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Are Australia’s political parties past their use-by date?

Joseph Camilleri writes in The Conversation (13.7.16) about the drop in support for the major parties at the federal election, and asks whether Australia needs new forms of representative political bodies.

‘In the wake of an unusually dreary election campaign much commentary has focused on Malcolm Turnbull’s lacklustre performance, dwindling support for the major parties, high levels of voter disengagement and the possible revival of Hansonism.

‘But the fundamental problem of Australian politics lies elsewhere. It is time we faced two unpalatable questions: Are our political parties up to the challenge? And has Australia’s political establishment outlived its usefulness?

‘The 2016 election campaign confirms a trend long in the making. From the barren Howard years, through the Rudd-Gillard and Abbott-Turnbull charades to the recent Turnbull-Shorten jousting, the signs are unmistakable. Political parties are a shadow of what they used to be.

‘We should, of course, take care not to romanticise the past. Political parties were imperfect organisations even in their heyday. But today they have become largely dysfunctional.’

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