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Saturday Cartoon: The Canberra bubble « Previous | |Next »
February 21, 2004

Is Mark Latham poking a hole in the Canberra bubble?

Alan Moir

The Canberra bubble is what Australian political leaders, their advisers and the full-time political media live in. Shaun Carney describes the bubble:

"What makes up the bubble? Transcripts, opinion polls, hair-splitting games of gotcha based on what someone said yesterday compared with what they said four years ago, the substitution of tactics for ideas and policy, and the wholesale acceptance of clever politics, lawyers language and sly campaigning techniques ahead of telling the truth. Politics as an enterprise has become unmoored from everyday life."

Inside the bubble it is mutual abuse in the bear pit that drives the day-to-day political behaviour. That is not Latham. At the moment he is tallking about the crisis of masculinity, why boys need good masculine role models, or why parents should read books to their kids. To do so is to step outside the Canberra bubble.

You can adopt a jaundiced view to this. Graham Young does. He says:

"One can see a series of plays developing as Latham floats one populist idea after another and the Prime Minister adopts them. Latham’s eventual pitch to the electorate would then end up being – do you want the original or the counterfeiter; the boy who won’t grow up, or the one who doesn’t know he’s too old? On the other hand, how many populist plays can Latham make? Howard takes this one away and it is forgotten in a month or so. Latham then has to find another which is as effective. As we get closer to the election it becomes harder and harder."

That's the perspective from within the Canberra bubble. What if we step outside the bubble?

That would gives us another perspective on what is happening. Instead of getting into the pit and wrestling with the attack dogs as if were a gladiator, Latham is talking directly about some of the concerns of those living in everyday life. Latham says that most of the questions he got from people in his town hall meetings in NSW:

"....were about people: the quality of our society; the breakdown in community relationships; loneliness, isolation and stress; youth homelessness and the drug problem; disabilities and the aged-care crisis; male suicide, mental health and the need for mentoring programs.

These are the concerns of mainstream Australia. After 30 years of globalisation and economic change, people are asking: what has happened to our society? How do we relate to each other now? How do we help each other and create stronger communities? How do we rebuild the identities and relationships of a good society?

The questions are about society, community, a sense of belonging and social relationships. They refer to what exists between market forces and state bureaucracy. It's a different way of talking.

Latham's messages are bits of policy fluff based around stunts. But there are getting through. And they are deadly. They continue his momentum. And the well-oiled Howard Government machine is faltering.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 2:07 PM | | Comments (0)