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

a changing political landscape « Previous | |Next »
February 1, 2004

There is certainly a lot of fuss currently being made by the Canberra Press Gallery about the new look of the federal ALP. The ALP spin doctors must be over the moon at all the media coverage they are getting from their slick marketing. Michelle Grattan calls it "bathing in glowing media attention."

The ALP factions and union apparatchiks are singing the song of unity together. It's all hope and warm fuzzy feelings in the ALP these days, even amongst the factional knuckleheads. And the fired-up electoral strategists are thinking up ways to keep the ALP's political momentum going. They reckon they've a chance to capture the Treasury benches.

How things can turn around in politics. And so quickly. What was happened yesterday has been forgotten. As Grattan reminds us about Latham, in case we have forgotten:

"Less than three years ago, this man was in self-imposed exile, regarded by some colleagues as maverick or mad. Less than three months ago, he was the shadow treasurer his frontbench critics thought had been bested by Peter Costello. Now he's the Great Chance, even if Labor will need quite a few four-leaf clovers to turn its new Sensation into lasting salvation."

Salvation? That's religious imagery. Well, the ALP had been cast into the political wilderness by John Howard.

I have no idea how much the political landscape is changing, now that the ALP is telling a coherent story, or has a new political narrative about making good through hard work, individual responsibility and education. It has changed though, now that parents reading books to their kids each day is a matter of state.

What I do tacitly know is that there is a hard neo-liberal edge behind all the ALP 's froth and bubble:

John Wright

Adele Horn has seen the hardness in the new face of the ALP right.

The (working) poor have to whippped into shape in the new order of the global market. Remade, so their subjectivities are market ones. This would give them the drive they need to leave the impoverished world of the working class by climbing the ladder of opportunity.

Gregory Hywood redescribes the hardness as the consequences of living in a deregulated, global market economy. The ALP has devise economic policies for living in the global market. However, Hywood has little to say about the losers from economic change apart from a brief gesture to mutual obligation as a way to ensure that society is held together.

Chris over at Backpages contests the neo-liberal commentary. He rightly argues against the neo-liberal commentators pointing the finger at Latham's economic policy. He says that embracing the free market is not where the votes are for the ALP to regain power. As he points out, public sentiment in Australia has always been critical of the wholehearted embrace of the free market and support forms of protection from the chilly economic winds.

That position is primarily because citizens tacitly understand the big fallout of free market reform on their everyday lives and communities. Hence Howard's embrace of one nation conservatism that was presented in the language of populism of the forgotten people. Populism was Howard's way of managing the political fallout from the economic reforms of the 1980s. He understood that the political managers had not handled the political fallout of the economic reforms very well.

Chris is right. We can ignore the free market neo-liberal commentaters in the context of a federal election.

What Chris does not address is Latham's neo-liberalism or the crude market populism that Latham has constructed to deal with the political fallout. What he sees outside the ALP in the neoliberal commentators I see inside the ALP. How will the ALP handle the political fallout from the negative consequences of the free market reforms?

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 6:47 AM | | Comments (5)


Yeah but the public sentiment in Austrlia has always been critical of increased taxes as well.

Latham has to draw a balance between the public's demand for services and it's unwillingness to pay taxes or higher interest rates for them.

As for 'joy' being a government issue, people's happiness is the responsibility of the individual. It's only a small minority of people that actually get any joy out of big government programs. The rest of us get joy out of our personal lives. And if there's no joy there, there's nowt the government can do to run people's lives for them. No matter how much you might want them to.

Ther has to an end to public policy eg.,

'This policy is done in order that....X can be achieved."

X is usually prosperity,jobs, making good., or being a success---eg. Latham's climbing the ladder of opportunity

The utilitarian tradition, within most politicians economists and bureaucrats work, says that 'X' is the greatest good of the greatest number.

Good is usually defined as happiness.

Joy can be interpreted as a re-description of happiness.

Sweet Jesus, Latham's gonna have Mem Fox from the ministry of good books out there giving new parents the good literary oil. What do you reckon this newly created PC crowd will be popping on the compulsory booklists?

For those of you who aren't aware Mem Fox was the dill who pushed whole of reading onto SA schoolkids and dumped phonics and grammar. Guess what happened?

just what is whole of reading?

How is that conected to the dumping of phonic and grammar>

I've no idea what you are talking about.

Whole of reading is basically the idea that you fill classrooms and early childhood with books/literature and kids will come to literacy by enjoyment of a good book. In other words you learn reading by reading, rather than the mechanics of phonics or grammar. Mem Fox was one of its strongest advocates. For middle class kids with mums and dads who read to them at home(and extra voluntary helpers at school)this is great. However for a large group of kids without this backup, the large scale abandonment of the mechanics of literacy in early childhood has been catastrophic. My wife is a JP teacher who came out of teachers college when all this was the rage, but struck an old style JP principal still keen on phonics flash cards and the like. She currently uses Jolly Phonics (by an English Prof) to teach Reception-Yr1s with astounding literacy results. There are a growing core of converts to what is a revamp of old time teaching methods, which many whole of reading converts totally reject(or are blissfully unaware of because of the teachings of Mem Fox). The parents adore the results, particularly for their slow learners, while the middle class advantaged kids add another string to their literacy bow.

You can see the whole of reading ethos in Latham's(Fox's?) idea that if we give free books to new parents, kids will learn to read. Some of us feel, that is what good teaching and educators are for, albeit while we also read Dr Seuss type books to our middle class tots. It's a bit like music. Don't worry about the chords and notes, let's just all play music together and have fun and she'll be right! An idealised 'one size fits all' education and very convenient for the lazy teacher who wants to have fun with kid's futures at taxpayer expense. Oh, and if the odd skills survey shows half your kids don't get it, then you can always complain about class sizes and lack of SSos and parents to help listen to the munchkins read.