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

listening to the past? « Previous | |Next »
August 15, 2010

An English cartoon about the conservative heritage---but Margaret Thatcher is a touchstone for Australian conservative ideologues and their dislike of ghastly foreigners. Gillard Labor's "moving forward", was designed to suggest that the Coalition's politics and morality are regressive, misogynist and a little too religious.


The starting point of the Coalition conservatives in this election is private sector good, public sector bad. The right simply cannot abide publicly funded institutions, even ones that manifestly contribute to Britain’s social, economic and cultural welfare. If it’s funded by taxation, they start from the assumption that something is profoundly wrong.

The Coalition have also returned to Treasury think circa 1920: namely the notion that public spending is crowding out private investment, and that if public spending is cut the private sector will rush to take up the slack.

Tony Abbott doesn't talk about David Cameron's big society versus a 'big state.' There is no mention of Edmund Burke's 'little platoons', and they run a mile from the republican tradition's emphasis on civic engagement and bottom up democracy. Its more about welfare reform (reducing welfare dependency) and more for stay-at-home mums.

What the Conservatives share with Labor is getting back as quickly as possible to business -as-usual: short-term policy wonkery that takes us to the golden future of ever-rising material prosperity, fuelling and fuelled by ever-rising consumption, both public and private. The world for both of them is one of more and more growth, affluence, materialism, consumerism.

Gillard Labor has increasingly sounded like the Coalition on asylum seekers and education whilst its commitment to its reform tradition of Chifley, Whitlam, Hawke and Keating does sound hollow , given the way that focus groups, polling data and stage-managed pragmatism are now centre stage.

In Just a lot of hot air in The Age Waleed Aly questions Labor's appetite for reform:

The accidental magic of ''moving forward'' is that it simultaneously captures the spirit of Labor's past and its present. It summarises Labor's reforming tradition, and its present timidity. Much like Labor's reforming zeal, the slogan is now an empty shell.There is something odd about this. Today, it seems the Coalition is the more ideologically driven force. It is the team more likely to adopt unpopular reform positions, then argue relentlessly for them until it gets its way

He adds that perhaps the question is not: is Labor still reformist? Perhaps it is: how can it be? How does one implement reform when cyberspace and digital or cable television is ready to pounce on even the slightest mould-breaking thought?

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 11:56 PM | | Comments (6)


Richard Teese in the National Times says that the largely bipartisan schools policy views public education as a broken sector:

Labor, under Kevin Rudd, took up the national reform agenda developed by Victoria. It struck national agreements through COAG to improve low outcomes. But the partnerships do not address underlying issues - major funding disparities, operating conditions in schools, and the residualising effects of the "choice" (which Labor itself promotes as if to undermine the agreements).These operate within a framework of national testing which narrows educational effort and is content with modest relative gains in basic skills. Neither Labor nor the Coalition expects more.

Labor's reforms in education are short-cuts solutions devised in response to a faltering public system, neglected in favour of choice.

We do seem to be on a trajectory of the residualisation of public school education. A strong public education system appears top belong top the past .

the core reform issue is not health care nor climate change ---it is the development of the National Broadband Network.

Don't know if I'd rate the NBN as an actual "reform" issue. An intense campaign of national infrastructure upgrades would be a real reform. But that's waaaay off the radar.

The NBN reforms the telecommunications industry by removing the Telstra impediment to a competitive market. It owned the copper wire network and acted like a monopolist. The ACCC could not ensure competition by stopping Telstra's anti-competitive behaviour and Australia ended up with low grade broadband.

re "Telstra's anti-competitive behaviour"

Telstra block ompetitors from their particular exchanges leaving us with expensive but low-speed broadband. The only reason we even have more than 1.5Mbps is because the other ISP's undermined Telstra and build their own DSLAM's - Telstra could have wholesale'd 8Mb/s from the beginning of DSL, but they didn't. They blocked it.

Telstra is why we are where we are now. Australia is 36th in the world for downloading speed and 57th for upload speed.