That Julia Gillard is to speak to the Conservative Party conference this week should surely be enough to remove doubt, if any remained, that she and her government were the continuation of John Howard’s neoliberal project — after a brief outbreak of actual social democracy under Kevin Rudd and Wayne Swan.
Gillard would presumably claim that she is doing this in her role with Global Partnerships for Education. But she could have ducked it. At a time when Labour and other parties are fighting a gruelling battle to delegitimise Boris Johnson, Gillard’s willingness to lend her considerable UK prestige to him is an undesirable outcome.
Undesirable, but unremarkable. Julia Gillard’s government was a left neoliberal project that saw the final separation of industrial relations from actual workers in the creation of the Fair Work Commission, and the mass privatisation of social care under the NDIS. It did several good and social democratic/social market things as well, but they were all contained within a neoliberal, technocratic architecture.
This was a journey Gillard had been on since she left the mainstream Socialist Left for Socialist Forum in the early 1980s. The latter’s ostensible radicalism — actual communists! — disguised their technocratic, managerialist politics. From there it was simply a case of drifting with the spirit of the age, to the private market as the vehicle of “efficient choice”.
So of course Gillard would appear for the Tories, just as UK Labour has become a mass membership party with a dynamic relationship between leadership and rank and file. Like Berlusconi’s centre-right Forza Italia, behind the cover of Boris’ bluster, the Tories are full of right technocrats itching to take apart the remains of British social democracy piece by piece.
Gillard’s appearance among them, as a genuine left social democracy tries to take power, is a logical consequence of the path she took, and down which she took the ALP. Those inclined to yell at me for another anti-Labor piece might want to ask themselves where the real danger is.
The bad calls are coming from inside the house.