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

the new reformers « Previous | |Next »
January 5, 2008

There has been lots of ALP spin in the Fairfax media since Xmas about how wonderful the new individual ministers in the Rudd Government are, how they have got their portfolios down pat already, and how they are already hard at work. I've seen the selling of Roxon, Smith and Crean and I haven't even been looking. Is this a sign of Blair-style spin doctoring?

ALPreformers.jpg Alan Moir

The big sell is that the Rudd ALP is the party of reform. What sort of reform though? Reform implies more than being managers modeled on CEOs of the big end of town. Or being agents of change.

Is it smoothing the rough edges of capitalism a la Sussex Street in NSW? Making things easier--more efficient---for big business? Fostering technocratic capitalism? Deepening social democracy? Reforming society to liberalize and deregulate the market? Revitalising the welfare state? Is the ALP the party of social democracy? If so, in what way? Will they continue to question the ideology that the market is always right, that things are inevitable, that there is a natural balance in the self-regulating market etc etc.

Whatever reform the ALP has in mind we know that is not a deepening or broadening liberal democracy that is on the agenda. Government equals bureaucracy, and democracy is pushed into the background and no longer really matters as a mode of governance concerned with the shrinking of the public good. So how will a Rudd Government address the growing economic inequality in a prosperous nation that is growing richer in a globalised world? Through the market?

If the Rudd ALP are economic rationalists and think that globalisation is a good thing, then doesn't that mean they need to reform the public education system to ensure, in the words of John Ralston Saul that Australian:

students who are coming out of schools and universities who spoke two or three or four languages, who had an intimate knowledge of history, philosophy, language etc, who knew the religions of China, [India] and so on, so that they could go into meeting rooms around the world and negotiate things and make money without making fools of themselves and losing the contract.

This means, as Ralston points out, a public education system of the highest possible quality, as this is the only way that Australians would be able to educate themselves in order to be able to engage as workers and citizens in a global world. Or should Australians pay for this kind of education through private school and user pays university fees?

Australia does seem to be drifting to an American type society in which the gap between the very rich and the very poor widens each year. Doesn't this concentration of economic power amongst a small transnational group have big implications for our public health and education systems, given the under-investment in this social infrastructure over the past two decades?

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 9:32 AM | | Comments (22)


Dear Anonymous,
Is there any evidence that the questions you pose are real issues or are you push polling an agenda of your own? Please inform us.

Dear any-nonnymouse.
Above bears out a suspicion of mine, emphasised in the carton including Julia Gillard. They are trying to wedge Gillard from the Righties?
The priggish sorts are on about porn filters and budget cuts, while social and infrastructure reform slows and the troglodyte state governments crap on about LauraNorda or PPP's redolent of graft and innefficency. The hopeful and substantial exception is an examination into some of the wasteful, mystifying defence procurement spending that has become a feature of our waste-based economy.
Enough of corporate welfare for the likes of Lockheed Martin and co.
Let the yanks go pick their own pockets for a change!

Anon is Gary.
I had neglected to update my profile on the MT system so that I had a public name. Silly me. I'm still getting used to it.

One motivation for the post was this op-ed in the SMH by Andrew West. I think that it misses the mark, as it ignores New Labor, which is a different beast to Dunstan/Whitlam style Labor. But I'm not sure what kind it is.

The other motivation for the post was Andrew Clarke's op-ed in the AFR (not online), which viewed the key players in the ALP (Rudd, Swan, Gillard, Wong, Roxon, Tanner) as agents of change rather than as reformers. Though it was a puff piece--profiles of power--- it also struck me as wrong, as a reform current still runs through the ALP. But what kind?

The post was only partly done as I had to go and do the shopping at the Central Market.

Who holds the pin to pop the balloon? Not Nelsen. Perhaps its a self popping balloon.
Gillard is looking chicken like. Funny! The chain is no longer chained to the desk. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer perhaps.

These are great cartoon characterizations from Moir. I think he may be starting rumors with this one though.

I am not persuaded that the ALP is genuine about substantive reform---education as opposed to vocational training. But we will see whether the emphasis is on the economy or on education.There is a tension there.

Where will the cut back on government expenditure happen? Welfare-to work--extending this economic reform of the welfare state to all beneficiaries and not just new claimants as under Howard?

is the ballon the economic boom, or the expectations of great and wonderful things by Rudd + Co?

Nan, It represents the fragility of things. An uncertain future.

Welfare-to-work a "reform"? Just reminiscing on heroine of the Left's Plibersek's faux outrage on this before the election.
How Orwellian.
Just like Mike Rann's comments concerning Hicks are "big" on civil liberties?
I hear the ghost of Orwell itself bestirring as the Road to Serfdom, now paved with Newspeak, passes by the farm where the animals gaze through the windows at the pigs making merry with the farmers.

Thanks for your comments, My experence with Labor governments,going back to Whitlam,is that the Party Platform and stated policies is what government is about. As a worker in a government instumentality we used to study those documents looking for opportunities to advance our own cause while following government policies,with some degree of success.The platform and the election policies are still on the web site. I expect as do many others, for them to be implemented over time. You quote John Ralton Saul, who I admire, on education and language. Well, promoting the study of Asian langages in schools is on the agenda of COAG. Incidently I find my grand daughters aged ten have been learning Japanese at a Victorian puplic school these last four years.I don't know if the other States are as advanced? The other education items on COAG seem to me to give a balance between vocational training and broader education. Early childhood intervention, from the extensive literature, is the key to our future, both socially and economically. Those early years are recognised as to be important to development into adulthood. Better developed brains result in fewer crimes, healthier people who a more productive socially and economically. When Larry Anthony was Minister for kids he tried to introduce such programs but Howard was too blinkered to take advantge of his ideas.
One of the other things on the Labor web page as an opportunity for the public to give feedback. The results are given in summary. Worth a look.

or our hopes of a better life for Australians in an uncertain world as we are buffeted by the financial flows of a global market. The banks are back looking for their pound of flesh to keep up their fat profit margins.

Moir's cartoons are funny without knowledge of what they are about. I think the idea of a women that looks like a chicken walking down the street chained to a man that has a balloon head is a universal amusing scenario.

I wonder if we still live in The Lucky Country? Lucky for some maybe where it used to be lucky for most.

The spam on the comments here seems to greatly slow up comments and ideas.
A thought factory should produce random thought/random solutions. I'm not getting it here at the moment with comment moderation.
Les has left the building.

re your comment

I think the idea of a women that looks like a chicken walking down the street chained to a man that has a balloon head is a universal amusing scenario.

Very true, especially when the woman stands for the Left and substantive reform. Their hopes are straightjacked by the ALP Right.

The Lucky County was always meant to be taken ironically ----Australia did okay inspite of the second rate and incompetent ruling class. It has been re-interpreted to be read straight. We are the Luck County now because of the mining boom.

the spam problem has been overcome for the moment. Hardly any is getting through at the moment, so Hosting Matters will be happy.

I agree about the comment moderation--it only works if I am at my computer monitoring. I didn't work much yesterday because it was very hot--over 40 degrees. I was out shopping for clothes in David Jones in the CBD, then walked the dogs and then watched a DVD. The efforts to control spam is killing the digital conversation.

Nice image of the thoughtfactory though. Love it.

Gary, Speaking of the Fairfax media there is an absolutley appalling article by Sophie whats her name (the MHR for Indi) in the Sunday Age today.

I read the Mirabella op-ed in The Age. Another example of the bitter factional fighting within the Liberal Party in Victoria. Oh I forgot. The Liberal Party doesn't have factions, does it.

I have made comment recently about incorporating audio into your blog. Have a look at how has evolved now. People link their blogs to a weekly talk back style show that they host. People can call in and talk or chat among themselves in a chat window.
It really is a good system.
I assume its only a matter of time before it is available in oz. Though with voip now it doesn't really matter where it originates from. I think this represent a fairly big evolutionary leap for Blogging.

that is quite a radical departure from a written blog. It's more like a citizens/community talk show without the radio station.

Yes I have been listening over the weekend to a few different shows...they are discussing the US political scene a lot which has been quite enlightening. Obama seems to be more universally accepted now and has transversed the black man tag with many. He is beginning to be looked upon as a new beginning.
I participated in a blog talk radio show in its beginning but it has moved forward since then by installing the IM function and given people the ability to have listener profiles (mines Barry Nong)
Some people use it as a stand alone concept but most use it as an accessory to their blog with each promoting the other.

it's a nice idea. Can it be run from public opinion or does it require to be a part of blogtalk radio.

Yes you need to be part of the blog talk radio system. They sell advertising spots. You are allotted a time that you choose. They try to put the best shows in the good time slots like everything else. You log into there system at your time.

I did the same thing for a while with my old Shaymus blog and used the skype live format to host a weekly Friday night show for all the people that hung out at my blog. Skype can have up to 100 people on. It works for open discussion well. I used to have say 6 in the talk mode and then bring others up into the conversation and drop others down to listening. People can request to talk or just listen. It requires all users to have a skype address.
It works well if you have a specific topic you wish to discuss like "Do we need to say sorry"
My topics were things like "Should I eat things bigger than my head"
I am surprised more Aussie bloggers don't use Skype that way.