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Pokies reform + social change « Previous | |Next »
December 30, 2011

Will the Gillard Government retain its commitment to pokies reform? Recall that it is concerned over both the extent of a gambling problem (116,000 people with one and and another 279,000 on the path to one), and the consequences on themselves and their families in the form of broken homes, suicides, neglected kids and ruined lives.


Or has the Gillard Government and its shaky coalition been spooked by the campaign run by Clubs Australia? Do we have a minority Labor government that has lost its beliefs in social justice? Is it the case that Gillard had to agree to things she had ruled out beforehand to secure the support of the independent?

Will Abbott be able to use the issue to annihilate Labor? From a marketing perspective Abbott has succeeded in trashing the Labor brand and its countered by Labor painting Abbott as negative. However it is hard to paint pokies reform as yet more in the way of deficiencies, mistakes and incompetence.

The ALP clings to power at a time when the when the social and political ground is shifting beneath it. Guy Rundle puts the shift in terms of the break up of the old Whitlam coalition based around the ''inner-city professionals '' and the suburban working and middle classes. Previously, former subordinated some of their social demands to the conservatism of the latter, who formed the larger part of the party. The shift takes the form of the ''inner-city trendies'' ceasing to be marginal and have become central to the economy as the knowledge/cultural production class:

Yet as that class - designers, content creators, teachers, policymakers, social professions, students - has detached from Labor, something else has happened to its working/middle class suburban base. In the years of the Whitlam coalition, they were as interested in collective social change as were the ''trendies'', and so the two bases of the party could work together.Now, as Greens voters grow keener for collective action - on climate change, for example - Labor's base has gone in the other direction. They have become increasingly interested in managing their lives on an individual basis. The Whitlam coalition has been torn apart by class divergence. Thus, the more Labor tries to ''rebrand'', by defining itself against the Greens, the more it defines itself against its own broad values, those of actively extending equality and rights to larger sections of society.

The result is a party that has nothing to say to its potential supporters about how it might change their lives for the better. Everything that once comprised the business of progressive politics - how people will live, be cared for when sick, educate their children - Labor has declared a no-go zone for debate, discussion, and radical innovation, limiting itself to small fixes.

The consequences is that Labor subscribes to the right-wing fantasy of a ''mainstream'' with a stable set of conservative values, in part because the failure to see what is really going on makes it susceptible to easy mythologies.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 9:51 PM | | Comments (1)


I, personnaly, do not think that we will see majority governments in Australia for a long time. The question is going to be the constituents of the coalition(s). In the short term the traditional Lib/Nat vs ALP/Grn will probably continue. Should the Nationals, however, actually produce some policies themselves, they may be surprised to find that their natural coalition partner to be the Greens. (after all, name change aside, they are still predominantly agrarian socialists.)There is so little difference between Liberal and Labour that they might as well merge anyway.