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

the new radical centre? « Previous | |Next »
June 9, 2005

As we continue the clean up the electoral office in Adelaide I come across old material that I glance through before tossing into the wheely bin. Some catch my eye enough to read. An example is the 1998 The Sydney Papers from the Sydney Institute. Therein I found a speech by one Mark Latham entitled 'New Radical Centre.'

The new radical centre--it's a yesterday term. You rarely hear it spoken today now that the centre of the old Senate has gone. Presumably, we still have the centre between social democracy's concern for the welfare state and the libertarian concern for individual liberty has gone.

So what did Latham mean by the 'new radical centre'? He says:

The new radical centere seeks to overcome the inadeuacies of the old politics through a process of triangulation. This means moving to the centre of the political spectrum and, most critically, lifting above the old Left/Right divide through the creation of new and radical values.

The new radical centre, says Latham, is more interested in what works in public policy, rather than things that necessarily fit the old ideological mould."What matters is what works."

That could mean anything couldn't it. What it means for Latham can be seen in welfare to work reform. He says:

"...there can only be two purposes to the public provision of welfare: to move people back into work, plus develop their skills and stauis. This approach gives the government an important role on both sides of the new labour market---stengthenign the demand for work through its role as an employer of last resort at a local level whole, on the supply side, embracing the value of lifelong learning."

Latham adds that welfare needs to be equated with well-being--and well-being in our society comes primarily from employment and education.

Latham lamblasts the Howard Government in good ALP style: it is a continuation of the tradition of the lucky country run by second-rate people. He adds that Australia deserves better than a second-rate government running a second rate policy agenda.

A second rate policy agenda? The radical centre's ideas on work-to- welfare reform are pretty much those of the Howard government today. Where are the differences? In the details?

Now I'm not having a go at Latham. I have a lot of sympathy for him given the way he was treated by his colleagues after the federal election, and respect the way that tossed in new ideas to foster the public policy debate beyond the usual media stunts, seven-second TV grabs and party conformity.
What struck about his blast from the past is the way conservatism has captured the radical policy centre, just as it had captured the Hasonite resistance to economic rationalism in the 1990s.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 2:06 PM | | Comments (0)