So I wrote this for a friend, but I want to share it here too. I tried to be fair but you can probably tell that my left-bias comes through. Although I feel that the Liberals are to be judged by the facts, so that’s why I tried to keep this weighted language free. Let me know what you think!
The super basic set-up is this: there are two main approaches to politics: ‘Left’ and 'Right’. they’re called left and right because some french pollies once had to vote on something and they went to the left or right of the room to show how they were voting.
In Australia the Right wing party are the Liberals, led by Tony Abbott. Generally, they support freeing up of businesses - so low taxes, rights for small business owners, building infrastructure like roads and airports, etc.
More recently they’ve focused on building a strong economy as their main commitment/what they’re about. They say the way to do this is lower taxes, less government spending, low unemployment, etc. They see the key to reducing unemployment is to create jobs, rather than to focus on welfare for those who don’t have jobs yet.
Underlying all that stuff, the Right was founded on the idea of Liberty - like it says in the American Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”.
That’s the key of what the Right typically believe, and that’s why the Liberals are called the Liberals - they want to give the individual freedom to pursue their own goals and make their own way in life. The focus, however is on *economic* freedom - freedoms to earn money, buy property, etc. They often believe that other freedoms hinge on economic freedoms.
Now if they’re all about liberty, then why don’t they support stuff like gay marriage, abortions, decriminalising of drug use, the separation of church and state, the right to seek asylum, and the rights of protestors?
Well, part of the answer is that they also have roots with Christians - lots of Catholics and non-Catholics alike. So anything the church perceives as wrong is unlikely to get the support of the Right.
(While some Christians think it sucks that Christian culture usually swings to the Right, there’s a shit-ton of Christians that feel like voting Liberals is the only way to go. Which i think is ridiculous but whatever).
Another part of the reason is their focus on economic stuff. They’re concerned asylum seekers would mess up the economy, which would mess with Australians’ economic freedoms. I disagree, but that’s how they see it.
WOah this was really long, and i haven’t talked about the Left yet.
Part 2 here we go….
The Left have their roots in Union groups fighting for the rights of the worker, the employer. In the early days they focused on stuff like the minimum wage, guaranteed sick pay and paid holidays, etc - good working conditions, basically. They also focused on education and on welfare - making sure the disadvantaged were given a leg-up.
In Australia, the Left are the Labor party, and even more Left is the Greens. Today, Labor is typically a fan of more taxes and a bigger government that spends a lot - this creates government jobs, and means they can spend more on stuff (like education, healthcare, etc). We have Labor to thank for setting up HECS, and Medicare - big stuff that gets the government involved in economics - in this case, student loans and healthcare payments. Whereas the Liberals believe in a hands-off approach, the Left believes in getting involved in the economy to make sure no-one’s getting left behind.
Now, Labor actually is quite similar to Liberals today - they’re both towards the 'Centre’ of politics. For example, they both try to be tough on asylum seekers, they both spend a shit ton of money, they both have introduced new taxes, they both want more immigrants moving in so our population grows steadily, and they both focus on trashing each other, because truth is that is what gets the votes - when people don’t care about politics, they vote for whoever seems like less of a dickhead.
I think that because they’re so similar, so many people don’t give a rats ass about politics these days. That’s part of why the Greens are becoming more popular - they are pretty different.
The Greens want much more taxing on big business, so they can spend a lot more on welfare, education, health (for eg they want dentistry to get covered by medicare). They want big cuts to defense, they want to give asylum seekers a fair go, they want to protect the environment as a big priority, and they want to legalise gay marriage. They generally side with Labor on a lot of things, like the Carbon Tax, but they also just generally keep the other bastards honest by questioning their proposals (called 'bills’).
Now there’s a bunch of other little parties too, but those are the main players. The big recent controversy with the Budget is that Liberals are starting to go much further Right - giving giant cuts to education and health, making HECS debt private instead of government owned, making people wait for 6 months for welfare, raising the pensioner age to 70, etc.
Meanwhile, they’re putting a lot into defense, into infrastructure (roads and airports, mostly) and into the rights of big businesses. This is particularly concerning seeing as they said they were going to get us back to “surplus” by paying back a lot of government debt… but instead, they’re just spending the money of this stuff. Not very honest!
ugh anyways this has been way too long, and if you stopped reading after the first sentence, then that’s cool, i get it.