Crikey writers talk Bandt’s Greenstown, how western Sydney was saved and what’s to like about Labor.
Niall Clugston writes: Re. “The landslide that wasn’t: how Labor kept its Sydney heartland” (Friday). As a resident of Sydney’s notorious west, I think your analysis of why Labor held this heartland misses several key points. Notably, it overlooks the Liberal victory in Reid. However, the most glaring error is Angelo Risso’s assertion that Labor “needn’t have worried”. On the contrary, fear of a rout ensured the party fought hard. In particular, the ALP targeted migrant groups. This extended to making phone calls in Mandarin to voters merely because they had Chinese surnames, risking alienating people whose primary language was English or Cantonese or something else. Labor even recruited students from China as campaign workers. In contrast, Andrew Nguyen, the Liberal candidate for Fowler, complained that Tony Abbott gave him the cold shoulder. Of course, it is hard to advocate “stopping the boats” standing next to one of the original boat people from Vietnam.
In addition, Labor had some good candidates. Julie Owens in Parramatta, for instance, has campaigned tirelessly for three years. The Liberals have limited local branches, which give them slim pickings when they try to find candidates. In western Sydney they ended up with businesspeople, or the children of businesspeople, with little political knowledge and skills. And this is how the west was not won.
The answer is: the response to the GFC, including the schools expenditure, the huge increase in infrastructure expenditure, the whole education project including the accountability measures encompassed in the My Schools project, the NBN, paid parental leave, the carbon price, the minerals tax, the additional health expenditure including mental health, and the NDIS, just for starters. That is not bad under the cloud of the GFC in just six years.
I agree with her dislike of the asylum seekers policies, but have yet to hear a better idea, and they certainly tried quite a few.
Her critique based on the salesmanship of the ALP is, I think, unfair. All political explanations rely on the media to explain what is going on. Progressive political parties will always have difficulty, as the establishment media invariably fails to present new ideas in a sensible context, and this was particularly evident over the last few years.
The criticism of the ALP for scurrying away from the great moral challenge is also unfair. The policy was predicated on being part of world action, and in any event a modified policy was implemented later, albeit messily, but in accordance with the policy statements made by the prime minister in the lead-up to the 2010 election.
The test of ideas is the extent to which they become part of the fabric of our society. Caro claims the Liberals fought for their ideas and they won. They actually went to the election with the whole suite of ALP policies, even including the maintenance of a deficit in the medium term. There were just two exceptions, the ETS and minerals tax, and they did not fight on these policies, but rather on the idea of competence To the best of my knowledge they introduced no new ideas, simply gutted some Labor policies and accepted some without amendment.
As a progressive government the ALP did all right, and perhaps would still be there if not for the Rudd influence.