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ALP: executions & stasis « Previous | |Next »
January 19, 2005

It has always suprised me how an undemocratic ALP lost its way after 1996. How come?

The media accounts of this usually focus on the leader's flawed character of the leader. This involves an intrusion into the politicians private life, herd mentality, the use of comment, rumor and leak and the creation of a media spectacle based on the blood and gore of sacrifice. It is not pretty to watch.

The media cut Latham down as much as the toecutters in the ALP party machine. Well, they danced that tango together, whilst celebrating their street cred. and parading their political nous. Both groups hungered for, and demanded, the appropriate sacrifice with its symbols of sovereignty, blood, sword and executioner.

John Quiggin has some remarks in the role of the media in the fall of Mark Latham. He alludes to, rather than explores, the dark, demonic and mythical aspects of the public execution.

Two examples of what I mean by the ALP losing its way after 1996 can be found on the next page.

Public policy issues. The ALP was, and is, committed to a globalised market economy with a reformed welfare system. But what did that mean apart from ladders of opportuntiy, easing the squeeze, Medicare Gold etc.? You don't much idea from the Chifley Research Centre. It is not producing work like Demos did for the Blair Government in the UK.

The current account deficit is a big problem, due to the collapse in export growth.The Howard Government has pulled down the policy structure by which the ALP promoted manufactured experts when it was in government. Where is the federal ALP on this today? Where is the federal ALP on the need to develop a knowledge economy? Where are the big ideas as opposed to the spin of the media release and the media driven rhetoric?

Secondly, the clever political strategic thinking by the hard heads of the party failed to identify a classic Howard wedge: using Family First as a political halfway house for conservative blue collar Christian voters to leave the ALP. These voters give their primary vote to the Family First, and then allocate their preferences to the Liberals. Instead of countering this the hard heads supported Family First and gave the Liberals control of the Senate.

Real clever huh? But then the ALP always though the political battle tok place in the House and the Seante was irrelevant.

The significance of these two examples?

With control of both houses of federal Parliament the Howard Government can now set its enterprise culture policy agenda for the next 4-8 years, box a defensive ALP into the corner and keep it there. Easing the squeeze now takes on a whole new set of meanings. It means a struggle to develop credible policies on economics, health education, environment and energy and infrastructure renewal.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 11:12 AM | | Comments (4)


The A.L.P. should have been watching the 'Born Again" Republicans in the US elections influencing the Bush campaign. Labour fell into the same trap that Howards mate Bush set for the Democrats. Democrats ( US) failed to attract those working with families and living in the urban sprawl, who used to vote for the Democrats / Labour, the Conservatives in the US and Australia cleaverly portraided their opponents as a threat to family values and security. Voting demographics were similar in Australia. Just as Latham was a risk, so was Kerry..makes you wonder who really ran the campaign, as tactics, issues and campaigns are almost identical.

You are dead right.

I've always suspected that the Howard Liberals have studied, and worked with Republicans and taken over their tactics and strategies.

The trouble with the ALP is that though its right wing is very sympathetic to the values of the 'born again' conservatives, they are unable to devise any polcies to appeal to them. They just go along with all of Howard's policies on family values and security and look a cross dressed clone.

Apart from media driven popularity polls for Leadership, driven by the Media, where is Labours focus on reforming the internal structure to democratise the Party and creating a set of social and economic policies.

Whoever wins the Caucus ballot needs to reform the Party and pronto, otherwise we will see a continuous media circus, instability and inevitable electoral decline.

My fear is that Beazley will not risk his last chance, with the much needed reforms and opt for stability at any cost, hoping that domestic or foreign circumstances fall in his favour. Labour must win the next election, not just sit back and pray for a miracle.

I concur.The factionalism, machine politics, lack of democracy etc are real problems for the ALP. It has become divorced from its roots,has a declining membership, increasingly draws on ex-staffers for its politicians, functions through branch stackingetc,

It has become an electoral machine for fighting elections. The politicians have little real autonomy as they are a public face of the machine and do as they are told.

So the reforms are much needed. Will it address these? Probably not. It is too difficult.

The ALP may will change into a machine to fight and win elections and become a shell inbetween elections. A bit like the Democratic Party in the US.

I think that your fears about Beazely will opt for stability and unity, and be reactive not proactive.

Gillard represents a different voice. She talks in terms of "boldness to seize the agenda", the need for an independent foreign policy, a strong focus on health and education and "an economic policy that shares opportunity and prosperity".

She also highlighted the need for a cultural change within the ALP by saying that the instability and unwillingness to support the leader that had been so destructive since 2001 had to end.

Will the ALP listen to Gillard?