Philosophical Conversations Public Opinion Junk for code
parliament house.gif
Think Tanks
Oz Blogs
Economic Blogs
Foreign Policy Blogs
International Blogs
Media Blogs
South Australian Weblogs
Economic Resources
Environment Links
Political Resources
South Australian Links
"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

Is the ALP big on hope? « Previous | |Next »
June 25, 2005

I've been reading Media Tarts by Julia Baird on the plane whilst doing the recent Adelaide, Canberra, Sydney, Canberra, Adelaide trip. It is about how the media frames female politicians in terms of a reworking of the classic goddess/whore duality and the old gender double-standard being alive and well.

The best chapter is the tragic one of Cheryl Kernot as the leader of the Australian Democrats, her transition from the Democrats to the ALP, her affair with Gareth Evans, and her eventual departure from politics and Australia. In this chapter Kernot is quoted as saying:

I knew that what affected my performance as a shadow minister was Labor's unwillingness to include me in anything that mattered...I considered myself as an ideas person, I went into politics for ideas, and as soon as I went to the ALP I had no intellectual respect...and that damaged me a great deal.

That passage caught my eye because it is the ideas that have been lacking in the ALP of late. There is something about the culture of the ALP that is disturbing. Is it being backward looking? Or lost in the policies of the past?

From where I sit the ALP is not putting out much in the way of new policies, and it appears to be in a period of policy drift. It seems to have fallen back into its old pattern of awaiting on the Howard Government's stride to falter (an arrogant and incompetent government); for the economy to go bad; or for the voters to become enlightened about the Howard Government's mass deceptions spun over Tampa, Iraq and interest rates with the help of a compliant and biased media.

Let's face it. The ALP is now a bystander in some of the current policy debates. The changes in mandatory detention system made that very clear. This status will be reinforced during the sale of Telstra as it is the Nationals who are the effective opposition.

Now the core strategy of senior right-wing ALP leadership, led by the glimmer twins, Wayne Swan and Stephen Smith, is that the Howard Government is pushing Australia down the low-wage low-skill road, and that the ALP stands for greater investment in skills and training, knowledge nation and infrastructure rebuilding. This implies an acceptance of the global economy, the new enterprise culture and a high skilled middle class with its individualist ethos.

Yet this core strategy was effectively undermined by the parliamentary tactics of the poorly-performing, glimmer twins of blocking of the tax cuts. The ALP was seen to be saying that the more highly-skilled middle class should pay more tax, whilst defending the genuine need for the low skilled battlers to have much greater tax cuts.

Maybe the ALP Right are hoping that the slash and burn tactics of industrial relations reforms being pushed by Kevin Andrews, the Workplace Relations Minister, will give them the momentum they need to stop, and reverse, the current downward spiral? It is about all they have going for them at the moment.

Yet the defence of the unions means that the ALP is seen to stand for strong unions, centralized wage bargaining and fixation, higher taxes, tough regulation and a large public sector. This tactic undermines the defence of an open global economy, market competition and the self-employed and independent contractors.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 4:02 PM | | Comments (2)


By the same token, incumbent advantages are huge, and there has only been a change in a party controlling government, due to an election, four times since WWII. That is despite there being twenty-four elections in that time.

I think we would be kidding ourselves if we believed that every election was genuinely contestable, and government truly up for grabs between the two major parties.

You are right. History can be very sobering.

The consensus interpretation is that this history indicates how entrenched the Howard Government is, highlights its 5% buffer swing, and how firmly in control John Howard is.

Others, such as Peter Brent who runs, reckons that the tide is flowing the ALP's way because the Howard is getting older and it is reaching a point in the electoral cycle where there is no reason not to change.

What that history also means is that the opposition party that is lost in the political wilderness needs to undergo a major rethink and renewal and provide a different way of looking at the political life of the nation.

Whitlam did it at the end of the 1960s and Howard did it in the early 1990s. Beazley is not doing it. We only get huff and puff in the media.

I cannot see the reshuffle of the shadow ministry last week doing much to reverse the policy drift and stagnation. Reshuffling ain't going to win the 2007 election for the ALP.

Is it because the Queensland Right (Ludwig) faction rules the ALP? Is it because of the need to purge Simon Crean? Or to punish those connected to Mark Latham? Why does the senior ALP leadership around Beazley keep good talent on the back bench (eg., Bob McMullan and Craig Emerson) when they need all the help they can get.

I dunno. I just the despair, the poor performance, and going through the motions of being an opposition. I have no insight into the ALP political cultures. It is a black box to me and I just glean what I can from the odd comments here and there by the commentariat.