October 23rd 2004

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Articles from this issue:

FEDERAL ELECTION 1: Behind Labor's landslide loss

FEDERAL ELECTION 2: Howard's opportunity, Labor's challenge

FEDERAL ELECTION 3: Kicking the ladders away

PRIMARY INDUSTRY: Subsidised imports threaten pork industry

PORNOGRAPHY: Internet encourages sexual deviancy: SA psychologist

THE MARRYING KIND: Men's attitudes to marriage

US ELECTIONS: Bush still ahead in Presidential race

CHINA: US, Japan concern over China's military build-up

STRAWS IN THE WIND: Your good health / Costly hospitals / Voter discontent in Germany and Switzerland

COMMENT: Why we went to war in Iraq

CLIMATE: Europe to pay Russia over Kyoto Protocol

CINEMA: The Corporation: 'Psychopathic' corporate soul laid bare

AS THE WORLD TURNS: Latest PC news flash - black child-killers absolutely OK

Cigarettes and marijuana (letter)

Lessons for Iraq in the Communist insurgencies (letter)

Contempt for the democratic process (letter)

BOOKS: God: The Interview, by Terry Lane

BOOKS: The Long March, by Roger Kimbal

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Kicking the ladders away

by Max Teichmann

News Weekly, October 23, 2004
This 2004 election had all the ambience of the referendum for a republic: watching Labor, wearing its radical gear, marching on to self-destruct. The media's blanket campaign for Labor and the Greens (surprise?), the pollsters' serving-up of recycled fairy tales. Stories about 18 per cent of voters being undecided a few days out had no basis in fact. The A.C. Nielsen people had, in fact, shown the final result a week out: especially the rise in the Coalition primary vote. Gary Morgan's people supplied the usual light relief from harsh reality.

I must confess, I tipped the result, and its details, including the Senate, to my son, my favourite taxi-driver and my favourite schoolteacher. Two weren't pleased. But only True Believers were surprised.

Issues hammered throughout the campaign, viz., Iraq, the US alliance, Bush the War Criminal, etc., have not been mentioned from the time the polls closed. Yet they soaked up so much ink, and drenched so many microphones! They were an important factor in Labor getting the Khyber; not because people necessarily agreed with the original decisions - many didn't - but because of the slanderous, abusive, and wildly irresponsible treatment of these grave issues by Labor and the media.

The same applies to border security and illegal immigrants. Anyone heard of these since the polls closed?

The Greens emerged as an albatross around Labor's neck, for, under the leadership of Bob Brown, they constituted a strong motive for many not voting Labor. The Greens' electoral showing was quite unremarkable: they cannibalised the Democrats' vote, ripped off some of Labor's Beautiful Left, but no more. They are anathema to blue-collar workers, and are speeding up the blue-collar move to a Centre-Right party. One which Howard has constructed. As did Menzies before him. Tasmania could be just the first step in the changing allegiances of working people.

The notion that a party at the State level doesn't ever affect peoples' overall impression of that party, State and Federal, is untrue. Sometimes, State issues don't influence Federal voting, but sometimes they do. They did here.

Thus, the Beattie Government is seriously on the nose up there. So the Nationals, as well as the Liberals, had to benefit. Similarly with Western Australia and Victoria. (Ignore those pro-Bracks polls, I advise.) And Tasmania could be in for a state of meltdown. The NSW Carr Government has been steadily losing ground.


One reason all this mattered was that Labor States are seen as perpetrating the follies which remind people of earlier Federal Labor régimes. Profligacy, secrecy, unaccountability, nepotism, major incompetence, and the whiff of scandal.

People feared Latham Labor was going to go the same way. I think it was. In any case, it would have, whether Latham had wanted this outcome or not.

One expects losers to try and save face, but it will be interesting to see whether Labor and the media persist with this "we was robbed" refrain: or, just as bad, change the subject to new atrocities, new conspiracies, new defamations. If they do, then the Left, and much of the media, might become history.

For example - that the "interest rates scare" by the Coalition was the cause of defeat. The fact is, we have had an interest rates scare sustained over years in the media, by so-called financial analysts and economists. Month after month after month, they tipped higher rates, without success. Had they been tipsters for horse races, or for the dogs, they would have been sacked. Now some were probably touting for groups who'd benefit from higher rates; others just tried to help Labor, because higher rates are bad news, are they not? It's called putting the evil eye on someone.

But the conservatives are not allowed to suggest the same? Especially as they could be right?

Labor is facing a crisis: its blue-collars, so despised since Hawke's time, are simultaneously declining in numbers and moving out, as are people from unions. The upwardly-mobile New Class is kicking the ladder away, moving first as Democrats, and now as Greens, to a new role and an ultimate home, as "radical" Liberals. Whom can Labor then recruit?

Howard has thrown down a gauntlet, similar to the ones that Menzies and Hawke threw down. A model of co-operation, of unity, of nationalism. As against conflict, class struggle, and anti-nationalism.

The Australian Left is saddled with a philosophy of conflict and sectional selfishness, whereas traditional Left philosophy was always about co-operation, not conflict, and about the common good for all. The roles have been reversed.

Having kicked the ladder away from the workers and farmers, and from their parents' generation, and the New Class's social duties generally (though not other people's), New Labor is now trapped up a gum tree. Can it get down?

  • Max Teichmann

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