The old politics and the new. A striking contrast in the Senators who delivered their first speeches yesterday – Labor’s Doug Cameron born in 1951 and a life long trade unionist was the voice of what we could call the old left with its class struggles. Sarah Hanson-Young, at all of 26 years, was the new leftist broom determined with youthful enthusiasm to “sweep up the mess left after years of inaction, mindless consumerism and self-perpetuating fear.” If Doug Cameron was the old style of Labor man who once was a working man in a trade union, then David Feeney is the new style who worked for a trade union.

Senator Douglas Cameron, Labor, NSW — Doug Cameron is different to the usual trade union officials who so frequently these days become Labor Party politicians; he actually was once a fair dinkum industrial worker. Senator Cameron progressed up the ranks of the AMWU from the shop floor of the Liddell power station rather than joining in at the official level with a university degree en route to a planned political career. His maiden speech in the Senate yesterday brought back memories of what Labor used to be when it was common place to put aging trade union secretaries into the Senate as a way of finding them a retirement pension.

There was an old fashioned ring too, in the Scottish accent of the former 10 pound migrant from Bellshill, just outside Glasgow, as Senator Cameron promised:

“…all working people, while I am in the Senate your struggles will be my struggles. I will be a voice on key issues that affect you, your families and your communities.”

He intends to keep fighting the good fight to ensure the capacity for workers to engage in genuine collective bargaining and industrial action in defence of their wages and conditions or in support of their workmates. This, he told the Senate, is an internationally recognised human right and must be enshrined in legislation in this country. We must have real collective bargaining, not collective begging.

Along with the Welsh tones of Julia Gillard we will now have another Pommy accent in the Federal Parliament to remind us where shop stewards used to come from.

A good old-fashioned style of first speech 6 out of 10.

Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, Greens, South Australia, used to think that politicians and their parties were much like what she witnessed in the schoolyard — games and tricks played among those who sought power and privilege. It took the images of asylum seeking children”with their lips sewn together, who, in desperation for understanding and help, had no other means of communication but the mutilation of their own bodies” to motivate her to participate in the political process. “A strong sense of rage fuelled me to take action and I felt compelled to join the Australian Greens, who had stood strongly against the disgrace that was the Tampa,” she told her fellow Senators.

Senator Hanson-Young is now the youngest woman ever to become a Senator and the youngest Senator full-stop for almost a century. And what is her agenda?

I am standing up to say, ‘Let’s challenge “business as usual”.’ I am standing up for the rural community in which I grew up—and hundreds of others like it. I am standing up for women, especially young women in Australia, and saying, ‘We too have a right to be heard.’ I am standing up and saying that we need to build an Australia based on caring for those less privileged in our society, like the refugees and the asylum seekers that so deeply affected me. I stand up to recognise that Australia can make the transition from a resource-dependent economy to a clean, green and clever economy that puts respect for each other and respect for the environment at the centre of politics. I am standing here today, standing up for the Murray and the precious Coorong.

She is clearly no shrinking violet and it promises to be lively every time she stands up to speak. A provocative and promising first effort. 7 out of 10

Senator David Feeney, Labor, Victoria – From the Labor Club at university to the Transport Workers Union as an industrial officer and upwards and ever onwards in Labor Party ranks from ALP State Secretary and Campaign Director in Victoria from 1999-2002, to Director of Strategy in the Office of the Premier of Victoria, the Hon. Steve Bracks, from 2003-04, then ALP Campaign Director in South Australia during 2005-06 and ALP Assistant National Secretary 2005-08 before becoming a Senator from Victoria in his own right. This is the classic career path of the modern Labor Party man and his first speech to the Senate reflected it: articulate and considered with all the right thank yous and a little dash of idealism to blunt the Labor machine man reputation. Senator Feeney promises to make a contribution in the struggle against hatred and ignorance and to stop Australia moving any further towards a society in which we have a small class of superrich and a large class of struggling battlers who can never hope for a higher standard of living for themselves or their children.

“I want to see an Australia,” he told the Senate, “in which good health care, higher education, home ownership and a secure retirement are all within the reach of every Australian.”

A polished performance. 8 out of 10.

Talking about the bounce. The American political pundits keep talking about this thing called the convention bounce which apparently normally sees a candidate do better in the opinion polls after the hoopla of the nominating convention. The pollster Gallup gives an explanation of the phenomenon and this table shows what has happened in the past:

The movement in the rating for Barack Obama this year of four percentage points looks fairly typical and John McCain seems to be gaining from the announcement of his vice presidential running mate although it is unclear what impact his disjointed convention will have:

No bounce at all, though, in the Crikey Indicator which monitors the opinions of the money on the betting exchange sites:

WA Liberals edging slightly closer. The Crikey Indicator on the Western Australian state election shows a slight swing towards the Liberals. They are now assessed by the market as having a 27% chance of winning on Saturday with Labor down a couple of percentage points this week to 73%.

The Australian wins hands down. If you can only afford to buy one newspaper yet want to be informed about what is happening in Australian politics the Crikey breakfast media wrap survey suggests it is no contest really. The national daily The Australian during August had 240 stories Monday to Saturday that made our list. From The Sydney Morning Herald there were 131 stories that attracted my attention with 139 from the Melbourne Age.

Peter Fray

Save 50% on a year of Crikey and The Atlantic.

The US election is in a little over a month. It seems that there’s a ridiculous twist in the story, almost every day.

Luckily for new Crikey subscribers, we’ve teamed up with one of America’s best publications, The Atlantic for the election race. Subscribe now to make sense of it all, and you’ll get a year of Crikey (usually $199) and a year’s digital subscription to The Atlantic (usually $70AUD), BOTH for just $129.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

JOIN NOW