Is there even a difference between our political parties any more?

Australia’s scary step to the right.

When I start thumping a table during a political discussion about the differences between the parties in Australia, it is usually not about matters such as helicopter flights or changing the flag.

My passion, the heart of what makes me tick as a political animal and rally and rage against the machine, is justice. Not just in a legal sense, but a humanitarian one. It’s equality, compassion, respect and empathy for my fellow humans and planet that define my political allegiance. Which is why, until last weekend, I would consider myself a Labor voter.

A humanitarian approach to refugee policy is one of my non-negotiables.

Unfortunately, thanks to Bill Shorten’s adamant stance to retain the current Liberal government’s turn back the boats policy announced at the 47th national Labor conference on Saturday, I can no longer tick an ALP ballot box. It would be too close to voting for the LNP with Tony Abbott at its head (I believe my arm actually would rebel and physically take hold of my throat should I even attempt that).

And herein lies my dilemma: Where is my alternative? Where is Australia’s? What are we to do when both major parties are so damn similar in their policies? Yes, there is the Greens but, despite much progress, they are not a party fully formed enough to take over from what will be the steaming mess left by this current government (I say steaming, as Tony Abbott’s attitude to climate change and his spurning of renewable energy for archaic pollutants like coal is literally stoking the fires of global warming).

“Bill Shorten, as Labor leader, has broken my heart…”

Basically, Bill Shorten, as Labor leader, has broken my heart and made me yet again (I will never forget the ALP’s treatment of Julia Gillard – ever!) question the party to which I once related. However, what’s so frustrating is that I can see so close behind him some of the most astute, impressive and inspiring politicians on the scene today in deputy leader Tanya Plibersek, senator Penny Wong and party stalwart Anthony Albanese.

These politicians appeal to me because they appear to have real heart. They are outspoken on issues I feel are paramount to making Australia a country I am proud to live in. They are also all prominent members of the Left wing of the party I once so ardently believed in.

And herein lies the problem with the Australian political parties today – the Left is being swamped by the Right and, as such, not giving someone like myself a real choice in voting for an institution which will represent, advocate and implement change I believe is vital.

The left wing of the ALP flourished under the leadership of Gough Whitlam.

The Left wing of the ALP was born, or at least flourished, following the reforms instilled by Gough Whitlam in the 1970s, and champions issues including Aboriginal reconciliation and the rights of women and minorities. For example, the left is pro same-sex marriage and fought hard for it to become ALP policy at the weekend. However, Shorten did not comply. Instead, he allowed members a conscience vote should the issue come before parliament under the current Liberal regime and promised that, should Labor be returned to power next election, he would move to make it a law within its first 100 days. While this is a start, let’s face it, it is not a clear divider between the parties, nor does it deliver any relief that Australia will join progressive countries like the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Canada, South Africa, Norway, Sweden, Portugal, Iceland, Argentina, Denmark, France, Brazil, Uruguay, New Zealand, Britain, Luxembourg, Finland and Ireland – who all have legalised same sex marriage – any time in the near future.

Meanwhile, the powerful Right wing of the ALP is more socially conservative and economically liberal than the Left. In  the past the Right was influenced by the Catholic church, which rattles those like me who believe strongly in the segregation of church and state. It is this element of the party its leader Bill Shorten represents and dominates.

Shorten and Abbott are in lockstep about turning back the boats.

The problem is that Labor’s Right is edging way too close to the extreme right of the current Liberal Party, headed by former would-be priest Tony Abbott. And, as such, I feel I have nowhere to turn, no one to vote for that represents the change I feel we so passionately need. I have no party and it’s no fun.

And so, I will face a huge dilemma next election as will so many likewise inclined voters. However, I have a dream, a glimmer of hope. It entails the ALP swapping Shorten with his deputy, Plibersek. Now, she could drive a mothership I could jump on board and know it’s heading in a direction I want it to go.

Do you think there’s much of a difference between political parties anymore?

Want more on politics? Try these…

I’m fed up with Australian politics, and here’s why.

Women in Aussie politics: “It’s a tough slog”.

The speech that had Penny Wong in tears.

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