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rolling into elections « Previous | |Next »
January 18, 2004

Mark Latham, it seems, is in constant campaign mode even though he is on his political honeymoon. He visited Adelaide last week on the campaign trail, before shooting up to Queensland to join the Beattie election bandwagon currently rolling along with great fanfare.
David Rowe

In Adelaide Latham did not say much of substance, even though Federal Labor has all but lost South Australia to the Coalition. (It only holds 3 of the eleven seats from memory, even though there is a state Labor Government.) When in town Latham was strong on pressing the flesh, reading stories to kids at the beach and low on public policy. The visit was the time when the first Adelaide Darwin freight train rolled out of Adelaide to cross the continent with much hoopla about the steel Snowy, flag waving, celebrations and talk about federal history. It's real job is to transport goods.

Meanwhile, the economic rationalists in the eastern states muttered darkly into their expresso's about efficiency, financial return, shutting nowhere (South Australia and the Northern Territory) down and allowing the market to shift the lost populations to Sydney and Melbourne. They have no conception of place.

Latham's political message was that the ALP still stands for nation-building. (There was no sign of the former Latham as the foul-mouthed hothead and little sign of the man from the western suburbs of Sydney). This was the new measured Latham.

So what did the reinvented Latham say in Adelaide? He will protect the ailing River Murray; protect jobs in the car industry by reviewing the cuts to car tariffs; scrap the nuclear power dump; intervene to ensure more competition in the electricity market to reduce power bills in South Australia; and encourage migrants to settle in South Australia to boost the state's population and economic growth. This was specifically tailored to SA.

The visit got headlines in the local Murdoch rag (The Advertiser). There was nothing about higher education, public health sustainable and liveable cities or developing a renewable energy industry.

Oh, there was the usual national policy on slashing federal funding to rich private schools and urging state government to reduce stamp duty on homes and their reliance on poker machine taxes.

Hardly enough to win the three marginal seats up for grabs in SA. Nothing about how the Murray is going to get the 1500 gigalitres promised; or how competition will reduce power prices. It's still all tailored promises on the never never. Nothing in what Latham said shows that the ALP will be better at practically managing the instruments of governance.

Nor can I see the Rann Labor Government generating lots of positive spillover for Latham and so boost federal Labor's prospects through winning over the middle ground for the election expected in October. The state government does not show that the federal ALP is morally deserving of government--- it continues to fudge gvernance. And the Federal ALP is still vague on the policy ends to which the instruments of governance are orientated.

Maybe Queensland will play that crucial traction role that Latham needs through deploying its old strategy of 'blame Canberra for all our problems' game. The important political background is Queensland, not South Australia. The marginal seats in the south west of Queensland matter more than those in Adelaide, if the ALP is to win Government in its own right.

But I know little about the south east corner of Queensland apart from them being populated by retirees with conservative social values. Does conservative social values + economic development = the Beattie ALP?

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 8:56 AM | | Comments (0)