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

Big changes on the way « Previous | |Next »
February 27, 2005

The ALP victory in WA was a good one and well deserved. Unlike the federal ALP, the WA state ALP was able retain its hold on the marginal mortgage belt seats with their aspirational suburban votes. For how long? Given that working class culture is fundamentally aspirational and so foreign to the levelling impulse of bourgeois liberal culture.

It's marked isn't it: failure at federal level, success at state level. Are Australian citizens voting strategically?

Let us hope that the Gallop Government stays with the desalinisation option and is not tempted to build the Kimberley/Perth canal because of the allure of big development, the Ernie Bridge tradition, and a water cargo cult mentality. Maybe, just maybe, it's mode of governance will edge closer towards shifting to a sustainable economy, as well as helping to build a knowledge nation.

A shattered Federal Labor takes the Gallop Government's victory as a morale boost. Let us also hope that, with the ALP continuing to control all the states, the federal ALP now begins to defend federalism and the regions. These need to become a form of countervailing power to resist the strategy of the conservative centralists to concentrate ever more power in Canberra. A big battle is looming.

So what of the ALP strategies over the next six years to ten years? Do they fully realize what is going to happen under Howard? Have they moved beyond their concentration on the survival tactics of the short-term? Are they addressing Australia's long-term problems?

The Howard Government will use its power in the Senate to fundamentally alter the government's responsibility to its citizens, as it realigns the nation in favor of the stock-market-invested rich and against the interests of the poor. We are talking about an enormous change here, and it will be well nigh impossible for ALP to put the welfare state back the way it was. An example. This is such a huge change that it will be permanent; the ALP cannot put it back once it's done.

So how will this roll back of the welfare state be sold? Consider this simple image that tries to capture the complexities of building democracy in Iraq.


Consider the conservative response. Those who think like this--the anti-war crowd--support terrorists, are anti-American, are against family values, are Bush haters pure and simple and want the US to fail in Iraq.

See Miranda Devine's column in the Sydney Morning Herald for some of this. Commentary on this column can be found over at Road to Surfdom.

The next move is to say that the ALP is soft on national security and traditional values since it panders to the elitist inner city latte liberals who despise ordinary Australians living in the suburbs.

All very familar.

Now that has been the story being told to the conservative working class.It is a strategic move that places culture above class and economics as a way of dealing with the effects of downsizing, outsourcing, casualisation, and layoffs on lower-income workers during an economic boom.

For the ALP it is not just a simple case of getting the economic story right to gain economic credibility and respectability. It is also a matter of tackling the way the culture is used to further the conservative economc agenda and the roll back of the welfare state. The conservative strategy is to mobilize cultural anger to achieve free market economic ends.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 6:47 AM | | Comments (4)


On the money Gary.Nobody should be surprised at the return of the Gallop W. A. Government. He ran a professional and disciplined campaign well organised by a competent party machine. since the 80,s W.A. has had one of the best organised Party machines at State level. These factors as well as an array of talented candidates are in stark contrast to the party at a federal level, which shares none of these attributes. Western Australians, like their federal counterparts ( voters) are aspirational, yet will support a responsible, disciplined and progressive A.L.P.The voters need to be convinced that labour will not pander to ideological and narrow causes, in place of well thoughtout and researched practical policies. One of the lessons in this election, is for Beazley to get moving on areas of Policy now and not just sit back and hope for events to move in his favour. The other issue screaming out from the rank and file, as well as Hawke, Button and Mathews ( Sundays Age Open Letter)is for a clean up in the Organisational wing, lessen the stranglehold of factional kingmakers, broarden the base of the Party and pre-select some decent candidates which better reflect the broard Australian community. Hawke and Co called for labour supporters to join up and influence the Party, which is desperately needed, but the party itself must first show that it is capable of reform and really interested in a reformation,like it did under Whitlam in the early 1970,s . remember the 'The faceless men" and the Federal Executive that ruled the Party, to the exclusion of the elected representatives!The electorate in my view is tired of the same "old" politics.The next term of Parliament the Howard agenda is to further roll back any remaining egalitarian sectors of Society and further Republicanise ( US ) style Australian society and the economy on a number of fronts. Beasley must present a new and moving agenda,backed by some talented community candidates, not the same old predictable narrow target, stuck in the glorious past. Only then will the Liberal attacks be heard on deaf ears by the electorate, as labour has moved both the policy debate as well as widened its base.
Beasley has been given another " life" this time if he fails more is at stake than just a career.

I agree with you that "One of the lessons in this [WA] election, is for Beazley to get moving on areas of Policy now and not just sit back and hope for events to move in his favour."
I have indicated two such policy areas here.

And you are dead right about the need for the ALP "is for a clean up in the Organisational wing, lessen the stranglehold of factional kingmakers, broarden the base of the Party and pre-select some decent candidates which better reflect the broard Australian community."

However, I do not see this happening the near future, even though the ALP needs all the help it can get over the next six years.

However, there is a line running from the ALP that the electorate wants safe and secure and so Beazley fits with the times. Because he is the man for the times there is no need for radical reform or innovative policy.

They are probably right about the man for the times bit - politically speaking.

Most of Australia is quite content with things as they are. They don't want big changes or grand visions.

Until we hit the wall, and heaven help the party in power then because we are a ruthless bunch when somebody is squeezing our collective testicles.

The Beazley man might be right for the times but the policies are still needed.

We are not seeing anything like this process being developed.