Where Labor went wrong


Tom Burton, Australian Communications and Media Authority, writes: Re. Yesterday’s Editorial. The first sentence of yesterday’s edition asserting this was the ACMA’s first press conference in six years is wrong .

As your writers who follow the media and communications sector know we have regular press conferences, door stops and media briefings. For the record the last formal “press conference” was the release of our Reconnect the Customer Report mid last year.

Andrew Crook writes: Yesterday, in my eagerness to insert an Anthony Albanese reference into a story on Screen Australia (item 3), I got my Connollys mixed up in paragraph 12.

Bob made Rats in the Ranks starring (kinda) the off-screen Albo, while Robert made Balibo and is involved in the upcoming Tim Winton adaptation The Turning. Thanks to the dozens of film types who got in touch within minutes to point out the howler.

The future of Labor:

David Edmunds writes: Re. “Rundle: time to work out what a Labor Party is for” (yesterday, item 1). The Labor Party started in the 19th century to address the power imbalance between employers and employees, and the fundamental philosophy of support for “working Australians” still pervades what Labor does.

In 2007 it had to revisit the issue after John Howard introduced WorkChoices, but really since Gough Whitlam’s government Labor has taken a much wider view of the advancement of conditions for “working Australians”.  Gough started the globalization of the economy with his tariff reductions. This hurt, as so many economic changes do, but he was right.  We saw the same story with the Hawke and Keating governments when they moved to a tighter integration with the world economy. The alternative, the Argentine solution promoted by the Perons did not turn out well.

Julia Gillard runs a very standard social democrat government. The social agenda which includes for example, a rejigging of health arrangements, a lot of new money for mental health, and the work towards a national disability scheme is precisely in the mould of our post war Labor governments.

The Labor government believes that Australian workers need an advantage in a globalized world, and the mechanism chosen is the standard social democrat one of improved productivity through better skills and education and improved infrastructure. The story, as always, is about opportunity.

The problem is that this agenda does not provide quick results and for some inexplicable reason polarizes people, but it is very consistent with traditional Labor goals.

From time to time other means have become part of Labor ideology, for example socialism. These have really been the means and not the end, so have been rejected when they appear not to work. So, when Anna Bligh sold coal trains in a recession in order to find funds to boost the economy, this is entirely consistent with Labor goals. After all, privately-owned ore trains have been operating in WA since the 1960s with no apparent problem, and it has been a very long time since the ownership of the means of production was a debate in labor circles.

It is hard to understand exactly why this is not clearer to people such as Guy Rundle. Obviously Labor has a problem explaining what it is on about, but it does seem that a lack of polling success tends to feed on itself and become the story, rather than the underpinning Labor initiatives and goals.

James Burke writes: Thanks to Guy Rundle (and Geoff Gallop, and John Quiggin, and others) for pointing to the essence of the ALP betrayal of party, state and people: privatisation.

As Rundle pointed out, privatisation may have legitimacy if it is taken to an election and supported by voters. Then it can be justified as a compact between government and electorate, however much that compact relies on ignorance, delusion and sheer stubborn stupidity. (Lyle Lanley may have sold the monorail, but every Springfieldianite was culpable.)

But when a government embarks on privatisation of profitable entities or essential services without an electoral mandate, it’s really nothing better than organised theft. And with so many Labor henchmen going on to jobs with the Big End of Town, it’s no wonder that “corrupt” is now the adjective most voters in Queensland and New South Wales associate with the party.

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