Party Convergence Reconsidered

Murray Goot*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

22 Citations (Scopus)


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 article does three things. First, it documents the recurrent nature of this thesis and its varying terms, arguing that claims of convergence: Focus on some criteria while ignoring others; confuse movements in policy space with changes in party distance; and involve an implicit essentialism, so that any two parties that share an ideology are assumed to share policy positions that can be derived from that ideology. Second, it reviews studies of election speeches since the war, and studies of government expenditure patterns and tax schedules from Whitlam to Hawke, which cast doubt on, or heavily qualify, the idea that the parties have converged or lost their traditional distinctiveness. Third, it shows that on these matters the views of voters are closer to those of the policy analysts than to those of the pundits. Survey respondents continue to distinguish between the parties on particular policies and in Left-Right terms, they care who wins, and they think the party that wins matters.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-73
Number of pages25
JournalAustralian Journal of Political Science
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2004

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