Victoria – left-wing state?

I may be Carlton’s lone classical liberal, but are things much better in the rest of Victoria? An article in this morning’s Sunday Age proclaims Victoria the ‘left-leaning state’.

The article notes that Labor’s vote has been typically strong here for decades, and is holding up here during this latest campaign as it declines elsewhere as the Julia, Kevin, Mark and the leaker soap opera undermines the Labor campaign. As John Roskam observes, the left-wing tilt even influences the right – the Kennett years aside, the Victorian Liberal Party has typically been rather wishy-washy compared to the more robust conservatism found elsewhere.

The Australian Survey of Social Attitudes 2009 asked its respondents to rate themselves on a 0 (left) to 10 (right) scale. It actually finds that Victorians (average rating 5.04) are moderately to the right of people in New South Wales (average rating 4.97), but the more noticeable thing about the figure below is that NSW and Victoria are to the left of the rest of Australia.

Perhaps as the Sunday Age article suggests there is some deep history behind all this. In the 19th century Victoria was the bastion of protectionism, lead by Alfred Deakin. His kind of Establishment noblesse oblige liberalism still seems to have some residual influence on the Victorian Liberal Party. Age founder David Syme was a promoter of Deakinite protectionism, and the Age is still the most left-leaning newspaper in the country.

On the other hand, the current-day parallels with NSW and differences with other states point to sociological factors. Brian Costar suggests urbanisation and migration as influences, and this seems plausible. The economic structure of the NSW and Victoria is likely to be a factor as well, with more of their workforces in occupations that tend left.

13 thoughts on “Victoria – left-wing state?

  1. The difference between NSW and VIC is very interesting. Perhaps it’s all a bit relative? If you consider yourself ‘right’ because you support the Victorian liberal party or the ideology of the sun, you’re still a lot more left than the tele or the NSW libs.


  2. Not to worry.

    The Kingdom of Tasmania will soon invade the mainland in order to recapture lands lost to the inner-city Trendoids and Pastoral Monoliths of Easter Island and so right all cartographic errors and omissions.


  3. Liberalism in the Victorian Liberal Party is wishy-washy?

    I’d take Petro Georgiou for PM, with Russell Broadbent as Treasurer and Judi Moylan at Foreign. Old Malcolm F. as GG, now he’s party-neutral.

    Liberals make pragmatic choices. Conservatives sit on their hands. Read Hayek.


  4. Easy really, Victoria, SA and Tasmania, and to a lesser extent NSW, have long become mendicant states living off the earnings of Qld and WA. If they can’t collar head office then the rig the system through protectionism and other subsidies. The ALP is much more likely to do this.

    Victoria and the others tend to vote labor at the federal level as it ensures income is maximised. State level is probably a bit more complicated, and probably based on the dreadful lack of talent in the state oppositions.


  5. Andrew Norton said:

    It actually finds that Victorians (average rating 5.04) are moderately to the right of people in New South Wales (average rating 4.97), but the more noticeable thing about the figure below is that NSW and Victoria are to the left of the rest of Australia.

    Melbourne was a convict-free, settler-founded state. So it was built on a foundation of old-fashioned Victorian liberalism.

    Melbourne’s liberal settler foundations produced a strong manufacturing industry. Somewhat dialectically, this brought forth a strong trade-union movement with its attendant socialist convictions. Just look at the monumental Trades Hall building standing at the end of Lygon Street.

    Melbourne is also AUS’s intellectual power-house cit. We put a uni up not long after the place was founded. And intellectuals tend to tack Left.

    So a liberal form of socialism is sort of engineered into VIC’s ideological genotypye. (“ideotype”?)

    Sydney has more material fish to fry, so it tends to the Right. In convict times it was run by crooked cops, built on slave labour. Some would argue that nothing much has changed.

    Its eastern-suburbs elite are seriously money-grubbing. And its west-based populus are prone to xenophobic outbursts, when provoked. The careers of John Laws and Alan Jones were built on complaining about immigrants.


  6. Jack, what do you make of the Sydney inner-west set (Glebe, Balmain, Leichhardt, Newtown, etc)? Up there with People’s Republic of Moreland or not quite?


  7. While there are some regional differences, what’s really more striking is how slight the place-based differences are within Australia compared to other countries, intellectually and in almost all other respects. There are few if any distinctive ‘Melbourne’ or ‘Sydney’ views on things, even if historically some intellectual movements or positions have started in or been more common in one city or the other.


  8. Andrew that’s a point that I find quite interesting the relative similarity between the Australian states, while say the US states tend to be more diverse.

    There are a few US swing states (actually 20 or so) but most of them are fairly solidly in one camp or the other.


  9. ‘Sydney’s inner-west set tend to be very resentful that they can’t afford to live in the eastern suburbs.’

    Jeremy from Annandale’s response to Peter from Slurry Hills – Hogwash.


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