John Singleton – the latest Labor luvvie to publicly dissect and
diagnose the ALP’s ailments – was the star speaker of Wednesday night’s
Fabian Society gabfest in Sydney – as The Oz reports here.

And there were plenty of fellow travellers on hand: Maxine McKew and
partner Bob Hogg filed in early, while former ALP national secretary
Geoff Walsh gave a pep talk about what Labor needed to win in ‘07.

Walsh scraped together a range of issues he thought Labor could
differentiate from the Liberals on; global warming, the Republic, Iraq,
the arts, industrial relations and universities. But no word on the only
policy issue that counts; the economy, stupid.

Speaking of which, not everyone was in top form on the night. Newbie
Parramatta MP Julie Owens revealed herself as the weakest link.
Addressing the gathering of Left intelligentsia as if it was a local
branch meeting, she pursued a tortuous metaphor about tall poppies that
became increasingly inadequate for her purposes – and embarrassing for
those forced to listen.

Owens contended that, at times, in the effort to support the tall
poppy, the number of hands clutching at the stem inadvertently pull the
poor poppy down. The clear message to branch members? Back off
and let her focus on the difficult task of securing her marginal seat
at the next election. Out of place at an open public forum addressing
the Big Labor Picture.

Owens contested Singleton’s pretty obvious thesis that the Labor and
Liberal parties share similar policy ground on a whole range of
issues. There WERE differences, she insisted. But that’s where it
ended. What those differences might be remained a mystery.

That was enough for Singo, who pointed out that if a packed Fabian
Society forum couldn’t identify the differences between Liberal and
Labor, what chance does some disinterested punter on his ninth schooner have?