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

Meanwhile.... « Previous | |Next »
June 25, 2004

While federal Parliament frothed and bubbled all week to clear the legislative decks for the forthcoming election, people around the nation noticed other things:


Is it about values?

The politics and the values are connected though. Here is a quote from Don Watson's book, Recollections of a Bleeding Heart, which I read on the road. I find the quote rather appropriate to the events of last week:

"People talk about the 'political landscape', but it changes too quickly and unpredictably to be a landscape. Every time you look it was different. An event beyond the horizon, or too deep to comprehend, changed the mood from benign to beligerent in a flash. You would look back on a week or a month and wonder where the change began, but there was no saying. The experts would say they saw it coming but they had to say it if they were to remain experts.The truth was no-one really knew. "

I reckon the big ALP backflip on the PBS was one of those events that changed the political mood or the vibe. The ALP is being belted in the House of Representatives this week and Latham is now represented as a clown doing stunts by cartoonists.

My judgement is that the PBS backflip is a defining moment in the election campaign. It is the moment we can point to when the tide stopped flowing out from the Howard Government and started to flow out on the ALP. The latter's latter's political optimism drained away as it was seen to be turning its back on social justice in favour of accepting the inequality of the free market.

Watson finishes the quote by going on to say:

"It was not a landscape so much as a seascape. Politics was like the sea, though it also looked very like one of those television weather charts that show fronts swirling across the continent at a million times their real speed."

That was certainly was the case for the Keating Government. They were never able to include people into their big picture.

Does the current ALP see the current bad weather coming towards them? The front of swirling bad weather is on the way. You can feel it in your bones.

26 June
Shaun Carney concurs with the above account of the fallout from the ALP's PBS reversal. He says:

"Without doubt, the decision by Labor to drop its opposition to the Government's proposed increase in prices for medications has hurt the ALP. Latham will have lost support, not just among those on low incomes who will be most affected by the rises, but among those who are looking to Labor to chart a different policy course from the Coalition."

Is this the first sign of weakness from the ALP? Or a clever tactical move to find a cool billion?

June 27
Michelle Grattan, in her column in The Age says that "Latham may still be on the path to victory but it doesn't seem the almost inevitable trajectory that it did for a while. His vulnerabilities are increasingly exposed." She identifies some of them:

"The "money" argument, about saving and spending, is getting messy. Managing the release of major policies is tricky. His "alliance" credentials, poor already, have become entwined with the FTA argument...And does the pharmaceutical benefits turnaround mean people can't rely on Labor's word? In dramatically changing its stance on the PBS charges, Labor borrowed from its political credibility bank account to pay the insurance premium on its economic credentials."

The values rather than the policies approach is undercut by the PBS backflip.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 11:58 PM | | Comments (3)


"Is this the first sign of weakness from the ALP? Or a clever tactical move to find a cool billion?"

Neither. It's the honest response to recognising that the current level of growth in the PBS is unsustainable for govts of any political leaning. To do this in the runup to an election is fairly courageous because of its electoral unpopularity. Who likes price rises?

You may well may be right. Methinks it has more to do with finding the money for tax cuts.

But let us say that you are right. I reckon it undercuts the slick marketing of Latham as interesting bloke with some good ideas in touch with the people.

It exposes the image as media spin.

I sense that the pragmatism that contributed to the Hawke victory may be in evidence. If that is the case, more power to the ALP, and if they can spin the decision that it's good for the country rather than just good for the party, then I think the majority of the electorate is sophisticated enough to understand.