Some of the work from my thesis (plus a little additional research) will be appearing in the next issue of the Australian Journal of Political Science. This paper examines whether Australia’s major political parties continue to fulfil a representational role. This was often the traditional view of the parties, but has been much criticised in recent decades by scholars arguing they have largely converged, moderating their policies and abandoning their links with civil society.
In this paper, which can be read in full here (if you have access),* I outline a theoretical framework – supported with evidence from four empirical tests – that characterises Australia’s major parties as interest aggregators representing electoral alliances made up of politicians, activists, financial contributors and voters, united by key economic policy goals. These actors create a centrifugal force, pushing party policies away from each other in salient areas.
Using this framework, I theorise that the parties matter for policy outcomes, building on the assumption that cleavages in the social structure are reflected in the political system, with policy implementation the result of the competing demands and interests of the parties’ constituencies.
*If you cannot access this paper, email me at shaun dot ratcliff at sydney.edu.au and I will help you out.