) classes who will always vote ALP or Green, by first or second preference. And these parasitic classes, some of which are actively anti-Europeanist, are both home-grown and imported by the immigration/refugee systems.

  • Brian Boru

    Ian MacKenzie says; “Victorian Liberals seem to be unsure what they stand for”. That might even be said of the Libs nationally. I still remember when Adam Bandt was first elected to federal parliament courtesy of Liberal preferences. In that year the Liberals preferenced the Greens ahead of the ALP in just about every federal electorate except Tasmania.
    Since Green MPs are far more damaging to us as a nation than ALP MPs that to my mind was evidence that the Liberals were not a party with the best interests of Australia at heart but they had some other self serving agenda.

  • wdr

    As much as I detest the woke left and the harm it has done, the argument in this essay seems exaggerated. Conservatives are in power in Australia, the UK, most of Europe, etc. The Republicans are expected to recapture the US Congress in 2022. There are immigrants and immigrants. Many Chinese and Hindus here are high achievers who would naturally support conservative parties- the BJP in India is an ally of the world’s right-wing parties. The Muslims and blacks probably support the left, but they are a minority. Winning in politics depends on fielding charismatic and articulate candidates- those who are not will probably lose, regardless of party. Most immigrants are concentrated in a small number of seats, which in Australia are usually safe ALP anyway.

  • Harry Lee

    wdr, no, the conservatives are not in power -not in the sense that they control the main factors comprising our institutions. A couple dozen Lib-Nat ministers, at Fed or State cannot control what is done by public servants. And 80% of public servants vote ALP or Green -that is where their allegiance lies. And it is just a bit of naive idealism to believe that marxist-inspired public servants always do what nominally non-marxist politicians say they want.
    Then there’s this: To maintain their vote, the Libs appease the marxist/greenist/naive idealist voters with bad policies, such as pursuing zero emissions of carbon dioxide, and pretending that multiculturalism is not a cover for anti-Europeanism.
    And note that 70% of voters who do not speak English at home vote ALP. High achievers, esp of the kind you describe, do not necessarily vote Lib. On this matter, note that the ALP is promising Muslim, black African, Hindu, Chinese and indeed all Asians here, that in office, the ALP will allow them to bring in all their dependent relatives, no limit on numbers -to go on welfare, free healthcare, free homecare -the lot. Just have to vote ALP, that’s all. Paul Keating explained this strategy to the ALP some decades ago. Was even in the papers, to wide acclaim.
    And note that “conservatives” obviously do not have dominant power in the legal or education systems. These systems are almost entirely controlled by marxist-inspired people who seek to destroy the essential elements of our version of Western Civ -obvious. And, as we see, “Conservative” governments do not even have the power to stop the ABC and SBS from channeling pro-ALP, pro-Green, anti-Westernist propaganda.
    Anti-marxists must grasp that the immigration/refugee systems and the education systems, and backed up by the ABC, SBS and 90% of the commercial media, are producing more ALP and Green voters (whose preferences go to the ALP) than Lib or Nat voters.

  • Stephen Due

    In my view the problem in Victoria is primarily the Liberal Party, not changing demographics. A party that cannot address changing demographics deserves to perish. The Liberals have been spineless and lazy during the pandemic. In spite of heaven-sent opportunities to attack the government, the Liberals have been worse than useless. Even when Sky News presenters were literally putting words into the mouths of Liberal politicians, the result was a lacklustre, ineffective performance in front of the cameras.
    The Liberal Party needs new policies addressing current mainstream concerns. It needs skilled, intelligent, informed, aggressive politicians who can use the media and the parliament to demolish Labor and present an attractive, confidence-inspiring alternative to the electorate. If the Liberals have nothing better to offer, then Victoria will just continue as a one party state using the playbook of Xi Jinping.

  • Occidental

    The trouble with the proposition that immigrants vote for the left of politics, is its failure to understand the nuances of immigration. If the author limits his argument to the refugee intake then the proposition has some merit as a contributor to the entrenchment of Victorian Labor. My own experience of growing up in a town made up largely of post WW11 immigrants is that economic migrants, those seeking a better life through work, and who have come out of ambition, rarely vote for the left. Those however who come from the third world under the refugee intake and choose Australia are likely to quickly become enamoured of our social welfare net, and were likely even aware of it when they set out to come here.
    But I do agree that demographic forces are pushing the electorate to the left, perhaps irrevocably. Those forces include the fracturing of the nuclear family, and the emergence of single voter households. As I have said before if you are a single woman (other than the most ambitious or confident), or a mother in a single parent household, only one side of politics will appeal to you. If you vote conservative you are crazy. If you are homosexual only one side of politics represents you. If you are an Aborigine and you vote conservative you are as rare as rocking horse shit. The very definition of aborigine in Australian law means that this racial group is growing faster than any other demographic segment. Unfortunately I suspect that the last few Federal governments will in a couple of decades be regarded as the swan-song of political conservatism in this country.

  • whitelaughter

    Perhaps looking at the excuse for a Liberal party in Victoria will persuade you otherwise. The most notable thing they’ve done this century was suing their own fundraiser. And remember when Tony Abbot crushed Labor, they said they didn’t want him helping them at the state election! Surprise surprise, they failed utterly.

    The solution, as we are seeing in the USA, is ‘red flight’ – leave the basket case of Victoria. The Gold Coast is the fastest growing city in Australia, votes solidly right wing, becoming more important each election. Move somewhere smarter.

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