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Canberra observed#2 « Previous | |Next »
June 10, 2005

Laura Tingle's weekly 'Canberra Observed' column in the Australian Financial Review addresses the situation after July 1. The features of the landscape include the Coalition's control of the Senate, the industrial relations reforms becoming law, Telstra being sold, changes in media ownership, and the ALP under siege, and subject to the daily humiliation and whipping in the House of Representatives.


In the light of this Tingle usefully asks:

What will Labor stand for, as far as voters are concerned, in this new world?

It is a good question and needs to be asked because we are entering into a new political landscape. Tingle says that as far as votes are concerned the question can be answered in the negative:--the ALP is not the government and Beazley is not Howard. She states that the negative is not enough.

Tis a fair point. These are dark days for the ALP. It has been in opposition for nigh on a decade, it probably faces another six years in opposition, its party membership is ageing and diminishing, its branches are collapsing, the undemocratic factions rule, and most of its experienced staffers left last year. Canberra this winter is going to be very depressing indeed.

Moreover, the ALP's glimmer twins (Swan and Smith) have not been very effective in taking on Costello on the economy, even though growth is slowing, property prices are falling, consumer debt is high, consumer confidence is low, and the trade deficit is very bad.

Despite the bad press of late, it is the dissident liberals led by Victorian Liberal MP Petro Georgiou, not the ALP, who are the effective opposition around immigrationadn n mandatory detention. It is the Australian Greens leader Bob Brown, not Beazley, who presents as the conviction politician on asylum issues (eg., the attempted defection of diplomat Chen Yonglin) and who highlights the confusion within John Howard's team and their shabby treatment of Chen.

So far the ALP has not been very good at making the Coalition accountible in the House of Representatives. That was the key strategy for the next three years was it not? So the ALP does need to stand for something positive and alternative to Howard's political agenda, otherwise it is going to become irrelevant in the new landscape.

Tingle's inference from this is:

The change in Senate numbers means Labor must embark on the most profound remaking of itself possibly in its history.

So what does Labor have to build on? Tingle does acknowedge that Beazley's defining line in the sand stands for greater public investment in infrastructure renewal and skills training. That is not enough. It is just plugging the gaps left by the Coalition.

Where is all the action on the impact of climate change on water and energy? You cannot continue to pretedt that it is just the drought and the rains will come and the problems will go away.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 6:15 PM | | Comments (4)


Can't help thinking we're f**ked.

Australia has a waitocracy and Beazley, like Howard, is playing the wait game. Between our over-arching centralism, the double-dissolution, early elections and incumbent advantages inherent in the Westminster system, the opposition gets bugger all chance until a drover's dog election.

We delude ourselves by assuming all elections are competitive between the major parties. Howard was Lazarus on a triple bypass. If Beazley gets to be PM, he will be the same. Once he becomes PM, Labor will entrench itself, and the Liberal party will be in disarray for ten years too. The media will ensure that.

Fixed term elections, and term-limiting the PM are absolutely necessary in our static system. Democracy need to be defended by process as well as electorate choice.

good points.

Another problem is that the ALP does not pay its policy advisors very well. A policy for an ALP pollie in the shadow ministry earns around $60,000--not enough to tak out out a mortgage a flat in Canberra, if you were required to live in Canberra.

Of course it is the Government that ensures that the wages for the opposition staffers are very low. So the peolelatracted are not very good. You would only do it if government came quickly and you earned a decent wage for the long hours and high stress.

But when the ALP is in power it does not change the situation--it keeps the opposition staffer salaries slow as political payback. Can't have the opposition being able to afford good people who would embarrass the government, can we.

Now the ALP could use union money to supplement the wages of the senior policy advisors in the opposition ministry. They don't. And it shows in the poor quality of the policy material.

Gary, Excellent information. Wasnt aware of that inequity.