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Faulkner calls for today's activists to remain today's activists
June 9, 2011 8:10 PM   Subscribe

Senator John Faulkner has just delivered the 2011 Wran Lecture, where he damned the party machinations and career motivations that hinder community engagement in Australian politics. Senator Faulkner represents the honest, the old-school and the fiercely idealistic face of the Australian Labor Party. In his 2011 Wran Lecture, Falkner challenges his own party to respond to the decline in political party memberships and the rise of non-partisan community groups such as GetUp!, by engaging communities in politics and respecting the contributions of grassroots activists. This comes after the recent publication of the 2010 review conducted by Faulkner, Steve Bracks (former Victorian State Premier), and Bob Carr (former NSW State Premier): a roadmap to reforming Labor. Responses to the Wran Lecture are, predictably, mixed. (Incidentally, Faulkner has a bit of a fan-club thanks to his determination to retain his preferred choice of eye-wear throughout the decades.)
posted by Alice Russel-Wallace (44 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Not enough community engagement? It took a week for environmental activists to engage the community, convince the government to ban live cattle exports and cost Australian farmers (and probably tax payers) billions of dollars. All based on one TV show.

A bit too much community engagement sometimes, as long as it involves animals.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 8:36 PM on June 9, 2011


(Incidentally, Faulkner has a bit of a fan-club thanks to his determination to retain his preferred choice of eye-wear throughout the decades.)

Please say it's a monocle. Please say it's a monocle!

Spoiler: It is not a monocle. Sigh.
posted by maryr at 8:52 PM on June 9, 2011 [6 favorites]


Not enough community engagement? It took a week for environmental activists to engage the community, convince the government to ban live cattle exports

I think you're confusing the government with the party. Were the environmental activists in question part of a local ALP branch? Did the message to change the policy filter up from widespread debate with local branch meetings? No, of course not. The actual structure of the Party was completely bypassed in the decision making process. The government just changed its policy based on TV and polls. That's what Faulkner is arguing *against*. From his actual speech:

Our structures must reflect the ways Australians of today engage with politics and community – not the way their great-grandparents did. Attendance of the local branch is no longer a key indicator of an individual’s commitment or contribution. Party engagement must not be, as it is now, an arid plain of tedium across which we require people to trek to prove their devotion before declaring them ‘worthy’ of having a say.

This culture of inclusion must also take in our many millions of supporters. Without them, Labor has no future. But they have no way to be involved with, or support, Labor outside of an election. We must include them in the development of our Party and encourage their more active involvement in the Party. We should broaden our policy processes to allow more voices to be heard, and we should include supporters in candidate selection in local areas.


In other words, the structure of the Party needs to change to reflect the views of the community better. He's arguing that activists, be they environmental activists or advocates for other factions, need to brought into the fold, integrated into the structure of the Party at a low level. He wants them to be inside the ALP shaping party policy, not outside it yelling at the government.

Whether that's a good idea or not is debatable (personally, I like it), but the live cattle export thing is a total red herring, and largely irrelevant to what Faulkner is actually arguing for.
posted by mixing at 9:10 PM on June 9, 2011 [9 favorites]


Thank you for this interesting post. Shame about the derail.
posted by pompomtom at 9:20 PM on June 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


The problem is not so much the Labor brand as opposed to community sentiment towards politics and politicians more generally.

Federally, right now, there's a lot of talk about how the Gillard Labor Government is in trouble. I think that perception is right, but they're also not really in danger of losing the next election because they're in the same boat as Tony Abbott's Opposition. Allow me to elaborate.

For those who don't know, Julia Gillard, Australia's first female Prime Minister, is leader of the Australian Labor Party (think The Democrats in the US). She's from the left of the Party, meaning that she should, theoretically, be all in favour of stuff like gay marriage and all the usual stuff that lefties are typically in favour of. As Australia suffered under the cruel yoke of Prime Minister John Howard (a very right wing politician who was a great friend of George W. Bush) from 1996 to 2007, it was clear to most that one day, when Labor was back in power, Julia Gillard would be PM material. When Labor won under Kevin Rudd, I always assumed he'd be in for 10 years, retire, and Gillard would take over. I assumed when that day came, it would be as close to an Australian Rennaisance as you could get.

Of course, Rudd lasted nowhere near 10 years, being knifed in the back by Gillard in 2010. I wasn't keen on this, and I'm a Labor man myself. I thought Rudd, despite being John Howard-lite, deserved better. He was the man who delivered the apology to the Stolen Generations, delivered the biggest health reforms in generations and got us through the GFC virtually unscathed. "Still" I said "Gillard will make a great PM."

But she hasn't been, and it pains me to say it. And the reason for that is the Julia Gillard we know as PM now is not the same Julia Gillard who was once our Deputy PM and, before that, a mere Opposition backbencher. The Gillard we see now is one who is told by her advisors what she should say and think and do. This is why you have a left wing PM saying no to stuff like gay marriage, which you just know she's got to be in favour of.

Anyone who watches The West Wing will remember an early episode where Leo decides to "Let Bartlett be Bartlett." Gillard's advisors would do well to watch that episode and take note.

In some respects I can see why she's playing it safe and avoiding controversy. Following the 2010 election, Australia has a hung Parliament, meaning one Ministerial resignation could lead to a change in Government. But frankly, she's doing it wrong.

I did my Honours thesis on why another Australian politicians, Queensland Premier Peter Beattie, won such huge majorities in the Queensland State elections of 2001 and 2004. I did a whole tonne of research and came to the conclusion that people respect when a politician will take on his own side, punish the wrong-doers and take action on aissue to fix it. In Beattie's case, at both the 2001 election and the 2004 election there were some pretty major issues of corruption facing politicians in his own team. In both cases, he stood up, said "fuck those guys", gave them the boot and fixed the problem quickly. He did so before the Murdoch rags had a chance to demand that he do so and before there was any chance of a perception to grow in the public's mind that he was only doing this because he was under pressure to do so. And he was rewarded for doing so.

People respond well to a politician who takes up the fight, or who takes an issue they believe in and argues passionately for it. In that respect you have to give John Howard his dues. He's a loathsome man in every other way but when he wanted something he fought for it. Waterfront reforms, gun reforms, the GST. He didn't shy away from these things despite the immense vitriol he copped for them. And he delivered on all of these fronts and, sadly, he won three successive elections quite comfortably.*

At the moment, Tony Abbott, leader of the Opposition (and former Howard Government Minister) is doing much the same as Gillard is doing; that is, doing what his advisors tell him to do. It helps that much of what they tell him to do is loathsome, and that he himself is loathsome, so it probably dosen't tear very much at whatever remnants of his soul remain for him to say and do the things he says and does. But when, for example, he says in 2007 that he's for a tax on carbon, and then opposes it in 2011 just to be obstructionist, people pick up on that. They think he's just as bad as Gillard, if not worse. And he's being obstructionist in everything he does, opposing for oppositions sake. What he seems to miss is that the Opposition leaders who become PM are those who would often support the Government when it was the right thing to do. He believes in a carbon tax... he should support it. But he won't because like everything else, he thinks he can fuck Gillard over with an issue that people don't completely understand.

That's why Gillard and Labor, despite the poor standings in the Murdoch run opinion polls, aren't in huge danger of losing in 2012. But the more each side panders to what they believe the public wants to hear (as interpreted through their own political prisms), the more likely people will just throw up their hands and say "ENOUGH!" So while Gillard and Abbott argue about things such as where we should send asylum seekers to be punished for wanting a better life, about how much money we're prepared to spend to stop the planet from boiling and just how evil The Greens are, people will switch off their brains and disngage from the process... which is the exact opposite of what should be happening, and is the real problem not really spoken of by Faulkner in his otherwise fine speech.

So Faulkner, much as I love the guy, has made some points in his speech, but as I said earlier, the problem isn't brand Labor, it's brand Politicians. People are sick of politicians who do and say what they think people want to see and hear.

Julia Gillard needs to stop listening to her advisors and do what she feels is right. She talked about "the real Julia" at the 2010 election and she needs to be the real Julia to win the next one. Infact, whoever is the first to do what they feel is right, be it Julia or Tony, whoever takes up the fight for the issues they believe in and shows real conviction, is the one who'll win. If they keep going as they are, another hung Parliament is likely. The only thing that may change is which one of the two parties is governing by a slender margin.

And we, the people, will be all the poorer for it, because the real change that should be happening should be the reforms being made to our society to help prepare us all for the future.

Yeah yeah, we all know Tampa and September 11 saved his arse in 2001, but still.
posted by Effigy2000 at 9:33 PM on June 9, 2011 [14 favorites]


Anyone who watches The West Wing will remember an early episode where Leo decides to "Let Bartlett be Bartlett." Gillard's advisors would do well to watch that episode and take note.

Sadly, they had their "Let Gillard be Gillard" moment during the campaign, but even then it was a stage-managed attempt to recreate a strategy used on a fictional campaign. That's how we ended up with "The Real Julia".

You can't fake sincerity.
posted by robcorr at 9:39 PM on June 9, 2011


The Australian Labor Party is nothing but a bunch of competing factional machines and always has been. In fact their endless infighting was far more brutal in the 1970s and 1980s - as Faulkner admitted in his speech. The now ousted Kevin Rudd, beloved of Metafilter at the time, went overboard in trying to stamp it out to the extent that he became notorious for stifling any semblance of internal debate. This indeed was the major reason Saint Kevin suddenly found he had no support whatsoever in his party when suddenly challenged by the otherwise useless Julia Gillard. With the old Union and working class bastions of Labor in long term structural decline, Faulkner wants to harness the enthusiasm and energy (e.g. free labour during election campaigns) of single issue activists but getting them on board the Labor Party is easier said than done. The Unions won't stand for a bunch of unwashed greenies clamping down on mining and logging, for example. Every political party in the free world tries to do this, it's nothing new and they seldom succeed, but he's right that Labor is stuffed in the long term without a new injection of energy. The traditional power brokers will never cede control to the kids though, they just want them in line for long enough to help swing the next election.
posted by joannemullen at 9:42 PM on June 9, 2011


I dunno why people make such a big noise about Julia Gillard being Australia's first female Prime Minister. We haven't had a Prime Minister with balls since Paul Keating in 1996.
posted by tumid dahlia at 9:45 PM on June 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


Anyone who watches The West Wing will remember an early episode where Leo decides to "Let Bartlett be Bartlett." Gillard's advisors would do well to watch that episode and take note.

There was a question on Q & A where someone basically asked 'why can't you guys be more like The West Wing?'
Seemed a bit bizarre.

Anyway, Labour's problem is that they are censors. And they buy into the 'stop the boats' mentality.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 9:48 PM on June 9, 2011


Anyway, Labour's problem is that they are censors.

1) It's "Labor".
2) A crucial issue in the clueless-can-barely-understand-the-parliamentary-system demographic.
posted by pompomtom at 9:55 PM on June 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Keating Insults Page.
posted by tumid dahlia at 9:56 PM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


It is worth noting that Faulkner is providing constructive criticism on the culture of the Australian Labor Party, which is distinct from and larger than the Australian Government. For example, see the following exerpts from Faulkner's Wran Lecture:

Once, our test for whether or not our policies met the expectations of the community was Conference. The arguments on Conference floor when they didn’t were audible – blocks away. At Labor's last National Conference, not a single contested measure was put to a vote on the Conference floor. This is seen by some to be a triumph of Party management. Dissent is contained behind closed doors. All potential embarrassment is avoided. I see it rather as a symptom of the anaemia that is draining the life from the Australian Labor Party – an apparent aversion to the unpredictability of democracy...

... Our changes in policy and direction seem arbitrary and startling. Our own members, our supporters and the broader community are blindsided when hotly contested internal debates become public only after their resolution and when, apparently, there is unanimous agreement. Even factional meetings, for a time the home of that vigorous debate no longer welcome in broader Party forums, have fallen victim to the same disease.

posted by Alice Russel-Wallace at 9:58 PM on June 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


The thing is, Faulkner is and always has been, a veritable dolt. That's not as much of a black mark against the fellow when one considers that there is a dearth of political talent (in either major party if truth be known) at both state and federal levels across this country. Our parliaments are peopled by imbeciles who lack both vision and the ability to articulate a position in any cohesive or persuasive fashion. I can't even read all of Faulkner's speech (oh I skimmed and got the gist) because I keep hearing his droning voice in my head and all those bloody "ladies and gentelmen" emphasis points. He inspires me to .. have a little lie down, or maybe not even that. I really just don't care what he thinks about the Labor status at present against its history. Maybe if it was Wran or Carr or Beazley or a whole bunch of smart pollies who used to inhabit our parliaments and newspapers, then maybe I'd be inspired to give a shit, but there aren't the people of substance and intelligence around to muster any motivation to protest about focus groups modelling and the polysuch. Fuck 'em.
posted by peacay at 10:45 PM on June 9, 2011


Its a nice speech and all but I can't get past the idea of someone railing against ALP powerbrokers in a lecture named for Neville Wran. The old boys from the NSW Right had to be laughing at that.
posted by N-stoff at 10:52 PM on June 9, 2011


Australia has a hung Parliament, meaning one Ministerial resignation could lead to a change in Government

How do you figure that? If, to pick one at random, Penny Wong were to resign, she'd still be a Labor backbencher and the numbers in Parliament wouldn't change. Did you mean the loss of one government MP? I also think you're wrong about Gillard. The more she talks about it the more it seems she really is against gay marriage, in fact I'm beginning to wonder what her view on refugees is.

On topic though, the gist of what you are saying is what I take to be Faulkner's point.

Authenticity has, I believe, come to be valued more by the citizens of our democracy than the appearance of harmony. And, from a purely practical standpoint, with the increased interactivity of communications, there are more and more opportunities for pre-planned communication strategies to be exposed, and their hollowness revealed. Staying ‘on message’ is no longer enough. Our Party and those who represent it must engage intelligently with ‘the message’.

Be more like Beattie, in other words. (Though didn't his polling plummet just before he handed over to Bligh?).

How does he think this will get done though? The current factional overlords will never allow it. He's also wrong to suggest that we can't have professional political parties or that the idea of a career in politics is part of the problem. The Olympic Games are for professionals, rugby union is professional, academia is devoid of the Joseph Banks types; the day of the enthusiastic amateur is over. The traditional route into Labor politics is collapsing along with trade union membership, so how else does he think the party is going to support itself? There are lots of complaints there, but no real solutions.

It will be interesting to see what Conference does with the review, but I'm not holding my breath. (The "recent publication" link is broken by the way).
posted by GeckoDundee at 10:56 PM on June 9, 2011


I don;t know anything about his politics but those glasses are pretty tight.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:57 PM on June 9, 2011


People don't understand that parties are creatures of legislative procedure, not entities designed to make one feel good at the end of the night when one watches the news. Politics is too much soap opera/sport and not enough policy.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:09 PM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


What major party has stayed more true to its roots? Compare the parties and their ideologies of 60 years ago.

The Labor party is a joke in that respect. It may as well be called the "once voted in we'll do the same thing, but at least we're not dem guys" party.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 11:17 PM on June 9, 2011


Ironmouth, since last year's election there's been a lot of commentary in the Aussie blogosphere and Twitter about how journalists are complicit in reporting on politics as if it's a horse-race. Ex-Minister Lindsay Tanner even wrote a book about it. The journalists blamed this on everyone but themselves. My own opinion is that the Australian public would much prefer policy and analysis of policy that's actually relevant to their lives instead of constant, exhaustive reporting on what the polls say this week.

Faulkner raises some good points: politicians are happy to listen to what the journalists tell them about what the public thinks, but since the journalists aren't really speaking for the public all they're getting is shallow horse-race "how does this look?" feedback. The public is out there and able to be directly contacted via Facebook or Twitter (or, heaven forbid, inviting them to your office). But politicians are terrified of the internet, which to me looks like partly an age-range thing and partly a fear of actual live democracy.

peacay, what's Faulkner done to make you call him a dolt? I like Beazley, but he was pretty ineffective as Opposition Leader. I'm not full bottle on Wran and Carr.

I don't think Gillard is all that lefty - she may have been at one point, but there's not much evidence of it lately. There was an article recently (at The Drum? maybe) about how opposition to gay marriage in Australia is largely correlated with age. At 49, Gillard is nowhere near claiming a pension, but she's not a spring chicken either - perhaps her opposition is generational rather than political.
posted by harriet vane at 11:24 PM on June 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


It took a week for environmental activists to engage the community, convince the government to ban live cattle exports and cost Australian farmers (and probably tax payers) billions of dollars.

The entire live export industry is only worth three hundred million dollars. Facts - not just for for funsies.
posted by smoke at 11:26 PM on June 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


--peacay, what's Faulkner done to make you call him a dolt?--
Oh just his regular ponderousness I suppose. Maybe I'm a tad harsh, but I've never warmed to him. He strikes me as 2 steps behind in a conversation. I'm a slut for intelligence and, although the Beazleys, Wrans and Carrs of this world may have their faults, it's not lack of brain power and policy vision. But as I say, I'm just not so interested in Oz politics these days; such a disappointing bunch.
posted by peacay at 11:50 PM on June 9, 2011


"I'm a slut for intelligence and, although the Beazleys, Wrans and Carrs of this world may have their faults, it's not lack of brain power and policy vision."

Well, the real difference there is that Beasley was very smart and quite quick, Wran and Carr were quite smart and very quick (Beattie was merely smart and very quick), while Faulkner is very smart and quite considered. Not so much an issue except for a culture that wants a quick decisive retort or response - people have been conditioned to want to see their leaders as decisive, and right or wrong only come into it later when the ramifications start to come in.

FWIW, I'm a big fan of people that seem to be "2 steps behind in a conversation", as you put it - they're the ones who'll quietly pop up with "hang on - a little while ago you said X, and went on to say it leads to Y - doesn't it also potentially lead to Z, which also suggests N is a factor?", and lead you in all sorts of interesting directions.

But popular political discourse in Australia is stifled by the fact that there's really only 1½ media outlets in the country, with the ½ increasingly taking its lead from the 1, leading to "issue of the week" spot 'discussions' about as deep as Lake Eyre during a drought…

Beasley, Fisher, and Fraser ought to get together and do a weekly TV show, a la "The View"/ "The Circle", with a political bent. That'd be a ripper.

(And yes, Q&A is mostly an example of that. Ah, Q&A, where the tweets are more interesting and less artificial than the questions…)
posted by Pinback at 12:24 AM on June 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


Is there a really good book about postwar Australian politics, especially the Hawke-Keating era? I'm going to be in the country for a few days next month and it'd be great to pick up a giant brick to read on the plane home.
posted by No-sword at 12:28 AM on June 10, 2011


No-sword: it's a heavy tome, and focused mainly on the Keating years, but Recollections of a bleeding heart is, IMHO, one of the best books ever written on Australian Politics. It gives a lot of insight into the politics of the era. (The author was Keating's speechwriter.)
posted by damonism at 1:02 AM on June 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Dear dear. The lecture, the post, and almost all the comments, fail to point out where the real home of positive Australian idealism is. The Greens. Not anywhere in Labor.
posted by imperium at 1:04 AM on June 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Pinback, I'm talking of intellectual heft and speed of processing and not so much response speed. Sure, deep thinkers come at things with big thoughts more slowly than the back 'n forth of daily politics. It really comes down to my personal assessment of Faulkner. He doesn't impress me and he never has. It's got nothing to do with the so-called culture that you characterise as wanting swift retorts. It's probably more along the lines of charisma black hole on which I project snark against his intellect. *shrug* He can take it.
posted by peacay at 1:09 AM on June 10, 2011


Thanks damonism, you've saved me an AskMe!
posted by No-sword at 1:15 AM on June 10, 2011


Dear dear. The lecture, the post, and almost all the comments, fail to point out where the real home of positive Australian idealism is. The Greens.

Ah yes. The Greens.

Their incessant pro-homosexual lobbying. Very green, that.

And open borders for all unauthorised boat arrivals. That'll do wonders for the environment, and such a system would never get gamed by the Asian mafia.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 1:38 AM on June 10, 2011


Their incessant pro-homosexual lobbying. Very green, that.

Erm... What? The Greens are stuck between a rock and a hard place it seems. If they campaign on environmental issues, we're told "See! They're just a single issue party, don't bother voting for them, they'll never be able to govern!". If they campaign on non-environmental issues, then people tell them to go back to saving the forests. They can't win, apparently.

And open borders for all unauthorised boat arrivals. That'll do wonders for the environment, and such a system would never get gamed by the Asian mafia.

Honey, you've been reading The Australian a little too much. 6-month old copies of the Australian. The Greens' immigrations spokesperson, Sarah Hanson-Young, stated months ago, back when The Oz was pushing lies like this, that the Greens support the deportation of those asylum seekers who are found not to be genuine refugees.

This is Metafilter, not the Steve Price show.
posted by Jimbob at 1:50 AM on June 10, 2011 [6 favorites]


Stop the boats!
posted by uncanny hengeman at 1:54 AM on June 10, 2011


"I'm talking of intellectual heft and speed of processing and not so much response speed."

As was I, at least in the first half of my comment. I happen to think he's got more going on in there than many give him credit for, but maybe I've read read more Estimates committee reports in Hansard than is good for me. Certainly, I think the Senate is more hospitable to deep slow thinkers (apart from a few counterexamples that grab the limelight) than Reps.

The second half was more a general comment alongside the theme of the post. Interestingly, I just listened to a podcast on the way home about representative democracy in Australia which largely disagrees with that part of my comment. I thought the podcast was a little starry-eyed and optimistic ;-)
posted by Pinback at 1:57 AM on June 10, 2011


"Dear dear. The lecture, the post, and almost all the comments, fail to point out where the real home of positive Australian idealism is. The Greens. Not anywhere in Labor".
posted by imperium at 7:04 PM on June 1

Bah. I used to respect Bob Brown, until he accepted QLD Labor MP Ronan Lee into the fold.

Ronan Lee is the very polar opposite of what the Greens are about. I don't believe he ever said so publicly, but it is well known in QLD politics that Ronan was vehemently pro-life and anti gay rights. Yeah, he was pro-environment, but everything else he believed in was the polar opposite of what The Greens as a party are supposed to believe in.

So there's Bob Brown, standing atop Mt Coot-tha in Brisbane, welcoming Ronan Lee into the party. There's no nice way to say it; Bob sold out all his ideals to get an elected MP for free in the QLD Parliament. Either that, or he didn't do due diligence in vetting him as a Green MP. Either way, it was poor form on Brown's part.

At the end of the day, it showed that Brown is just like any other politician, and not some darling of conviction and left wing idealism.
posted by Effigy2000 at 2:19 AM on June 10, 2011


I think the Senate is more hospitable to deep slow thinkers (apart from a few counterexamples that grab the limelight) than Reps.

Surely you can't mean... Barnaby Joyce?

And uncanny, surely you realise that pro-homosexual lobbying will lead to gay marriage, which leads to a reduction in population which is of course part of the Green Agenda.
posted by harriet vane at 2:19 AM on June 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


harriet vane for the win! Yeah, I've seen that episode of South Park where the menfolk became "fags" to save the world from its overpopulated future. The fact that they thought it necessary to consummate their great idea with a continuous outdoor mass orgy was comedy gold.

Yeah, he was pro-environment, but everything else he believed in was the polar opposite of what The Greens as a party are supposed to believe in.

The fah, Effigy2000? I like my political parties to do what it says on the pack.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 2:29 AM on June 10, 2011


It's remarkable to see that anyone thinks that the ALP will win the next election.

It is possible, but betwen dismal poll ratings from Roy Morgan and all the polling organisations, only one of which is Murdoch owned, introducing a new tax/charge or whatever and effectively having to pick up seats to win it's more than a big ask. The betting odds, which are a very useful predictor for electoral outcomes are also against the ALP.

Just as Workchoices was a major factor in the end of the Howard government a surprise, reasonably unpopular reform is very likely to end the Gillard government.

The State governments largely being led by the coaltion might help, but it probably won't help the ALP enough to get over their problems.

The ALP could probably have won a double dissolution election on the ETS in 2010. In 2012 or whenever the election is held the chances are that they will are slim.
posted by sien at 4:19 AM on June 10, 2011


Erm... What? The Greens are stuck between a rock and a hard place it seems. If they campaign on environmental issues, we're told "See! They're just a single issue party, don't bother voting for them, they'll never be able to govern!". If they campaign on non-environmental issues, then people tell them to go back to saving the forests. They can't win, apparently.

Such are the perils of starting as a one issue party, going so far as to name yourself after the very issue in order to find a spot in the political spectrum.

This is exactly why this doesn't work for political parties in a democratic system once they get into a legislature. The day-to-day job of a political party is to provide organization for a group of like-minded representatives in a legislature. It allows them to control procedure and to wield policy power.

But the voters, saturated by advertising urging them to adopt a self-identity, demand that a political party service that identity. This is at odds with the purpose of the party, which is legislative. So people become disillusioned when the party doesn't seem to be servicing that identity quickly enough or makes a tactical decision which doesn't serve the identity at all.

Hence you get the situation above when the pro-life Labour warhorse is invited to join the Greens, simply to obtain another vote in the legislature.

And you see the same thing in the US--where the GOP is completely forced to go through a series of white-knuckle confrontations on deadlines regarding funding the government just so that its near-insane base does not see it as no longer servicing its identity needs, or where the Dem president, who came into office on the greatest political identity branding effort ever, is savaged by many in his party for failing to service their self-identity, despite having publically promised the opposite on most of the issues they are angry with him about and having instead fuflilled his actual campaign promises serially.
posted by Ironmouth at 5:53 AM on June 10, 2011


The Senate elected at the last election is yet to sit. The old Senate expires at the end of this month. Only then will we see whether the government has anything about it.
posted by hawthorne at 7:00 AM on June 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


betwen dismal poll ratings from Roy Morgan and all the polling organisations

Because we all know that Governments never, ever bounce back from a 44-56 split in the 2PP and go on to win the upcoming election.

the real home of positive Australian idealism is. The Greens. Not anywhere in Labor.

I think this comment captures the kernel of the problem that Labor faces: that the only acceptable discourses of idealism are saving whales, allowing homosexual marriage, and not selling or mining uranium. You're not allowed to be a Very Important Person and be an idealist about decreasing inequality, drastically raising the minimum wage (for instance, the Gillard Government's response to the SACS Wage Case), or fighting for a more socialist Australia in general.

Because if Labor is going to do its best not to tax the super-rich companies and individuals, fight against wage increases for underpaid workers, and shrug their shoulders over issues of school funding, then why vote for them when the Liberals do the exact same thing but at least manage to do it with a smidgeon more competence?

Not that the Greens haven't fallen in to the exact same pattern. Luckily, for them, their core voting demographic are wealthy enough to not need to worry about things like award wages or the quality of public school education.
posted by kithrater at 7:17 AM on June 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'll continue to vote Labor because I'm an unrepentant lefty and they at least have policies that are way more in line with my way of thinking than that of the Liberal Party.

Having said that, I'm very disheartened. Gay marriage should be legalised (at least gay couples are now recognised in the same way defacto heterosexual couples are, which is a big step forward). Troops should be withdrawn from Iraq and Afghanistan (I'm in favour of some form of peace-keeping presence, however). Refugees should be processed in a timely manner and not kept in what can only be described as prisons for year upon year. Social justice should be considered over free market anarchy. Health, education, public transport, roads and other infrastructure should be given top priority when it comes to spending tax money. Julia Gillard at least seems to be standing firm on the carbon tax which is good because eventually we will all have to pay the piper when it comes to climate change.

It's just so sad to think that all of the things that Labor has stood for in the past is being eroded by selfishness and short term thinking. Political parties should represent what is best for the public interest. Sometimes popular opinion is wrong. If policy is being determined by what is popular, as opposed to what is in the long term public interest, then it will most likely to turn out badly.
posted by h00py at 7:58 AM on June 10, 2011


Hence you get the situation above when the pro-life Labour warhorse is invited to join the Greens, simply to obtain another vote in the legislature.

The Labor policy on abortion is conscience vote. Just like the Liberals. The only "parties" with a unilateral stance against abortion are Family First and the Christian Democratic Party.

I'll continue to vote Labor because I'm an unrepentant lefty and they at least have policies that are way more in line with my way of thinking than that of the Liberal Party.

Having said that, I'm very disheartened. Gay marriage should be legalised (at least gay couples are now recognised in the same way defacto heterosexual couples are, which is a big step forward). Troops should be withdrawn from Iraq and Afghanistan (I'm in favour of some form of peace-keeping presence, however). Refugees should be processed in a timely manner and not kept in what can only be described as prisons for year upon year. Social justice should be considered over free market anarchy. Health, education, public transport, roads and other infrastructure should be given top priority when it comes to spending tax money. Julia Gillard at least seems to be standing firm on the carbon tax which is good because eventually we will all have to pay the piper when it comes to climate change.


So you vote Labor but are far more in line with Greens policy?
posted by Talez at 12:25 PM on June 10, 2011


Pretty much. I'll vote Labor first and Greens second or vice versa (depending on who's running in my electorate) just like I used to with the Democrats. Unless the Liberals make some pretty fundamental changes (or Labor does) I'll continue to do that.
posted by h00py at 2:16 PM on June 10, 2011


Regarding the polls... as a principle, I distrust anything Murdoch run polls have to say about a Labor Government. But Roy Morgan is definitely not to be trusted.

Sir Humphrey, as always, provides a valuable lesson on polls.
posted by Effigy2000 at 6:53 PM on June 10, 2011


LiB: A bit too much community engagement sometimes, as long as it involves animals.

Hmmm, so "Earth Hour" makes you "shake" with rage, but you're all for the government endorsing the outright torture of cattle. We get the point dude; you suck.
posted by moorooka at 8:25 PM on June 10, 2011


I really do wish Labor would remember it's roots as a party working to reduce inequality from the side of the working classes. Classes are a lot blurrier than they used to be, but these days the gap between the rich (CEOs, board members, etc) and the poor is getting wider as the middle class is squeezed out (and therefore getting more vicious and defensive). For some reason, Labor seems to think it can only gain economic credentials by copying the same policies as the Liberals. Tax cuts for the rich as a way of improving everyone's standard of living doesn't have much evidence behind it, yet we cling to it as if doubling-down will change the way things work.

I really am one of those watermelon environmentalists: a commie at heart, forced to deal with environmental issues because they've just become that serious and unavoidable.

And yet, the focus-group style of leadership remains. Faulkner is right - the Labor party lacks vision and has no idea what people really want.
posted by harriet vane at 9:10 PM on June 11, 2011


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