The future for Labor:

James Burke writes: Re. “Labor man: if she won’t resign, caucus must remove Gillard” (yesterday, item 10). Luke Walladge bravely prescribes more of the same suicidal thinking that has got Labor into its present mess. Ditch the leader, pass the spade, keep digging the same hole. Indulge in more nonsense about “understanding the concerns of voters”, aping the Liberals and dancing to Murdoch’s fife. We’ve burned our Kenneally — let’s give Stephen Smith the chance to prove himself as our Rees!

Walladge gives the game away when he demands the party stop “pandering” to inner-city greenies, then suggests pandering to the “innate conservatism of the outer suburbs”. A serious political party doesn’t base its entire strategy on pandering. It has a moral philosophy which states “this is right and that is wrong”, and it fights for what’s right and against what’s wrong. That moral certitude sustains a party, attracts talent and commitment, and invites support from the undecided.

This government has a Weimar whiff to it — whatever pretty laws it passes, the barbarians are coming! And they are barbarians, have no doubt: against workers’ rights, against social justice, against equality, against science, against truth. Hostile, too, to just about every Christian virtue, a point made by (gasp) Bob Brown, but lost on those “social conservatives” of the ALP who are only into Catholicism for the hypocrisy.

At least the German Social Democrats fought back. They would have ended up in Sachsenhausen regardless — they were up against Hitler, after all — but they retained enough dignity to revive their party in 1945. If Labor rolls over, yet again, it will roll into its grave.

Labor — whoever leads it — can still fight, if it wants to. Start by doing what Rudd should have done in 2007 — order a Royal Commission into our adventure in Iraq. Instead of putting up with soft news stories about John Howard’s honorary doctorate, get him in front of a judge, to try and justify his betrayal of our nation and our troops.

The ALP  under Simon Crean opposed that betrayal. Because somewhere, tucked away, was a sense of right and wrong. It did little good in 2004, but neither did “pandering” to “aspirationals”.

Kate Olivieri writes: It’s a tired lament, but I’m going to say it again. Could we skip the gendered commentary in debates over Labor leadership?

I’m not disputing Walladge’s arguments in the main. But to dismiss all the Labor MPs who happen to be female just because it would be too much like “Gillard 2.0” … I mean … words are STILL failing me.

Would we ever say that of a male politician? Isn’t Tony Abbott just trying to be John Howard 2.0? You know, because John Howard is a man, and Tony Abbott is a man, so they’re practically the same person? No? Well, neither are Nicola Roxon, Penny Wong or Tanya Plibersek Julia Gillard.

Walladge then went on to suggest — wink wink, nudge nudge — that Stephen Smith would be appealing to the ladies (I suppose that’s kind of a role reversal though — mildly objectifying Smith) but that’s kind of suggesting women are voting with something other than their brains. Not particularly flattering to female voters of Australia.

Finally, Smith is promoted as a good choice because he follows the stereotypical life script of “wife and kids” — because that is oh so important for being an MP. Unlike another unmarried, childless, “female” MP we could mention.

Feel free to come back at me with such original responses as “this is the way things are” and “this is what people will respond to” — I have this ridiculous belief that people could debate the merits of a leadership change, and/or get behind a new leader, for the Labor Party by looking at MPs’ leadership, communication and general political skills, rather than their family structure and their g-nitals.

Richard Barlow writes:  It seems people like Luke Walladge believe that Labor Governments would be in power forever as long as they did not do anything.

The frustration for many Labor sympathizers is that Gillard has delivered good government and policy but crap politics.

Inflation, interest rates, debt, unemployment all low. Growth reasonable. Budget in balance. Major reforms in workplace laws, health, education, aged care, disability. World leading policies in carbon reduction and broadband communications. Tax reform including income tax cuts. Over 250 laws passed in a hung parliament.

Then the politics, knifing Kevin, Craig Thomson, Peter Slipper, and a seeming inability to cut through.

It drives me nuts.

By the way, Greg Combet has more political and ministerial experience than Bob Hawke had when he became PM. He also showed he could run a smart campaign at the ACTU, is something of a Mr Fixit for the government, and is a plain talker.

All the way with Greg Combet?

Gerri Allan writes: The Crikey article today by Luke Walladge does little to further fair and honest debate about our current political situation vis a vis Julia Gillard as PM.  The byline says it all “Luke Walladge – Long time ALP member, former staffer and campaigner…” i.e., same old, same old thinking. We don’t need more of the same — interminable, doom-prophesying verbiage from sources imprisoned by past experience (and maybe trying thereby to re-brand uncomfortable memories or failures from their past?).

This is a hung parliament, and no longer the traditional, historical, big-majority party rule fought out between the two majors. These could be times for exciting and innovative change, for appreciating brinkmanship, for getting into the political game with a sense of altruism as well as pragmatism … not about hankering back to high percentages of primary votes, seat counts and two-party-preferreds.

Our current political balance, however precarious, is similar to many other world parliaments. Get over the past, Walladge, and start trying to think challengingly and co-operatively about how things could work better in and because of a hung parliament! Maybe it’s not Gillard who is the “unmitigated disaster”. And not all the press gallery writes her off as such.

Who’s doing the trashing? It sure isn’t Julia Gillard — well, not principally and not continuously. All the badge-wearing commentators combining with avowed negativists in the media are making a fair fist of it with no other help needed. I’m so sick of the constant, points-scoring, navel-gazing negativity and criticism — aimed much of the time at the person of Gillard! (This doesn’t include those genuine journalists who focus on working the topic rather than the person.)

No wonder Abbott feels free to constantly repeat his own, similarly-nauseating mantras to shore up his desire to appear as a credible alternative to the ALP. And Walladge thinks that Gillard is ‘trashing the careers of good men and women, forced to support her, and looking foolish’: well, one has to be powerful, or one’s opposition very weak, to manage that single-handed!

Then, the statement that “her colleagues no longer trust her judgment”: a bit over the top, don’t you think, to make that an all-inclusive statement … or does he get his input only from the rumour-mongers and those feeling disenfranchised — seemingly willing to white-ant the legitimate authority but unwilling to engage in open debate about their avowed points of difference … or perhaps not even having any credible alternative policies other than some short-sighted and/or self-serving, ultra-nationalistic & ultra-materialistic economic mores?

Mr Walladge, I resent your asserting that you speak for the general public as a whole. You don’t — any more than I do. And as you would surmise in your own regard, I have many friends who would write in a similar fashion to what I’ve expressed above.

David Edmunds writes: If Labor listens to the views of Luke Walladge it deserves to go.

Across the western world governments of all persuasions are changing, that is what happens in uncertain economic times.

It is ridiculous to suggest that the people who voted strongly for an ETS in 2007 are actually really concerned that carbon tax of $23 per ton is too high. Most of us have no idea of whether that is the case or not.  Those of use with some interest in the issue do know that the impost on trade-exposed industries is very much smaller than that, but that fact is rarely reported.

Much of what Mr Walladge says comes straight from Mr Abbott. The idea that the Labor Party has somehow lost its way is simply weak-minded acceptance of the commentary of its critics, most of whom would remain critics no matter what the government did. The steady stream of solid social democratic legislation hardly indicates a government that does not know where it is going.

The criticism of Julia Gillard because she wants to continue governing is simply ridiculous. It suggests that somehow we would be better off with a prime minister who doesn’t want to govern. It is axiomatic that anyone who achieves the role of prime minister is ambitious.

This government has got into trouble more for listening to criticism than it has from sticking to its policies, for example, the change to the MRRT and the delay of the carbon tax.

Most of the policies that have been released by the Labor government have been overwhelmingly popular, for example, the mental health support and the NDIS, and belatedly the NBN. However, in this climate, it makes little difference, particularly as people like Mr Walladge are prepared to back the Tony Abbott line.

The idea that Labor has been captured is also ridiculous. The first post-war success of the Labor Party in 1972 was not due to a return to old-fashioned policies such as a white Australia and the death penalty, both popular policies in the electorate, but the acceptance that Australia needs genuine forward-thinking leadership, something not offered under either the Liberals or the Labor Party of Arthur Calwell.  This is the third tumultuous period of Labor government since the 1949 election loss, and it is these three terms of government that have defined modern prosperous Australia. This is now where Labor must stand, and it is clearly the vision of those currently in power.

If the Labor government loses the next election it will be due to three factors, the difficulty of the economic climate, appalling media commentary and the weak-willed whining from people who ought to be supporting it, but instead kowtow to any interest group or perceived populist tendency.

Labor’s best hope is to continue rolling out good policy. A change of leader will not solve anything. If the government loses the 2013 election, it is better to lose it with a record of solid forward-thinking policy.

ALP member Brian Mitchell writes: Re. “Media briefs: Fairfax papers found … Morris kicks out … Nine does its Block …” (yesterday, item 16). David Donovan’s absolutely devastating article about media bias on the Independent Australia website will come as no surprise to Labor people: corporate media in Australia has it in for Labor and it isn’t shy about it.

A view has formed in the wider community that Labor is incompetent and untrustworthy whereas the Coalition is a bastion of stability and good sense. But the objective facts don’t match the perception.

If Labor is so incompetent how is the Australian economy the best in the world? How can it possibly be progressing legislation through a hung House of Representatives and a Senate where the balance of power is held by the Greens?

How can it be forging ahead with the NBN, the NDIS, equal pay for low-paid women, a mining tax and a polluter-pays carbon price?

Corporate media — News Limited is the worst but is not alone — leaps on the smallest Labor indiscretion as evidence of abysmal government, while completely ignoring myriad Coalition embarrassments (e.g., Morris’ terrible statement about kicking the PM to death, Abbott’s likening of asylum seekers to drug runners and an almost completely ignored story earlier this year where the Defence spokesman said a Coalition government would rip up the Defence White Paper!).

Sure, Labor should be better at managing its communications but have Australian political journalists become so addicted to being fed spin that without it they are unable to write about policy in an intelligent manner? Such irony—political journalists complaining about not being fed enough good spin.

Take this week’s launch of the NDIS. There was Abbott, and in Tasmania Liberal hard man Eric Abetz, offering full support for the scheme whereas Joe Hockey was asking “where’s the money coming from”? No stories about a split in the Coalition, no yarns about how this adds to Hockey’s apparent distancing from Abbott on economic policy.

It’s gone beyond tin hat stuff. The media pack is baying and it wants Labor blood.

Martyn Smith writes: I entirely agree that the lady is unelectable. Apart from her government having good policies that the media studiously ignores, she cannot seem to take a trick, even when she was carried away from an anti-Abbott demonstration a few months ago, it all went pear shaped and she was blamed.

To me, the most eloquent and sane member of parliament at present, who articulates the government’s policies brilliantly, and whose view of Tony Abbott I share, is Tony Windsor.

I know it won’t happen but if he was drafted in and led the government I think they’d romp home.

Convergence Review:

David Salter writes: Re. “Idiot’s Guide to the Convergence Review: the principles” (yesterday, item 14). Margaret Simons asserts in her piece on the Convergence Review yesterday that I was “incorrect” to suggest that Australian Press Council chairman Julian Disney would be “unhappy” with the Convergence Review Report. I didn’t. I said he was likely to be “in a state of shock” and “probably struck dumb”. Big difference, and you might expect someone who teaches journalism to be more careful with words.

As to whether any chair of the APC would be “happy” at the prospect of their organisation becoming extinct within three years (as the Review proposes), there might be a rather large gap between what they say for public consumption and what they actually feel. But it’s all academic, anyway. The chances of any significant proposals in the Convergence Review becoming law are minuscule.

John Falconer writes: Re. “Keane: regulation revolution of the Convergence Review” (yesterday, item 1). I’m sorry. I read your opening article about the Convergence Review and was confused. I then read your “Idiots Guide” and did not understand that!

What does that make me?

A potential federal parliamentarian?

Niall Clugston writes: The main reason that it’s hard to “get a handle” on the Convergence report is that it’s smoke and mirrors. Take its loudest buzzword: convergence. The credo is that all the media is converging.

Let’s look at the media. The Fairfax newspapers and the ABC are reporting most of the news. News (Limited) is only reporting as part of a rightwing propaganda campaign which itself seems confected for commercial benefit. TV is totally vacuous, devoted to documentary game shows (known as “reality”) and reruns. To the extent that commercial radio runs news, it is derivative; otherwise it plays music, mostly old and repetitive. Magazines are retailing gossip, touched-up photos, and puffed-up fluff.

Then there’s the new media: the Internet.  Which is mostly derivative of all of the above, except that it is driven by an ignorant multitude of users rather than a clutch of unscrupulous magnates.

That’s not convergence: it’s a series of dead ends. If it was converging towards anything, it would be a collision of superficiality, derivation, and fabrication.

Owen Johnston writes: The Australian does irony like no other. In yesterday’s coverage of the Convergence Review, the front page led with two misleading and divisive comments saying that big internet companies like Google are not captured in the Review’s plans for obligations and that there is a crevasse between the report and the actual industry.

Both hare untrue and in The Australian‘s detailed coverage in the middle of the paper, the crevasse article is actually sympathetic to the aims of the report and it is revealed that Google are indeed captured in the Review’s plans for obligations, they just don’t have the audience share or Australian revenue yet.

There is another piece bemoaning the recommendation for a self regulating news standards authority. Gee, I wonder why we need one with coverage like this!

Wealth and income inequality:

Keith Thomas writes: Re. “The Occupy movement and what the future holds” (yesterday, item 13). Nigel O’Connor makes the far too common error of conflating wealth (a stock) with income (a flow).

In dealing with inequality, it plays well to target bankers and CEOs with extraordinary incomes, but the wealthy class and the institutions that support the continuation of severe inequality in Western societies (trusts, off-shore bank accounts, landholdings, assets untraceable to the individuals who benefit from them etc.) remain largely untouched.

While we leave wealth — including unearned wealth — out of consideration, rhetoric about inequality remains neutered. This looks to be deliberate; it’s certainly convenient for the establishment and their comfortable dominance.