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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

ALP Conference « Previous | |Next »
January 30, 2004

I see that Chris over at Back Pages is all emotional from the energy and froth and bubble of the 2004 ALP conference being held in Sydney town. Chris is a political junkie. But it makes a welcome break from the dreariness of lecturing.

For all the recent talk of internal democracy, the conference is more a ritual celebration by the party for the party: a party still controlled by the factions of machine politics run by machine men who think like machines. The Conference is a ritual celebration of how wonderful the ALP is; its activities are presented by publicists to seduce the Canberra Press gallery; and it fills the media flows with images of the brave new leader.

Most of what happens inside the Conference is closed to ordinary citizens.
Press5.jpg (photo by Pat Scala)

What is public is Latham's opening speech, the attempts by the Howard Government to prevent a resurgent ALP from gaining too much traction, and Bob Brown's over-the-top enthusiasms for Latham. The political centre is Latham. The Press gallery has been hooked.

I read the speech yesterday, along with the Crikey's leaking of the draft (much ado about nothing) and Costello's interpretation of the draft to mean that the ALP's real agenda is to raise interest rates, hike taxes and increase the budget deficit (joke). Howard's punches keeping missing their target.

The buzz words of Latham's 'Opportunity for All' speech include big country, propersity with a purpose, rungs on the ladders of opportunity, rebuilding community, national security and grassroots democracy. The series of oneliners speech is looks thin on paper but it comes across well when delivered, and the oneliners look good on the grabs of television.

It looked like an election launch.

The theme and dream being sold is aspirational, suburban working class boy making good. Making good is the good life.

How does government enable this dream to be achieved?

Through social mobility from Australians climbing the ladder of opportunity. The opportunities are opened up a prosperous economy achieved through competition and productivity. The market-based economy is the engine of growth, and Labor is the champion of economic reform. The free market is what sits behind the speech to the party faithful.

Management of the economy is through tax cuts, small government and budget surpluses.

It is a policy that leaves the cracks in a welfare system that was designed to alleviate poverty and despair.

The holes in the welfare stem are to be covered by responsibility, rebuilding community, social capital and governments working with the voluntary sector. Latham's Third Way is highly critical of the heavy hand of the state.

Yet I detect a heavy hand behind the values community talk in dealing with the poor. They need to be coerced and disciplined with a big stick to reenter the market.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 10:03 AM | | Comments (12)


But it makes a welcome break from the dreariness of lecturing. For me at least Gary, it actually makes a welcome break from the discipline and hard work of lecturing. Can't believe the publicity the thing is generating. Sething is happening here.

err ... "something is ...

Can you imagine if the ALP really had internal democracy and the members put their real views to the Australian electorate?

I don't think John Howard would mind.

far enough about lecturing.

The Alp is getting good media---nothing much else is happening for the Canberra Press Gallery.

I do worry about Latham's understanding of economics though. It's very close to neo-liberalism.

You guys have a problem on your hands there.

After the disappointment of Crean, Labor is getting all enthused along with the media with the new kid on the block. So far a big thumbs up to the Govt policy on illegals and the the 30% Medicare rebate. The biggest concrete dangle so far is lots more free dentures for pensioners. At last some real costed policy for the punters to sink their teeth into. Most of us with good teeth will be waiting to hear what Labor has to say about the inevitable tax cuts in the Budget, before we get too carried away. Still, Labor is on the way to becoming a good alternative Liberal Govt just like the States.

Funny how the ALP has to try to emulate a Liberal government in order to get elected.

Why funny? Why emulate? We are not living in the 1950s anymore---no matter what John Howard is saying on this about white picket fence suburbia, old family values and Anzac nationalism.

From memory it was the ALP that opened the Australia economy to the global market, deregulated the financial sector, floated the dollar, privatised public utilites, fostered competition policy etc etc. in the 1980s.

It is the Coalition that is fostering protection and subsidies in opposition to economic flows of the gloabl market; is into the state controlling the course content in universities; and blows budget surpluses.

Maybe you are assuming the the ALP Parliamentary Party is the same as the Trade union organization and members?

No. I'm well aware that the Parliamentry Party is well aware that the views of some of the members and the Trade Union activists would be a fast ticket to a new career.

As for the rest of your points, I'm glad to report that I'm glad to give credit to the ALP for opening up the Australian economy, and if I was still doing serious political blogging, complaining about the Coalition's failure to attack corporate welfare would be high on my agenda.

As for 'blowing budget surpluses', you might bear in mind who created the surplus in the first place. It certainly wasn't the ALP.

I'm not sure what you are saying here. You don't mind the ALP taking on Liberal style policies to get elected? That can't be what you are saying. Or is it?

I'm not saying that I don't mind that the ALP embraces free market polices to get elected.

Public opinion is firmly opposed to the market ruling since it is citizens who should rule the country.

You keep contradicting yourself. People like having free markets, rather then a 'social democracy'.

In the Aristotlean political tradition citizens ruling the country is not necessarily social democracy.That is just one [weak]form of democracy.

Secondly the welfare state is popular in Australia and the institution is seen as worthwhile and something that should be defended.

Opinion polls continually show that Australians will pay for higher taxes for the sake of the welfare state--eg., a public health system.

Thirdly, the market is seen as an instrument to further thee public good, not an end in itself as it is for Hayekian neo-liberals.