The result of May’s Federal Election was a surprise for most, with the published opinion polls, the bookmakers and the punditry, all predicting a change of Government.
In a nation of twenty-five million people you will find nearly as many different views on why the final result came to pass. Everyone will apply their own lens and apply our own prejudice to come up with a narrative that suits. What is clear is that in a successful election campaign, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
Our interest is not so much in who won, or even why it happened, it is in what the result says about the country we live in and, ultimately, what it tells us about how we need to go about prosecuting our ideals and values.
We have aware for a long time and, indeed, have written in this magazine before about the effect that urbanisation has on political decisions. Of the one hundred and fifty-one seats in the Australian House of Representatives, forty-four are classified as “Inner Metropolitan”. These areas are home to one third of Australians, but, most of our important cultural institutions—our media, our universities, our public authorities, our political parties, our peak bodies, our trade unions, our sporting teams and our big businesses are based there, as are the people who run them. All but a handful of the seventy-six elected Senators in our house of review live, work and play there also. What this does is skew political power away from the majority and towards what is often referred to as “the cultural elite”. Whilst the term is often misused by right wing shock jocks (who seem to miss the irony that they are, in fact, amongst the elite themselves) it does have a legitimate definition and use in political science as a descriptor for the set of beliefs, values and habits of the most influential participants in a political system. Understanding this is particularly relevant for sectional interests such as ours, because, our values sit outside of this bubble and there is little sympathy for us within it.
Socio-economically those in “Inner Metropolitan” are significantly better off on the average to the other Australians living outside of, what demographer Bernard Salt famously referred to as the “Goats Cheese Curtain”.
“What do you mean, what’s the Goats Cheese Curtain? The Goats Cheese Curtain is a cultural divide that separates the chichi inner suburbs (where there’s goats cheese in every fridge) from the dreary middle and outer suburbs in metropolitan Australia. My theory is that households that eat goats cheese do not eat McDonalds: they are mutually repellent forces. Maccas will never release a goats- cheese-burger deal with Coke and fries.”
A glib generalisation perhaps, but one which speaks to an underlying truth.
The cultural divisions in Australia were not created by the 2019 Federal election, however, the result of the election does speak to them in a telling way.
The Labor Party, whose policy agenda was widely categorised as progressive, recorded swings to them in twenty five of the forty-four “Inner Metropolitan” seats. The Coalition, whose agenda was widely regarded as being pitched towards blue-collar Australia, recorded swings to them in seventy-two of the remaining one hundred and seven seats. Put another way, Labor did well inside the Goats Cheese Curtain and poorly outside of it.
A similar situation occurred in 2004. Following that election, a review conducted by former Labor Senator John Black and former South Australian academic John Lockwood concluded that the swing to the Coalition...
“took place amongst formerly rusted on Labor voters—those in lower to middle income, unskilled
or blue collar trades jobs who just happened to be paying lower to middle sized mortgages. The swing to Labor took place amongst groups disaffected with the Coalition since 2001, like the well paid and the better educated, or professionals.”
For 1,094 of the 1,095 days of the Federal Election Cycle, the voices of the elites tends to drown out those of the rest of Australia. For one day, the day that really counts, the ‘other’ Australia gets to hold the megaphone. Political parties do well when they go to pains to listen and speak to the ‘other Australia’ ... the one beyond the Goats Cheese Curtain.
Whilst our cohort is broad and it cuts across every social and economic class in Australia, our cause, our issues, our values, are typically not considered to be relevant, or important, or valid to the cultural elite.
The result of the 2019 election ought to give them cause to think about that.
The challenge for us in the interim is to continue to actively advocate, based on facts, data and evidence, for the role
of hunting and hunters in discussions about the management of wild deer and public land in Australia.
Graph from The Australian