I always feel unaccountably nervous when I find myself agreeing (as I often do) with Paul Watson. Maybe I’m subconsciously fearful of becoming infected by the conviction that all the woes of the world are caused by my parents’ generation, and that it’s too late to get any satisfaction from blaming the bastards because a lot of them are already dead. But this observation is spot-on:
Ever since the Hawke/Keating Labor government of the mid-80s pulled a volte-face by turning to Reagan/Thatcher-nomics for inspiration, it has been trite to observe that there is now little difference between Australia’s two main political parties.
What is new well, sort of is that the political process somehow continues on regardless, as if it matters which party is going to win the upcoming election. Is it just me, or does it seem that the media are already way too worked-up over a mere shadowplay (and I’m not referring to the fact that the election is yet to be officially called)?
I don’t know why Paul confined himself to the mainstream media, though. The Oz blogosphere is equally worked up over the Hobson’s Choice of the forthcoming election. Have a look at Chris Sheil’s blog or either of the Two Tims just about any day. It’s sort of like the footie, I reckon. If you grew up a Collingwood supporter (or in my case a Manly rugby league supporter, although I’m ashamed to admit it the way they’re playing at the moment), you can always get passionate about it, even though your rational mind knows it doesn’t matter a jot.
Anyway, we’re obliged to make a democratic choice, and I’m just about over the temptation to cop out and vote informal. Moreover, I promised to tell readers if I changed my tentative voting intention. And I have (yet again). Latham’s graceful semi-backflip with half-tuck on “troops home by Xmas”, along with Kim Beazley’s comeback to the Labor front bench in his pet Defence portfolio, are enough to tip the balance again for this armadillo.
I really don’t want to vote for Howard if it can be avoided in all conscience, and the added bonus is that I don’t have to vote for that dolt Tollner either. I’m still deeply worried by Latham’s ongoing small target strategy, however, and especially his dodgy promise to reform health policy after the election in some undefined but drastic way. But hopefully the stakeholder summit he apparently has in mind, along with the ALP’s internal democratic processes (such as they are), will ensure adequate public scrutiny and accountability. In fact, I’m not really all that worried that a Labor government would do anything appalling to public health services. What really worries me is the precedent this gambit is setting for a future Coalition government. I can easily imagine Costello announcing an undefined post-election “summit” on industrial relations policy as a prelude for the complete deregulation of the labour market, and destruction of the tattered remnants of the AIRC and the trade union movement.
PS – I see that Graham Young doesn’t share my positive assessment of Latham’s appointment of Bomber Beazley:
Being the US’s answer [to] the problem doesn’t help Labor to win an election.
In our research into the US FTA we found a very strong anti-American sentiment amongst voters. Latham has been playing that theme. First with comments like his classic about the Government being a “conga line of suck holes” to George Bush and then with his suggestions that Australia should pull out its troops from Iraq before Christmas. It should have paid dividends eventually as long as he was prepared to stick with it through criticism.
Now he has reneged on this strong line to appoint someone as his defence spokesman that the US will approve of. Labor wants the US to tickle its tummy. In the South Pacific, Howard might be the US deputy sheriff, but Latham appears to be Deputy Dawg.
This is a re-run of the Peter Garrett miscue. It appears that when Latham has a problem with an issue he brings in a personality to fix it and doesn’t worry that the personality may be at odds with his policy. Already we are seeing the Garrett gaffes caused by past (and present) pronouncements being tested by the media against current party positions.
I disagree with Graham’s analysis. Part of the art of politics lies in keeping as many balls in the air simultaneously as possible. Labor needs to be able to satisfy voters’ desire not to be lapdogs of the Americans, while also reassuring us that they’re not rabidly anti-Yank because most of us support the broad concept of the American alliance and are enthusiastically equivocal consumers of American culture. It would be just as suicidal for Latham to allow himself to be seen as a loopy, anti-American leftie pacifist as a Bush lapdog. The trick is to strike a balance.
And whatever anyone might have thought of Beazley’s strategic judgment as ALP leader in the run-up to the 2001 election, I don’t think Graham would seriously dispute that Bomber was a very successful Defence Minister or that most people still (and rightly) view him as solid, credible and reassuring in that position.
However, this broader observation by Graham is an interesting one, and strikes me as probably true:
Beazley’s appointment is a change in Labor tactics. They are replacing the appeal to anti-Americanism with reassurance that they are on the US side afterall. This suggests that while the national polling as measured by Newspoll, Morgan and McNair Anderson favours them, the polling in the target seats (invisible to the large polling organisations) favours Howard – why else change if you are really ahead in the polls.