Party convergence, again

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference proceeding contributionpeer-review


That the major parties in Australia have converged is an idea of long standing. But proponents of the idea differ about when it happened, why it happened and what its consequences might be. In revisiting the party convergence thesis, this paper does three things. First, it provides a critical examination of the assumptions that underlie the thesis. It argues that claims of convergence focus on some criteria while ignoring others; confuse movements in policy space with changes in party distance; and typically involve an implicit essentialism, so that any two parties that share an ideology are assumed to share policy positions that can be derived from this ideology. Second, it reviews studies of election speeches since the war, and studies of government expenditure patterns and tax schedules from Whitlam to Hawke. All cast doubt on, or heavily qualify, the idea that the parties have converged or lost their traditional distinctiveness. And third, it shows that the view of the electorate is closer to that of the policy analysts than to that of the pundits. Voters continue to distinguish between the parties in left-right terms, think it matters who wins, and see the parties as different especially in the wake of election campaigns when the issues that divide them have been substantial.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAPSA50 conference
Subtitle of host publicationrefereed papers
Place of PublicationCanberra, ACT
PublisherAustralasian Political Studies Association
Number of pages32
Publication statusPublished - 2002
EventJubilee Conference of the Australasian Political Studies Association (APSA50) - Canberra
Duration: 2 Oct 20024 Oct 2002


ConferenceJubilee Conference of the Australasian Political Studies Association (APSA50)


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