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Gillard + Co: an uphill struggle « Previous | |Next »
November 26, 2010

I've been watching Question Time off and on in the last fortnight in the context of both the anti-Labor bashing by the Murdoch Press' echo chamber (“Labor has no vision” or “Labor stands for nothing”, or "Labor lacks direction") and Australia’s two-party system being over.

I wanted to see how a minority Gillard government is dealing with a situation in which the power of the executive is counterbalanced by the power of Parliament in which members have more power to put different issues on the agenda. The Green did this with gay marriage and euthanasia, and this will become more pronounced when the Greens command the balance of power in the Senate from July next year.

In his 'The leader who needs to get a grip' column in last weekends AFR Geoff Kitney says that the assertion of Green power poses a big problem for the Gillard Government:

The Greens are likely to cause headaches for Gillard by imposing on her issues that appeal to sections of the Labor Party but which risk alienating more conservative traditional labor voters and voters in the uncommitted centre. This presents Gillard with arguably her greatest challenge--to find a way to stop the bleeding of Labor support to the Greens without capitulating to them and losing the vital political middle ground ... But how to deal with the threat posed by by the erosion of Labor support to the Greens is a question that deeply divides federal Labor.

For Wayne Swan, launching All That's Left: What Labor Should Stand For by Nick Dyrenfurth and Tim Soutphommasane, the ALP stands for prosperity and opportunity (meaning economic growth and social mobility) rather than the in fringe issues of the far left. Swan assumes that social mobility is always upwards--everyone gets a better job.

Climate change and the shift to a low carbon economy left wing fringe issue? Is water reform in the Murray-Darling basin a left wing fringe issue?

Swan's gospel of getting on offers a rather thin account of social democracy: --social mobility is what characterises a fair society, rather than a particular level of income equality. If social mobility is the way to civilize capitalism, then defining 'fairness' as social mobility (rather than as reduced income inequality) leaves the Greens defending the mainstream social liberal tradition.

Kitney, in his 'The leader who needs to get a grip' column in the AFR goes on to say that the Gillard Government is fighting on another front from a confident and emboldened Abbott and the Coalition:

Abbott and his team are increasingly convinced that Gillard will fail to meet he challenge [of how to assert the authority of prime ministership without the authority of Parliament]--- and are seizing every opportunity presented to them to reinforce the perception that she is a weak leader without a clear vision and a coherent reform agenda. tactically, the opposition is consistently out-thinking and out-manoeuvring the government.

Abbott and the Coalition still stand for three-word slogans: ‘end the waste’, ‘pay back debt’, ‘stop new taxes’ and ‘stop the boats’, but this matters less than the unremitting negativity that attempts to make like so difficult for the minority Gillard Government so that its support provided by the Independents splinters and cracks. They have able to consolidate their base and to convince most right-of-centre voters that Labor is not competent to hold office.

The Coalition still reckons that there is a good chance of this happening next year. I doubt it myself. The self-interest of the Independents is to ensure the stability of the Gillard Government as it provides them with the platform they need to further their agenda for regional Australia---- and that is more than the Coalition's ‘end the waste’, ‘pay back debt’, ‘stop new taxes’ and ‘stop the boats’.

Despite all the pressure applied by the conservatives (ie., the Murdoch Press and Coalition) on the national broadband network no splinters and cracks have appeared and a digital economy is now emerging.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 8:25 AM | | Comments (2)


'social mobility' is tied to 'aspirational.' Stefan Collini in Blahspeak in the London Review of Books says:

There is now, according to some commentators, an ‘aspirational class’, rather uncertainly located within a traditional hierarchical social structure, but composed of people who probably had working-class parents, who hope to have professional or managerial-class children, and who want more of ‘the good things of life’. But they want, it is said, to attain these goals without taking on the trappings and snobberies that historically went along with moving into a higher social class. An edge of ressentiment lurks under ‘aspiration’, not the old ‘Jack’s as good as his master’ kind, which acknowledged social position while claiming it was not the whole of life, but a more relativist kind, confident that ‘no one has the right to say what someone else ought to do or think.’ Any other view of the matter is damned as ‘elitist’. As these attitudes assert and impose themselves, we are encouraged to talk not merely of an aspirational class but of an ‘aspirational society’ at once insistently egalitarian and aggressively competitive.

Collini adds that the emphasis on ‘aspiration’ is one symptom of the abandonment of what have been, for the best part of a century, the goals of progressive politics, since, as an ideal, the ‘aspirational society’ expresses a corrosively individualist conception of life.

Stefan Collini in Blahspeak in the London Review of Books says that social mobility:

The phrase ‘social mobility’ is now deployed to refer to one or more of the following: the trajectory of individuals away from a starting point defined by their parents’ socio-economic position; the changing patterns of advantage and disadvantage between social groups in comparison to patterns among the previous generation; the changing structure of employment or rewards in a society across generations such that a larger proportion of the population comes to be in ‘higher’ occupations.

He says that if more of those top jobs are filled by the children of parents whose social class practically never filled such jobs in the past, then, we are told, we have social mobility.

So what happens to the people who would have occupied these jobs but have now been pushed out by the upwardly mobile?

Swan appears to think that nearly everybody --those with ability--gets a better job and some people get a much better job. That is the ‘aspirational society’.