1066 And All That, the ultimate satirical look at English history, ends in the wake of World War I with the declaration: “America was thus clearly top Nation and History came to a .”

If it wasn’t for the brawling sparked off by Bernie Lagan’s book, contemporary Australian politics may have finished off in much the same way when the Coalition took control of the Senate on Friday.

Parliament has risen for the winter. Half the Members and Senators are off overseas on a study tour with the Joint Standing Committee on Fun in Acapulco. Most of the rest are either gloating or plotting. Only a few are left behind to wave the flag – like opposition leader Kim Beazley. And with Kimbo, it’s hard to tell if it’s a case of not waving but drowning.

I heard the big fella speak on Friday. He covered the obvious issue of the day – the Senate – media laws, debt, skills training, but concentrated on the obvious issue, industrial relations. And he had a case study, one which showed why Labor is in such a mess.

“In the Labor Party, we’ll need to be spending more time away from Canberra – more time in the community, listening and learning, as I’ve been doing this week because that’s how you find the pulse of the nation,” the text went. “That’s where you meet blokes like Gonzo – a young fellow I met on Monday, an aircraft maintenance worker for Boeing at the Williamtown RAAF base. He’s now standing on a picket line outside his workplace because the management is demanding that all the employees work on individual contracts…”

Beazley ad-libbed something about how these used to be RAAF jobs. He should know. I’ll bet London to a brick that work started on their contracting out when that old leftie, Stewart West, was admin services minister and the Bomber was in Defence.

Which begs the logical question: if you want greater flexibility in service delivery, be it aircraft maintenance or whatever, isn’t greater flexibility also desirable in a whole lot of other ways that also affect the economy – like industrial relations? Or does Labor think it’s reached the end of history? No wonder the party looks like history itself at the moment.

Peter Fray

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