Politics – Looking Through the Overton Window

January 29th, 2024

Those of us still interested in politics can look forward to entertaining times ahead. After all, politics is show business for ugly people, they say. Local council elections will be on September 9th this year. A federal election could be called any time after August but most likely will be around April/May next year. That is still a while away, but the battle for our local seat of Richmond is already underway.

The Battle For Richmond

Local commentator and comedian, Mandy Nolan came within 1.8% of toppling the current sitting Labor MP, Justine Elliot in the last election. She has already been endorsed by the Greens as the candidate and her strategy has been to go out and act as if she is already the elected member.

This has already shown her to be an effective MP. She was influential in getting funding for the Fletcher Street Cottage, a valuable drop-in space for rough sleepers. Also had a role to play in Byron Bay’s aged care Feros Village being kept intact for the community. This is after Justine Elliot claimed there was nothing she could do, then when the residents won the battle, tried to come in and claim credit.

Housing Policy

Although I will be supporting Mandy in the next election, I am not a natural Greens supporter. They can be shrill and self-righteous and often sacrifice the good in pursuit of the perfect. But further, on I will explain why it is still a good idea for Mandy to win.

Housing, my pet topic, is not a perfect fit for me as well. The Greens’ policy focuses on getting a better deal for renters, which is important, but they are fairly mute on the NIMBY v YIMBY debate. At the core of the Greens’ support base is a split. Older Green supporters, comfortable baby boomers in the leafy green suburbs and inner city, are classic NIMBYs. Younger voters cut out of the housing market and struggling in the housing shortage want to see more development. They are YIMBYs – Yes In My Back Yard. I don’t see how they will cross this divide.

Trumpism In Australia

Those who believe that Trump-style politics will never take hold in Australia are being complacent. The Voice referendum was defeated using classic tropes from the Trump playbook. Advance Australia and the Institute of Public Affairs are two well-organized and well-funded lobbying outfits that were able to organise, influence and sway public opinion for a winning outcome.

Peter Dutton and the Coalition are already using anti-woke, culture war tactics. The attack on Woolworths for not stocking Australia Day merchandise was a good example. This will become more prevalent as the election cycle heats up.

The Overton Window

The Overton Window is a concept outlined in a 2010 book by policy analyst Joeseph Overton. The theory suggests that governments only introduce policies when they fit within the sensible/popular range inside the Overton Window. Minor parties, faction groups, and lobbying can influence the movement of the window to make a once radical or unthinkable policy move into the sensible or even popular range.

The primary vote of both major parties has dropped to all-time lows. The failing support for Labor and the Coalition, the lack of common ground in the centre, and the exit to the fringes are reasons why where the Overton Window moves to will be all important in this coming election.

The contest of ideas may be happening on either side of the mainstream. The conservative think tanks and lobbying misinformation machine will be confecting all kinds of excuses for outrage and division. It is therefore a good outcome if the Greens, Teals, and Independents get Labour across the line and hold the balance of power. This will be the only thing that will drive a wooden stake into the heart of Trumpism in Australia.

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