Unexpectedly, it seems to me, a great opportunity for social change has emerged. This might seem strange, with another neo-fascist on the verge of becoming Australian Prime Minister. However remember that real change comes from widespread social participation, over longer periods.
First of all, the problem has to be clear - both of our major parties serve a tiny corporate elite, which likes to play them off against each other, to discipline them. This oligarchy (tightly interlocked finance, mining, media and investment groups) likes "change" amongst the administrators, but never allows them "power".
Despite its origins in trade unions, the Australian Labor Party (ALP) is institutionally committed to gaining administrative office, and that means Labor must cut deals with this oligarchy. If the Greens, in their enthusiasm to be "credible" with the big powers, start cutting such deals, they will be similarly compromised, as were the Democrats before them. This is a time for bold new ideas, not shabby deals crippled by electoral ambitions.
The August 21 election was a strong statement against this shallow electoral politics. Disillusionment with the two right-wing parties has created an outcome where a few populist MPs and the Greens will have a chance to demand some institutional change. That is not enough, but it is important. What about proportional representation in elections? What about wider constitutional change and accountabilities, for example including (i) prohibiting war without parliamentary consent (ii) meaningful Aboriginal rights instead of constant tokenism, and (iii) a wider set of citizens and workers' rights?
We must hear genuine voices for popular struggles. But how is it possible to have a "new politics" through the old language? Such voices are not possible through the corporate media, which bombards us with trivia, consumerism and "market solutions". We need new media, and we need democratic controls (e.g. mandatory community participation in media boards, public and private) on the existing media. We want to hear the new MPs talking about real issues.
We need platforms to raise and strengthen the popular demands – for public health and education, an end to our appalling wars, real environmental solutions, support for genuine social institutions and control of the corporate tyrannies.
There is, I think, an opportunity for this sort of new politics, in the aftermath of the August election. And there is room for a range of new voices, including the Greens, including the maverick MPs, but also including all those of us who have been disillusioned with conventional politics. If we don't participate, who will?
[Tim Anderson is a political activist and lectures in political economy at the University of Sydney.]