the australian constitutional thingy

rc-am rcollins at
Mon Nov 8 16:37:53 PST 1999

catherine wrote:

> oh and this.
> i've said it before, but really the labor party just claimed the 'rural'
> back on the strengths of the damage done there by the 'coalition' -- a
> coalition which always subsumed rural conservatism into middleclass urban
> conservatism without much respect for the specificity or the interests or
> the former

sure. though i think it has as much to do with the above as it has to do with the character of the rural sector in aust political economy: the connection between rural workers and smaller farmers, ot1h, and agribusiness, otoh, was only sustainable as long as things like tarrifs and the various state-owned agricultural and pastoral boards were in operation. aside from the importance of state-ownership to providing rural infrastructure like telecom (well, just look at the effects of that privatisation), water (now, privatised here), electricity (also privatised), etc, things like the milk board, the wheat board, the privatisation of the commonwealth bank... all these have sharpened a distinction between agribusiness and those who actually live in rural areas by and large. the National Party until very recently in aust history practiced a kind of agrarian socialism, and they lined up with the Liberals out of a) anti-communism; b) anti-unionism; and c) anti-land rights. the first doesn't operate any more; the second whilst still there isn't a sure bet by any means and has popularly been displaced by a kind of anti-finance capital/anti-globalisation discourse (more often than not, xenophobic); and the third has never really taken root in victoria because of the different patterns of land ownership, land use and demographics.

there's a pretty excellent run-down of the australian rural economy in Geoffrey Lawrence's _Capitalism and the Countryside: The Rural Crisis in Australia_. a bit dated in terms of figures, and pre-One Nation, the 1992 recession, but good backgrounder as well as some excellent stuff on what we used to call here the 'New Right'. Lawrence is one of the few socialists in aust who's actually taken an interest in the rural sector, which is pretty poor given the centrality of that sector to the aust economy... and it's always good to see that historical hatred of the squattocracy being nurtured.

Angela _________

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