Preliminary pages

Preliminary Pages

Maurice Rickard

< - Contents < -Chapter one: - >

Parliamentary Fellowship Monograph

ISBN 978-0-9752015-5-8

Commonwealth of Australia 2007

Except to the extent of the uses permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, no part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means including information storage and retrieval systems, without the prior written consent of the Department of Parliamentary Services, other than by senators and members of the Australian Parliament in the course of their official duties.

This monograph has been prepared to support the work of the Australian Parliament using information available at the time of production. The views expressed do not reflect an official position of the Parliamentary Library, nor do they constitute professional legal opinion.

Acknowledgements

The support, assistance and work flexibility provided by the management of the then Information and Research Service (in particular June Verrier) and members of its Publications Section and various Policy Groups (in particular Carol Kempner, Greg Baker, Rob Lundie and Richard Ryan) are all gratefully acknowledged, as are the admirable collective efforts of all those who work in the Parliamentary Library and make research projects such as this possible.

I am also grateful to the MPs and Senators from all sides of politics who kindly found time to speak with me about many of the issues discussed here. This monograph has benefited from their insights and experience.

Presiding Officers Foreword

Since its establishment in 1971, the Australian Parliamentary Fellowship has provided an opportunity for academic researchers to investigate and analyse aspects of the working of the Australian Parliament and the parliamentary process. The work of Dr Maurice Rickard, the 2002 Australian Parliamentary Fellow, examines the notions of principle and pragmatism in the political competition between Australia s two major parties.

Dr Rickard discusses the alleged decline in voter loyalty to the two major parties and provides a detailed case analysis of the 2004 election based on the concepts of principle and pragmatism. He then moves to map the ideological positions of the parties at elections between 1993 and 2004.

March 2007

SUMMARY OF KEY FINDINGS

i

INTRODUCTION

1

CHAPTER ONE

PARTY VOTING AND PARTISAN DECLINE IN AUSTRALIA

5

CHAPTER TWO

PRINCIPLED AND PRAGMATIC JUSTIFICATION OF POLICY: DISTINCTIONS,
COMPROMISE AND BALANCE

13

Interpretations of Principled Justification................................................................................... 14 Principled integrity .....................................................................................................................15 Strategically principled...............................................................................................................16 Strategically Negotiating Circumstances 16 Strategically Negotiating Electoral Advantage 17 Polling and Principle . 19 Principled defence....................................................................................................................... 19 Principled process ................................................................................................................................... 20

Trade-offs, Commitment to Principle and Party Identity ......................................................... 20
Negotiating the right balance...................................................................................................... 21
Principled constraints on parties pursuing their values ..................................................................... 22

Principle versus Pragmatism: What is the Genuine Issue?.................................................... 23

CHAPTER THREE

THE MAJOR PARTIES COMPARED: PRINCIPLE AND PRAGMATISM IN THE 2004
FEDERAL ELECTION

21

The Approach to Party Comparison ................................................................................... 25
Which policy areas to focus on?.................................................................................................. 25
The parties core values .......................................................................................................................... 29

Liberal Party Core Values .. 30
Economic liberalism ...................................................................................................................31
Social conservatism..................................................................................................................... 31
Populism .....................................................................................................................................32
Devolution and decentralisation ........................................................................................................... 32

Unifying the Philosophical Themes in Howard s Liberalism ................................................... 33

Getting the right mix Some critical reflections ............................................................................... 35

Assessing Flagship Liberal Policies Against These Core Liberal Ideals ......................... 37
The Liberal s 2004 Health Policy................................................................................................ 37
100% Medicare: Making GP Services More Affordable than Ever Before ...................................... 38
The PBS co-payment rise ...................................................................................................................... 41
The Liberal s 2004 Tax, Industrial Relations, and Small Business policies ...............................42
How the Liberal Party measures up .................................................................................... 42

Labor Party Core Values .................................................................................................... 43
The ALP Platform Statement ......................................................................................................44
The view Latham had of Labor's values......................................................................................45

Measuring Labor s Flagship Policies Against its Core Ideals .......................................... 48
The Labor Party s 2004 Tax Policy............................................................................................. 48
Tax and Better Family Payment Plan: Rewarding Hard Work ........................................................ 48
The Labor Party s 2004 Health Policy ........................................................................................49
Labor s New Deal to Save Medicare and Medicare Gold: Guaranteed Health Care for Older
Australians .......................................................................................................................................... 49
The PBS Co-payment Rise Labor Values in Tension............................................................... 51

The Relative Philosophical Directions of the Parties ......................................................... 53

CHAPTER FOUR

DIFFERENCE OR CONVERGENCE? A LONGER TERM ANALYSIS OF THE
PARTIES' IDEOLOGICAL DIRECTIONS AND RELATIONSHIPS

51

Measurement of Party Difference ....................................................................................... 56

Manifesto-based analysis of left-right ideological position Rationale and methodology.........57

The Ideological Positions of the Two Major Parties Changes and Relationships .......... 63
Historical trends in ideological position...................................................................................... 64
Recent trends in ideological position 1993-2004........................................................................ 66
The parties economic vs non-economic policy ideologies ........................................................67

Party Positions and Voters Positions ................................................................................. 71
Ideological positions of voters, major party supporters and swinging voters .............................72
Swinging voters and optimal party positions..............................................................................74
Voters economic ideological positions .............................................................................................. 74

Ideological Difference and Electoral Outcomes A Systematic Relationship? .................. 77

CONCLUSION

79

APPENDIX 1
Labor Party and Liberal Party Ideological Scores 1993-2004

81

APPENDIX 2
Median Surveyed Voters Left-Right Ideological Positions 1993-2004

83

APPENDIX 3
Median Surveyed Voters Economic Left-Right Ideological Positions 1993-2004

85

BIBLIOGRAPHY

91

SUMMARY OF KEY FINDINGS and OBSERVATIONS

This brief study addresses a number of questions about pragmatism and principle in the context of recent electoral competition between the Australian Labor Party and the Liberal Party of Australia, particularly at the 2004 election. Some of these questions are about priorities, and some are about meanings. How strongly has the incentive to be pragmatic in policy encroached on principled policy formation in these parties? What does it mean for policy to be principled, and where does the line between principled and pragmatic policy formation lie? How different have the two parties been in the ideals they advocate, and how faithful have their respective policies been to these ideals?

The first chapter of this monograph outlines the currently available data on partisan de-alignment with regard to Australia s two major parties. The second chapter begins the discussion of principle and pragmatism by seeking to clarify what it might mean for a party s policies to be principled, and what relationships and influences this might have regarding pragmatic politics. The chapter that follows makes use of this analysis to present a detailed case analysis of the 2004 Federal Election. The focus there will be on the degree to which the key policies of the parties conformed to those parties ideals. The final chapter systematically applies some quantitative techniques to spatially represent or map the ideological positions of the two major parties at elections between 1993 and 2004. These maps purport to throw systematic light on the dynamics of ideological change with the parties over time, and with regard to both economic and non-economic policy domains.

The key findings and observations that emerge from the monograph are as follows:

CHAPTER ONE : PARTY VOTING AND PARTISAN DECLINE

There is evidence of declining allegiance of voters to Australia s major parties. One indicator of this is the consistency with which voters who vote for a major party in the House of Representatives, vote for the same major party in the Senate.

Extensive surveys (the Australian Election Studies) indicate that there has been a steady decline in the proportion of surveyed voters who voted for Labor in the House of Representatives and also for Labor in the Senate between 1990 and 2004. [Chart 5, p. 9]

  • Between 1998 and 2004, there has been an eightfold increase in support for the Greens in the Senate from surveyed voters who voted Labor in the House of Representatives. In this same period, there was a marked decline in support for the Australian Democrats in the Senate from surveyed voters who voted Labor in the House of Representatives. This suggests that support for the Democrats on the part of those who voted Labor in the House of Representatives, is being displaced to the Greens. [Chart 6, p. 10]
  • Between 1998 and 2004, there was a similar marked decline in support for the Democrats in the Senate from surveyed voters who voted Liberal in the House of Representatives. There was no corresponding increase in support for other minority parties in the Senate from these voters. However, in this period there was a marked increase in support for the Liberal Party in the Senate on the part of those surveyed voters who voted Liberal in the House of Representatives. This suggests that support for the Democrats on the part of those who voted Liberal in the House of Representatives, is not being displaced to other minority parties, but is being reabsorbed as support for the Liberals in the Senate. [Chart 7, p. 11; Chart 5, p.9]
CHAPTER TWO : PRINCIPLED AND PRAGMATIC JUSTIFICATION OF POLICY
  • Shaping policy on the basis of polling and survey results, or what will serve a party s electoral interests, is often taken as the paradigm of unprincipled politics. However, this view reflects an impoverished understanding of principle in politics. The dichotomy between principled and pragmatic or expedient policy is a false one. It is defensible for a party to compromise its values on particular occasions if this serves to maximise their realisation in the long run. [p. 16ff]
  • Poll-guided and, even poll-driven, policy can be a strategic tool in the best achievement of a party s principles and ideals. In fact, principled party politics will require a party to pursue expedient policy at the right times. [p. 19]
CHAPTER THREE : PRINCIPLE AND PRAGMATISM IN THE 2004 ELECTION
  • The two philosophical themes that John Howard avows (in the texts scrutinised here) for the Liberal Party under his leadership economic liberalism and social conservatism are fundamentally in tension and not well-unified. [p. 30-37] This is not just a matter of philosophical interest. These principles inform Liberal Party policy in conflicting ways. There was evidence of such inconsistency in the key social policies the Liberal Party took to the 2004 election (viz., MedicarePlus vs Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme co-payment increases). [p. 40-41]
  • The Labor Party s accession at the 2004 election to PBS co-payment rises also reflected a deep tension in its values, a tension which resulted in the Labor Party giving precedence to values of economic management over principles of collective social support for citizens needs. [p. 51-52]
  • The key policy emphases of both major parties converged during the 2004 election, and converged ostensibly on issues that non-committed voters considered most important. However, there was not just a commonality of policy between the parties at the 2004 election, there was also a commonality of principle, in both economic and social domains. The ladder of opportunity theme in Latham s economic policy and its element of individual and civic responsibility for

individuals economic outcomes, echoed the philosophical themes of Howard s Liberalism. Similarly, the Liberal Party s increased emphasis on collective responsibility for people s needs (and its downplaying of user-pays principles), reflected in the MedicarePlus expansion of concessional benefits, echoed value priorities typical of the Labor Party. [p. 53]

CHAPTER FOUR : DIFFERENCE OR CONVERGENCE? LONGER TERM ANALYSIS OF THE PARTIES IDEOLOGICAL POSITIONS

Judgements are often made as to a political party being ideologically of the left or of the right . But there are limited ways of validly and systematically measuring the degree to which a party is left or right. One very defensible method of measuring ideological position has been developed which relies on the systematic content analysis of parties election manifestos, and the mapping of parties policy positions in ideological space . [pp. 57-63] Application of these systematic measures by the author to the Labor Party and the Liberal Party for the elections from 1993 to 2004 indicate the following ideological relationships between the parties:

  • Taking into account the parties policies overall, the Labor Party has been consistently positioned on the ideological left in the 1993 to 2004 period, and the Liberal Party consistently on the right, though closer to centre than the Labor Party. [Chart 10, p. 66]
  • Taking into account the parties policies overall, the Labor Party has been more ideologically stable than the Liberal Party in the 1993 to 2004 period. [Chart 10, p. 66]
  • Taking into account the parties economic policy only, both parties have been positioned on the ideological right in the period 1993 to 2004, although the Labor Party has been closer to ideological centre on average. [Chart 11, p. 68]
  • The Liberal Party has been more stable in its economic ideology than the Labor Party in the 1993 to 2004 period. [p. 68]
  • Taking into account the parties non-economic (including social) policy only, both parties have been predominantly on the ideological left between 1993 and 2004, with the Liberal Party closer to ideological centre, and the Labor Party considerably on the left. [Chart 11, p. 68; pp. 69-70]
  • While it may be reasonable to agree that many social policies advocated by John Howard s Liberal Party are ideologically of the right (particularly in areas of social values and security), the evidence from the systematic ideological analysis conducted here suggests that the matter may be more complex when social policy is conceived more broadly, to include social welfare and quality of life policy domains. [p. 70]
  • Measures of the ideological positions of median surveyed voters suggest that between 1993 and 2004 voters were consistently slightly on the right of ideological centre. [Chart 12, p. 72]
  • Taking into account the parties overall policies, on average the Liberal Party has been ideologically closer to general voters than the Labor Party in the 1993 to 2004 period. The Liberal

Party was particularly close to voters in general at the 2001 and 2004 elections, while the Labor Party was at its most distant from them in 2004. [Chart 12, p. 72]

  • Measures of the ideological positions of median surveyed voters who identify with each of the parties suggest that Labor Party supporters were consistently ideological left of centre (slightly) between 1993 and 2004, and Liberal Party supporters were well to the right. [Chart 12, p. 72; p. 73]
  • Taking into account the parties overall policies, on average the Liberal Party has been ideologically closer to its voter support base than the Labor Party has been to its support base between 1993 and 2004. [Chart 12, p. 72; p. 73]
  • Measures of the ideological positions of median surveyed voters who are swinging voters (i.e. who sometimes vote Labor and sometimes vote Liberal) suggest that between 1993 and 2004 swinging voters were ideologically very slightly to the right of centre, and consistently so. [Chart 13, p. 73]
  • Taking into account the parties overall policies, on average the Liberal Party has been closer to the average ideological position of swinging voters than has the Labor Party. [Chart 13, p. 73]
  • Measures of median surveyed voters ideological positions on economic policy suggest that voters in general, voters who identify with the Labor Party, and voters who identify with the Liberal Party, were all moving to the left economically between 1993 and 2004. At the same time, both parties were generally moving to the right economically. [Chart 14, p. 76]
  • Taking into account the parties ideological positions on economic policy, the Liberal Party was on average closer in economic ideology to its voter support base between 1993 and 2004, than the Labor Party was in economic ideology to its support base. The Labor Party, however, was on average closer in economic ideology to Liberal Party supporters, and voters in general, than was the Liberal Party. [Chart 14, p. 76]
  • On the basis of certain plausible assumptions, it can be argued that, in its overall ideological positioning between 1993 and 2004, the Liberal Party was optimally placed to attract swinging voters without alienating its existing supporters. The Labor Party, on the other hand, does not appear to have been optimally positioned to attract swinging voters. The Labor Party s mean overall ideological position between 1993 and 2004 has been consistently to the left of the average positions of swinging voters and Labor s existing supporters. On the operative assumptions, it could be argued that the Labor Party may have been better placed to attract swinging voters while maintaining its existing supporters, if it had been positioned more at the ideological centre in its overall policies. [Chart 12, p. 72; Chart 13, p. 73; and p. 74]
  • Differences in the proportions of the primary vote achieved by the major parties between 1993 and 2004 and between 1949 and 1990 have not varied in a statistically significant way in relation to the ideological distances between the two parties in these periods, (according to the methods of ideological positioning endorsed here) [p. 77; Chart 15, p. 78]
  • The Labor Party has won office when it has been ideologically close to the Liberal Party, as well as when it has been ideologically distant. The same is true for the Liberal Party. A party in opposition

seeking to differentiate itself ideologically from the party in power in order to maximise electoral support, is not necessarily a winning strategy. [p. 78]

INTRODUCTION

Within advanced western democracies over the last 50 years there has been a decline in the degree of loyalty voters show to political parties. 1 Though not as pronounced as in many other advanced democracies, 2 this is also true of Australian voters and the major political parties. Australian voters no longer identify with the major parties as consistently as they have in the past, and are less disposed to automatically vote for the same party.

Various explanations have been put forward for the causes of this widespread partisan de-alignment, most of them connected with processes of social modernisation that have occurred in industrial democracies since World War II. Increasing levels of social mobility and education, for example, have been argued to underlie a decline in citizens class-based identifications, and with that, their identifications with political parties that have differentiated and defined themselves along class divides. 3 Similarly, when confronted with complex policy choices, a more educated citizenry is less reliant on the information and decision cues provided by political parties, particularly in the context of mass media and communication. 4 It has also been argued that increased levels of affluence in industrial democracies have resulted in citizens concerns shifting away from material issues toward quality of life issues (e.g. the environment and life style choice) which cut across traditional party boundaries, and which have engendered prominent single issue

5

groups.

1 While there are different views as to how steep or persistent this international partisan decline has been, there is nonetheless strong evidence for it. See Dalton and Wattenberg 2000 for an extended analysis of international trends and evidence, and Webb, Farrell, and Holliday 2002. Some dispute the evidence for partisan decline, however. See, for example, Mair, 1997.

2 McAllister, 2002.

3 See, for example, Dalton and Wattenberg, 2000 and Franklin, 1992.

4 Inglehart, 1990; Dalton, Flanagan and Beck, 1984.

5 Inglehart, 1997.

Whatever the causes, there are also certain consequences of partisan de-alignment which relate to both voter behaviour and party behaviour. Increased partisan de-alignment has resulted in an increased pool of non-committed voters who are less mobilised by traditional party symbols. Where those symbols no longer motivate, other factors take on greater motivational significance. Evidence suggests that de-alignment has resulted in an increase in issue-based voting (where specific issues are more salient in the voting decisions of unaligned voters) and voting decisions that are made at times increasingly closer to election day. 6 Connected with this there has been increased electoral volatility, where non-aligned voters swing in their votes from election to election between competing parties. 7 There has also been an observed increase in the importance of election candidates and leaders as determining factors in decision-making among non-aligned voters. 8

The behaviour of political parties has also changed in response to this voting behaviour. In the context of a growing proportion of non-committed swinging voters who focus on specific issues and make their voting choices at late stages of election campaigns, there are strong incentives for political parties to develop and communicate their policies, and to conduct their political campaigns, in ways that strongly target these voters preferences. The incentive will be particularly strong when, as in Australia, electoral outcomes depend heavily on the preferences of swinging voters (certainly at the federal level), and where polling and survey techniques and analysis are becoming increasingly sophisticated and readily available. There is evidence that contemporary party campaigns are making increased use of professional pollsters and market research, and it has been argued that a broad shift has taken place in party competition in modern democracies, from selling an ideological perspective to marketing what policies will sell. 9

In the context of partisan de-alignment, it makes pragmatic sense for political parties to target their policies to the swinging voters inhabiting the middle-ground. 1 0 With this said,

6 Franklin, et. al., 1992; Dalton, McAllister and Wattenberg, 2000.

7 Wattenberg, 1991; Dalton and Wattenberg, 2000.

8 See, for example, McAllister, 2004; Wattenberg, 1991.

Katz and Mair, 1995; Wring, 1996; Farrell and Webb, 2000.

10 In fact, it has quite famously been argued that something similar will be the case even when partisan de-alignment is not an issue. The median voter theorem dictates that if every voter could be assigned a place on a linear scale according to their policy or ideological preference, the optimal ideological or policy position for a political party to adopt when competing with other parties for the most votes, is the position of the voter who occupies the halfway or median position in the distribution of voters on the scale. The effect of competing parties pursuing this winning strategy will be that their policy offerings all converge on the same ideological position. Ideological convergence, in other words. See Black, 1948 for a rigorous proof of this theorem, and Downs, 1957. For the original proposal, see Hotelling, 1929.

however, pragmatism is not the only characteristic of political parties. Political parties often also seek to distinguish themselves in terms of what they stand for what they avow as their principled commitments, perspectives, ideals or ideology. This fact throws into relief a number of questions about the relationship between pragmatism and principle in the context of party competition. 1 1 Some of these questions are about priorities, and some are about meanings. How strongly has the incentive to be pragmatic in policy encroached on principled policy formation? What does it mean for policy to be principled anyway, and where does the line between principled and pragmatic policy formation lie?

The discussion that follows in this monograph focuses on these questions as they relate to recent competition between the Australian Labor Party and the Liberal Party of Australia. To set the appropriate context, the first chapter of the monograph outlines the currently available data on partisan de-alignment with Australia s two major parties. The second chapter begins the discussion of principle and pragmatism by seeking to clarify what it might mean for party policy to be principled. It presents an analysis of the idea of principled justification of policy, and elucidates its relationship to strategy and pragmatism. The chapter that follows makes use of this analysis to present a detailed case study of competition between the two major parties in the 2004 Federal Election. The focus here will be on discerning the degree to which the most prominent election policies of the two parties reflected their respective party principles or ideals, and the degree to which they may have given way to pragmatic and strategic electoral considerations.

Central to the issue of principle in policy formation is the question of how this can be measured. While one obvious approach is to look at the match between what parties say by way of their ideals and what they actually do, this is not the approach that will be adopted here. Even when a party s ideals can be identified, a focus on what that party does would be too unwieldy for a limited comparative study such as this, and methodologically problematic in other ways as well. For example, parties do many things, some of which conform to their principles, some of which do not. In measuring the match between parties actions and their avowed principles, what weight is to be accorded to which actions? How are degrees of prominence or importance between a party s actions set? Similarly what parties do is subject to myriad circumstantial variables (e.g. varying economic and international conditions, unanticipated social and environmental changes, etc). How can these be controlled in any systematic measure of principle and policy, and what status would they have as excuses in any measured deficit between policy action and party principle? Moreover, how could a credible comparison be made between parties in power, which can enact public policy, and those in opposition which cannot, and which are subject to different risks and opportunities in what they say they will do?

11 Throughout this monograph, the term pragmatic policy is not intended in the sense of policy that is practical or which gets things done, nor is the term principled policy used in the sense of high-minded or naively idealistic policy.

The better (though, of course, still not perfect) approach that will be adopted here is to focus on what parties say. In the 2004 election case study, the two major Australian parties will be compared in terms of how faithful the match is between the key policies expressed in their respective election policy launch speeches and the ideals and principles avowed in a range of those parties authoritative texts. Election speeches, with the differential emphasis they place on different policies, provide a source of information for determining what weights a party assigns to different policy positions. At election time also, both parties are in a more comparable position when it comes to circumstantial variables and influences. Both parties are similarly seeking office, under the same formal electoral risks and opportunities. 1 2

The 2004 election case study will be qualitative and interpretive in nature. The advantage of this type of study is that it provides the opportunity for detailed insights, and a more textured sense of the complexities involved in principles and pragmatism and the compromises that might arise between them. It also allows a close-up view of whether and how the parties focus on common specific election issues that might mobilise swinging voters. The limitation of case studies like this, however, is that they present a very particular and static perspective on party competition. They provide limited insight into the longer term processes or changes that might be occurring in party principles or ideological position over time, particularly the possibility of increased policy convergence between the parties.

To fill this gap, the final chapter of this monograph systematically applies some quantitative techniques developed in the course of the European Comparative Manifestos Project, to spatially represent or map the ideological positions of the Australian Labor Party and Liberal Party at elections between 1993 and 2004. Those maps allow for more rigorous comparisons, and help to throw systematic light on the dynamics of ideological change within Australia s major parties over a significant period of time, in both economic and non-economic policy domains.

12 For a fuller justification for focusing on election policy texts, see Chapter Four of this monograph.

 

 

 


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