Sep 28, 2012

Rundle: why Tanner is wrong — and right

Lindsay Tanner's claim that the ALP stands for nothing is out. Labor's problem lies in what it does stand for.

Guy Rundle — Correspondent-at-large

Guy Rundle


Good-oh, we’re talking about the Labor Party again. “Leave the poor old Labor party alone,” said Bob Carr, as the latest contribution to the “what’s wrong with Labor” discussion was revived by pre-publicity for Lindsay Tanner’s forthcoming collection of essays. Yes, why indeed would we want to discuss the fate, direction and composition of a party that, five years ago, after a decade of solid defeat and confusion, controlled practically all the governments of Australia, and is now on track to control next to none of them.

Nothing to say about a party that alone of all the OECD governments in the world managed to avoid recession, yet has not been able to claim such success, or reap any benefit from it. Nothing to say about a party so devoid of a guiding idea in the 21st century that its heart is a vacuum, to be filled by leaders with ideas aplenty — Rudd, Latham — but lacking crucial and basic leadership qualities, or by the dutiful sons of past Labor grandees, or by the current incumbent — a decent enough and somewhat unfairly maligned person who nevertheless lacks the ability to set an agenda. Yep, nothing to see here.

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17 thoughts on “Rundle: why Tanner is wrong — and right

  1. paddy

    One of your better pieces Guy.
    Written in (almost) plain text English no less. Bravo.

  2. garydj

    “Labor does stand for something at the moment, but what it stands for is an explicitly minimal programme, of leaving the central process of Australian society and culture unquestioned, while introducing piecemeal reforms which cut with the grain of a giddily prosperous society.”
    Thanks, Guy. A perfect summation of the timidity of the
    Labor Party.

  3. joanjett

    I really enjoyed this article. In my opinion it is the lack of this conversation which has once-labor supporters flocking to the Greens. I count myself as one of them. Don’t let a dud result in the local elections fool you, they are here to stay. Particularly if they continue to encroach on Labor’s traditional territory. Fact is, quite a few people woke up to the fact quite a while ago that continuing to not factor in the environment, and the unrelenting need for economic expansion may neither be attainable or even desirable for our future. Well, those of us with kids anyway….

  4. zut alors

    ‘… to quote Sun Tzu (Cabramatta branch)…’

    There’s bad news around today but Mr Rundle has managed to elicit a chuckle.

  5. moonkid

    Spot on, Guy. I will also be voting for the Greens (at least) until the Labor party starts approaching policy in this way.

  6. Paul

    This article paints a picture of an out of touch political collective.
    But what are they out of touch with and how could they get in touch with a country
    That is more racist than 10 years ago but refuses to admit to it
    Is greedy beyond belief
    Believes that everyone else owes only them a living
    Wants everything that governments can give but wish to pay no tax
    Wants a free market until that fails then want to government to bail them out
    Believe that the poor, indigenous or refugees are illegitimate and unworthy of any support while demanding huge levels of social payments
    Think it is OK for people with 2 homes, 3 cars a boat and an income of $150000 to pay no tax because they are both rich and old
    The list goes on and on and on and on
    We then condemn them for giving us what we demand.
    I was a green voter for 20+ years, sadly they are now relying on middle class, racist hypocrites (ie Torys who have a slight pang of conscience)to ensure their election.
    So how does Labour appeal to those (expletives deleted) that we call Australians. The bottom line is they can’t, which is why they do what they are doing.
    Australia has to rediscover it’s humanity and sense of common decency and that is the responsibility of each and every one of us, it cannot be created by governments. Until that happens Labour can do little to appeal to us and can only hope to hang in until we create a kinder, fairer more progressive society.
    That is why I now vote Labour because for better or worse they are the only alternatives in the foreseeable future, and as such have to survive.
    For those who say the Greens will replace them, well look at the Greens in Tasmania or the Lib Dems in the UK. Circumstances of being in government means that they have to make the same hard decisions as do Labour.
    It is time we stopped blaming everyone else and started changing ourselves.
    Apologies for the length of this venting

  7. tinman_au

    Excellent article Guy, you nailed it.

    And I couldn’t agree more Joan, unlimited growth is how a virus lives, you’d think the most intelligent species on the plant could see how that works out…

  8. JMNO

    Ferguson and Emerson seem to be in the wrong political party. Ferguson strikes me as being the industrial revolution era black-and-white unionist who now sees his class enemy as being anyone who opposed untrammeled mineral development, aka, in his words ‘greenies’.

    Do you think that Labor might be bolder if they had a majority in the parliament?

  9. Pedantic, Balwyn

    Very insightful article Guy, one of your best this year.
    However, it can also be argued that other significant factors have lead Labor into a desert that evaporates popular support.
    The first is that Howard’s tenure at the Lodge is fondly remembered, because like the golden summers of years ago our minds shut out the flies, drought, heat exhaustion etc. and view them through rose-coloured glasses. Howard enjoyed rivers of gold flowing into his exchequer, and always the political master, wastefully and wantonly distributed those riches through handouts and pork-barreling that had little long term benefit, but created a sense of entitlement at both individual and community level.
    Secondly Labor came to power and ran into a financial crisis that they skilfully managed to combat. However, few understood the impact of that crisis; or that there was even a crisis, what’s a sub-prime loan anyway? Many voters only saw incompetency in job creation programs, moreover they gave little or no credit for overcoming something that happened overseas anyway, nothing to do with us.
    At this point Labor lost massive credibility by deposing Rudd, compounding its woes through insider leaks, and Gillard’s broken promise. These are issues of substance, but the Opposition and a mostly partisan media have amplified and repeated them incessantly to paint the Government into a corner.
    The outcome is that despite a strong case for economic competency by Labor the country’s sense of Howard style entitlement is unfulfilled, feeding resentment.
    Labor can also mount a strong case for reform and innovation. Yet here too the prevailing, though manufactured, view of untrustworthiness prejudices the potential for commending Labor.
    Sadly, though Abbott has little to offer, and his ministry is likely to prove narrow minded and inept, a change of government may be the catalyst to raise the moral of the country.

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