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

passive observers « Previous | |Next »
December 8, 2004

I observed the political theatre of Question Time in the House of Representatives this afternoon. Most of the questions from the ALP were directed at De Anne Kelly, the Veterans Affairs Minister.

The Gillard strategy aimed to ensnare De Anne Kelly in contradictions and to show up the Coalition bias of an inexperienced Speaker.

The tactics delivered the result wanted.

Labor is clearly engaged in a drawn-out battle against a struggling, defensive Speaker in the House of Representatives.

And yet....


The little bloc of the ALP in the House looked a rabble. They came across as disunited, frustrated and humilated. Most were bodies on seats doing their own thing. They have collapsed from the defeat.

This was such a contrast to the large, disciplined Coalition bloc whose central strategy was to use Abbott and Costello to humiliate and mock a very wounded ALP. John Howard smiled whilst his two senior ministers played their game of rubbing salt into the wounds.

It was a very raw and naked display of political power.

As Costello mocked, the ALP faces a long march to economic and political creditability.That is the problem the ALP currently faces with the media and the electorate.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 3:51 PM | | Comments (14) | TrackBacks (2)

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It must be debated. Should we give up on the ALP?

The problem with that is that I cannnot see any alternative to the L/NP coalition at this stage.

The ALP are certainly not helping themselves.There was no united front against the Howard Government.

They appear to have lost any sense of unity with all the public sniping of the leader and attacking each other.

They are not really talking about education, health care, the economy, etc.

The ALP have given up.
They're just delaying the inevitable.

Even when the Senate sends back amendments to bill the House rejects them because they know come July they can get them passed without any amendments.

Its what I call the Howard Regime - they can do whatever they want no matter what.

Unless of course the Nationals do buck the trend of being Liberal-lite.

you write: "The ALP have given up."

Not quite. From what I saw today Gillard and Latham are fighting like crazy in the House of Representatives, even though the cards are stacked against them.

Your other comment:
"They're just delaying the inevitable.Even when the Senate sends back amendments to bills, the House rejects them because they know come July they can get them passed without any amendments."

Well that is is very true.It is actually worse than that. The ALP is not even bothering to amend a lot of bills in the Senate. It allows them straight through. It's spirit is broken.

What you call the Howard Regime is already here.

It's hard not to be dismayed.

However, light must eventually spill through from somewhere.

It is amazing that it is Latham taking the fight up with all the crap going on behind him.

There must be some strength of character there.

He is a bulldog, and that is what the party needs to gain some relevance again.

I also wonder how long they can continue the mocking until the public starts seeing it as arrogance and hubris.

Things can turn politically very quickly.

You must have been watching a different question time to the one I watched, Gary. We were all riveted by an entertaining performance (though Kelvin was an interesting choice...) and the staff and MPs I spoke to last night seemed energetic.

there is an intersting opinion piece in the Australian today by Derek Parkerabouthe role of the Canberra Press Gallery.

He says that before the election they romanced Latham enthusiastically, and all but consigned Howard to the dustbin of history. Then

"Now the only real division in the gallery is between those who think Latham's leadership is in serious trouble and those who think he is, to use Michael Costello's phrase, a "dead parrot". Anyone who has watched the press gallery with more than a passing interest will not be surprised at the turnaround."

Parker than goes on to say:

"If negative reporting and poor opinion poll results become locked into a self-reinforcing pattern, it is difficult to see how he [Latham]could recover. But this outcome is not inevitable.The crucial step that Latham has to take in developing a new media strategy is to realise that the support of the press gallery is lost, at least for now. Any attempt to win it back in the short term will simply be perceived as a desperate clutching at straws that are already broken."

Has it reached this stage yet?
Dunno. I guess the ALP leadership is fight to prevent the 'inevitable' bit from happening.

I did say in the post:
"The tactics [Gillard's] delivered the result wanted" re the Speaker and De Anne Kelly.

Kelly is on the backfoot and defensive, whilst the body language of the Senior Coalition (Howard, Abbott, Anderson, etc) is one of 'not being happy'".

As for the Speaker issue I would agree with Denis Shanhan in The Australian, that a "diminished ALP has wrested the day-to-days management of the people's house from an enlarged Coalition with tactical victories and by overpowering the authority of the.... Speaker, David Hawker."

The House is a barely controlled chaos with a biased Speaker failing to impose any authority or discipline on the government

In the comments above I wrote the following in response to BigBob's claim, that "the ALP have given up":

"Not quite. From what I saw today Gillard and Latham are fighting like crazy in the House of Representatives, even though the cards are stacked against them."

So they are fighting and succeeding with their tactics within the theatre of the House.

My post did make a distinction between the theatre and the power. Your comments refer to the theatre---'the entertaining performance'---and not the political power on display in the House.

Theater and power are not the same thing.

Hmmmmmmmmmm..very interesting piece and comments. Perhaps it would be of interest to all Australian citizens to know just who the political parties really represent in terms of financial membership and donations. Me thinks not many. Perhaps it's time to review both the parliament AND its methodologies. With only 19m citizens, we probably have the most inefficient and costly swill-trough in the world. "Don't wast time discussing the taste, analyse the recipe".

The interesting thing is that the ALP has been winning the Parliamentary battles for the past year, yet that has translated into a lowering of support.

Has Parliament become so debased as to be meaningless, at least in terms of the public consciousness?

If so, Howard has succeeded in building a perpetual advantage for the Coalition.

Indeed tough times for any Opposition.

The ALP is not doign much by way of a review of legislation in the Senate.

During this sitting it let most of the Coalition's legislation through--even when it violently disagreed with it as with the Schools bill.

It is as if the ALP does not have the energy to fight for its social democratic principles anymore by using the power of the Senate.

I found it all very depressing to watch.

Your point appears to be that the Government is in power. Well, yes, that's what happens when you win the election.

Not really. It is one thing to scoring parliamentary hits but it's another thing to have good policy that convinces the electorate. You need both.

The key question is how the ALP managing to deal with the muscled up power of the triumphal Coalition, which is being used to keep the ALP in a cage.

The current attack on the ALP is from both Coalition and the Canberra Press Gallery is about leadership and unity They are poking sharp sticks at the ALP's bodytrapped in the cage and laughing.

I. The strategy that I saw in question time was to show up the arrogance of the Howard Government by pointing the finger at the Speaker. More needs to be done than showing this.

2.I saw the bills going through in the Senate with little by way of ALP opposition or amendment. I could mention more than the Schools Bill, but I chose the Schools Bill because it went to the heart of the ALP's philosophical/political differences with Coalition. Falling over on this raises the question of what does the ALP stand for.

3.There is little contestation of the soft underbelly of Costello and Howard's economic policy by Swan and Smith. At the moment these guys are about slick marketing and not about creating the good product of a new economic narrative and agenda. I do not see them reclaiming the Hawke/Keating legacy and then reworking it for new times.

From what I can make out, the magnitude of the ALP's loss has yet to sink in. The ALP went backwards and the Senate has gone for a decade.

One way to fight the brutal political power of the Coalition in Canberra is to develop an alternative picture of Australia and what it needs to become in the future. At the moment the Coalition's one is the only standing.

It is through that picture and narrative that the ALP will re-connect with those who voted for it in 2001 (despite all the unconscious anxieties and fears aroused by Tampa, but then walked away from the ALP in 2004 and gave the Coalition the control of the Senate.