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Conservatives in cloud cuckoo land « Previous | |Next »
February 28, 2008

What 's up with the Conservatives gathered around The Australian these days? They are still carrying on about the culture wars and doing so in a way that has little resemblance to the new political realities. Consider what Janet Albrechtson wrote in her latest op-ed:

The so-called progressive Left has given Prime Minister Kevin Rudd his riding instructions. Conveniently gathered in a single book entitled Dear Mr Rudd, Australia's leading left-wing voices offer a blueprint of what they expect from the Rudd Government. On climate change, the economy, human rights, the republic, water and so much more, each letter to Rudd is, according to the blurb, "passionate and imaginative". No doubt true....
That sums up the essential problem with many on the Left. Their desire for passion - read emotion - tends to unhinge their ability to reason. Brimming with passion and imagination, their prescriptions are often divorced from realistic, sensible outcomes. Perhaps that explains Rudd's gigantic talkfest in April. Giving them their own circus, perhaps, is Rudd's way of buying off the elites in the short term, allowing him to get down to real business of government.

The claim that the progressive left are all emotion and unhinged from reason ( they're just dumb romantics) bears no resemblance whatsoever to the work on managing water shortages in the Murray-Darling Basin by Mike Young and Jim McColl.

One explanation is that the Right desire to continue the culture wars. On their account Rudd's pre-election position is one where he lined up on the Right side of the culture wars and that Federal election represented some kind of culture war victory for the Right. This Howard-Lite interpretation leads them to argue, as Denis Shanahan does, that the ideas of the Left, which are an attempt to foist a radical and unrealistic agenda on an unwilling new Prime Minister, represent a death wish for Rudd Labor:

Like survivors from the carpet-bombing of the culture wars, a number of academics and commentators have emerged from the shelters and debris holding a wish-list of progressive thinking for the Labor Government. It is also a political death list....There are two barriers to the implementation of most of these grand ideas: they are political suicide and Rudd doesn’t agree with them. Even before the election, he made it clear he didn’t want the republic on the agenda; he didn’t want a constitutional preamble on indigenous Australia; he was reluctant on a charter of rights; and he was prepared to “turn back the boats’’ of refugees. This isn’t someone who was foxing about his conservative political and social nature. Labor people who voted for Rudd thinking he would be different to what he said were dreaming.

With Rudd Labor there has been ratification of the Kyoto Protocol, an apology to the Stolen Generations, the end of the Pacific Solution, the settlement of compensation for Cornelia Rau, clearing the way for Mohamed Haneef to return to Australia, relaxation of some of the more onerous restrictions on David Hicks, a pledge to bring combat troops home from Iraq, and the introduction of legislation to repeal Work Choices.

The Australian's editorial response to the 'Dear Mr Rudd' book assumes that the Federal election represented a culture war victory for the Right. It says that:

The uncomfortable truth for such [Leftist] intellectuals is that Mr Rudd owes them nothing. Anyone who has seen the internal Labor Party polling on the election results, as The Australian has, knows that he owes his victory to Howard's battlers and the self-employed tradesmen, particularly in the outer suburbs of Brisbane and the provincial Queensland and NSW coastal towns, people whose middle-Australian values are despised by the academic Left. Both groups supported Mr Howard's social conservatism but responded strongly to Mr Rudd's siren song about food and petrol price rises. They also responded strongly to the unions' anti-Work Choices campaign and became disaffected with the Coalition's welfare-to-work policies, which forced one million people, principally single mums, back into the workplace.

Funny, I though that the academic left intellectuals, whom The Australian terms 'political fringe dwellers with utopian prescriptions' supported the anti-Workchoices campaign, opposed the welfare-to work policies as well as being in favour of the ‘root and branch’ reform of the health system for clinical and not fiscal or political imperatives.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 6:13 AM | | Comments (8)


It's odd that The Australian's conservatives go on like this about the culture wars and the lefty social agenda, when their beloved Liberal Party has done a big me-tooism. The federal Liberal Party has reversed or abandoned its position on five out of six of the central policy issues of the Howard era ...

The Coalition's killed off Work Choices. It's sidelined climate change sceptics. It's agreed to ratifying Kyoto. It said sorry to the Stolen Generations. It's agreed now that pulling out of Iraq is the right thing to do. The Liberals have accepted the shutting down of the Pacific Solution for refugees.

All these layers of the Howard legacy are being peeled away one by one ... The Australian's conservatives ignore this, pretend that Rudd Labor is Howard-lite, and go on about the goofy pseudo left raising taxes, imposing socialism, and being Castro-lite.

They seem to have an unhealthy obsession with Manne. "Brimming with passion and imagination, their prescriptions are often divorced from realistic, sensible outcomes" describes The Australian's editorial rump to a T.

Richard Glover's response is measured and reasonable, and his prediction that some of the progressive agenda will stall under Rudd is probably correct. Asylum seekers will be happier but same-sex couples will be disappointed. Conservatives and progressives with both gain and lose ground on Indigenous issues.

I love the way Shanahan says "Rudd doesn't agree with them" as if he's Kevvie's favourite confidante.

Two other things:

I wonder what the opposition think of all this, given that they've supported everything Rudd's done so far?


I wonder how the opposition feel now that Kevin is apparently taking his instructions from Janet Albrechtson and Dennis Shanahan? Who is offering them guidance and comfort?

It's all too ridiculous, even for the Oz. According to them, Kevin is one of them, even though he's done everything so far contrary to their wishes, including winning the election, and the culture wars have been decisively won by the conservative mainstream even though polls and surveys continue to show the population is becoming increasingly progressive.

Staking their all on the Howard-lite campaign strategy is incredibly dumb, even for them.

maybe its all designed to keep the fundies in line including intelligent design?

You can't argue with them about what they really believe because its all coded in a bunch of focus-grouped language about elites, the Left, battlers etc. They never admit that what they're really trying to achieve are orchestrated corporate raids on the public sphere.

you cannot argue with the OZ Rump because their specialty is hypocrisy and bad faith as a matter of principle. It becomes impossible to have a dialog that doesn't simply devolve into utter gibberish.So much for their rhetoric about a civic conversation and public debate.

What is forming is a merging of politics and religion in that right wing policies of the OZ are now a matter of faith. Policies are not something to be discussed or debated. They are to be asserted (eg., “global warming is a hoax!”) with a smear against an opponent.

I've come to think the politics/religion thing is a bunch of garbage. It worked in the US where God has a pretty substantial fan base, but Australia is a different kettle of fish. The religion push was always a bit iffy here.

I'd argue instead that what formed before, but has since disintegrated, was a merging of politics and conservative media. The previous government was heavily dependent on particular media outlets, Alan Jones, The Australian, Quadrant among them. They considered other outlets like the ABC to be opponents up for a good smearing along with anyone else who disagreed with them.

I agree with you on the Oz Rump and the pointlessness of arguing with them, but I still think that pointless diversions are important in life. If it came down to a choice between watching mould grow on bread or arguing with the Oz Rump, I'd take the Rump any day.

I guess the OZ conservatives rant and rage about Manne because he was one of them and became a turncoat.

even Paul Kelly thinks that the old argument that Rudd is just a pale shadow of Howard is untenable. Rudd, he says, is a new generation in style and mentality, who offers genuine change.