Opinion poll after opinion poll tells us that Australians are increasingly cynical about politicians. Leaders of all parties, at both state and federal levels, have historically high disapproval ratings, branch membership has plummeted, and party affiliation is weakening. How are we to understand this widespread disaffection? Are both parties doomed to be seen by their erstwhile supporters as nothing but teams of ambitious men (with the occasional woman) competing with each other for the power and prestige of office, political oligarchies unconnected with the hopes and the pain of the people they lead? Or will one or other of the parties be able to renew itself sufficiently to form a credible government with which large numbers of people can identify – surely one of the ideals of democratic government?
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