December 8th 2007

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Articles from this issue:

EDITORIAL: After the landslide: the challenges ahead

CULTURE: Dealing girls a raw and racy deal

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Has the Liberal Party any future?

ECONOMIC AFFAIRS: Can Australia avoid an economic downturn?

WATER: Vehement opposition to permanent water-trade

QUARANTINE: Horse flu inquiry exposes AQIS's abject failure

NATIONAL SECURITY: We have met the enemy, and he is us

STRAWS IN THE WIND: The WHY and HOW of Labor's victory / Now for the Delphic Oracle ...

CULTURE: Dealing girls a raw and racy deal

SCIENCE: People will marry robots, scientist predicts

REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH: Abortion link to pre-term birth and cerebral palsy

MEDICINE: Dolly's creator abandons therapeutic cloning

OPINION: William Wilberforce's lessons for us today

Bad economics (letter)

Ten points for Kevin Rudd (letter)

DLP resurgence (letter)


BOOKS: PRINCE OF THE CHURCH: Patrick Francis Moran, 1830-1911, by Philip Ayres

BOOKS: CONJUGAL AMERICA: On the Public Purposes of Marriage, by Allan Carlson

Books promotion page

The WHY and HOW of Labor's victory / Now for the Delphic Oracle ...

by Max Teichmann

News Weekly, December 8, 2007
The WHY and HOW of Labor's victory

As predicted and explained by Straws in the Wind, August 13, 2005 (pre-Kevin Rudd), and again in another article, June 9, 2007.

Aha, News Weekly, you've done it again!

But more of that in a moment....

* * *

The Liberals have suffered a very serious defeat, the largest voter swing since Malcolm Fraser's victory in 1975, in the "It's Time" election, Part III. Gough Whitlam has been lionised ever since his two most appalling electoral fiascos in 1975 and 1977, but then, the media would do that, wouldn't they?

But now, the conservatives will be out of office for two or three terms, possibly longer. But remember, that was said about Labor after the 2004 election, and Mark Latham.

The conservatives are in tatters, having few uniting principles and being united, insofar as they ever were united, only by a dislike of Labor and a taste for office. And, I might add, Labor are inspired by matching sentiments. Between them, they have made a political and cultural wasteland of this country, as has occurred in most of the West.

Conservatives I know are going around fearing persecution, or feeling that they are members of a dying species. Not really - the difference between them and Labor, largish according to recent times, is 6 per cent. That is, there are 53 per cent Labor and others, as against 47 per cent conservatives. Not exactly a yawning gap.

And the primary votes came out as: Tories 42 per cent, and Labor 43.5 per cent, the remainder being Greens, Family First and others. So really this is not a one-party society, but one, politically speaking, almost evenly divided.

Also, although it is said the Greens will control the balance of power in the Senate, their vote did not exactly leap, being behind the combined one of Democrats and Greens not so very long ago. And they hold fewer seats than did the Democrats under Meg Lees.

What is really significant is that their preferences are vital to Labor, as were the DLP's to the conservatives of a few decades ago, and again, those of the Democrats to Labor more recently.

This is a problem for Labor. Rudd should have few difficulties, for the Greens are by nature divided, and their spokesmen easily ... distracted. A cynic would say suborned.

But the problems of our conservatives run deeper, for too many never really gave up the sadistic fantasy of grinding the faces of the poor, and taking advantage of the weak and disadvantaged, be they in the "dark satanic mills" of England, or the cocoa farms of Africa. And misogyny used to be an important outlet, while there has always been a soft spot for colonialism and its present-day substitute, globalism and economic rationalism.

Looking at the faces of the new contenders for Howard's crown - of tinsel - none of them, nor people like Peter Costello, Michael Kroger or Jeff Kennett, exactly inspire. They seem strangely old, passé.

The world of Dollar Sweets and privatisation - selling off the family silver, as Harold Macmillan described it - which is championed by these modern Tory careerists and social-climbers, is a reaction to their parents' values, such as noblesse oblige and unostentatious habits. Just as our New Class left, coming out of the 1960s cultural revolution, hate their parents' world and its values.

Analogies and similes can be treacherous. I don't see another Bob Hawke or Tony Blair looming up. Perhaps a young Putin?

What institutions might Rudd not be targeting? And for how long will he tolerate restive allies? Or critics?


Now for the Delphic Oracle ...

News Weekly, August 13, 2005:

How to lose with a royal flush

Come back, Jimmy Scullin!

Watching the Federal Government twisting and turning in the toils of the industrial relations "reforms" - in trouble entirely of their own making - reminds one of the last years of the Stanley Bruce Government.

Their big push to change the arbitration system (a system inspired by Justice Higgins) and their massive and totally unexpected defeat in 1929 at the hands of Jimmy Scullin and the Labor Party, all comes back to me - an electoral defeat in which Bruce lost his own safe seat.

The conservative villain was Sir John Latham, the Attorney-General, a genuinely superior person, but in this context driven by a deranged sense of unreality.

The Melbourne Club and the big end of town met their Waterloo....

The Treasurer and Kevin Andrews must bear full responsibility for this fiasco, while John Howard is not helping by saying "amen" to what, in the circumstances, are loose-cannon obiter dicta from his colleagues.

With 1929 in mind, I've been looking with interest at the seats of his two main colleagues. Ahem.

Take public holidays, which are up for trading, it would seem. In other words, you give up the holidays in exchange for more money (how much money?).

Costello says this trading is already going on. Yes, but it is voluntary, apparently. But there remains the statutory right to claim and enjoy these holidays.

Some of these are religious (Christian); others patriotic and celebrating the genesis of our nation. One, Melbourne Cup, is iconic - or semi-religious, if you are a happy pagan. And Show Day - once our tribute to the country people and their very different lives, but now a day regularly turned into a honky-tonk by city urgers - is still unique in our roll-call of special commemorative days.

This federal conservative government, and most Australian conservative governments, wholeheartedly espouse the value of the family, the importance of religion in people's lives, and of churches as being important foundations of society and a source of enrichment of public morality.

Now we know that many individuals do not value or wish to honour these various holidays, and also that there are an increasing number of us who are isolated, lonely and so almost mocked by family-centred celebrations, or just by days when nothing happens, no-one seems to be about and one is expected to go into mothballs.

Naturally, such people may want to work on those days if they can, to side-step their isolation. They shouldn't be forced to be idle. So our community can be served by such volunteers on those days of statutory leisure.

But neither should the importance nor the significance of these public holidays be whittled away, let alone be rejected in any way. The Feds, given their religious, patriotic, pro-family professions - have the chance to set these holidays in stone, institutionalising them, and legally warning off interlopers or reductionists. And then, there is the reaffirming of the Sabbath, the Day of Rest, originally recognised by Jews and Christians. This Holy Day, this family-centred day, has been virtually trampled under the feet of the hucksters.

People have been tempted by money; then forced, in many cases, to give up their day of rest and worship and family and social communion, which is a central part of the community, which our leaders, political and spiritual, enthuse about. Whereas in reality, as we know, Mammon has been digging its grave.

Now, people are being tempted to give up their lunch-break for money - and the unions and others not so much fear as anticipate many workers being virtually blackmailed into declaring their readiness to give up meal-breaks or holidays if the employer decides it is necessary (i.e., in his interests).

Mr Costello says that people have always traded holidays, lunch-breaks and even smokos. Yes, and in many cases this was wrong; often agreed upon under duress; and, as it is turning out to be, the thin end of the wedge for making this kind of voluntary, or involuntary, renunciation of hard-won privileges a general practice.

* * *

News Weekly, June 9, 2007:

Workplace relations and human asset-stripping

Senator Steve Fielding's article on the subject of industrial relations (News Weekly, May 28, 2007), summed up what many of us here, and elsewhere, have been saying for a long time....

The conservatives seem quite likely to lose the next federal election, barring unforeseen developments, and it will be because of this legislation; for the reaction against it started up a whole series of re-evaluations of the Prime Minister in the public mind.

A champion of the little battlers wouldn't have countenanced such legislation. The new employment philosophy rests upon the assumption that growth could continue ad infinitum, so there will be no more periods of belt-tightening, or substantial unemployment, or cutting costs by reducing the price of labour. Who could seriously guarantee such a rosy future?

Only when things get tight, and businesses are fighting to retain solvency - forget the expansion story then! - will the new legislation start to bite and reveal its dark underside.

To revert to Senator Fielding and his putative amendments: at a time when all the talk is of the ubiquity of stress in the world of work, and the social and economic damage that it is causing; at a time when we are reminded constantly, but correctly, that the obesity epidemic is advancing, and that no matter how many diet charts and sensible cooking programs are around, large numbers of people are eating quickly and badly and on takeaways, too busy to relax and to eat a proper meal ...

At such a time, workers are being invited to give up a meal break altogether and "smokos", i.e., tea-time. The contrast between these different scenarios is profound.

What would a conscientious Minister of Health truthfully answer, if questioned: "Is working eight or 10 hours non-stop, without a break, good or bad for one's health? And not just once or twice, but every day and every night, i.e., a permanent regime?"

What would the AMA say? That many people appear to thrive on such a regime, especially if everything is speeded up (but a great many people don't enjoy it)? We haven't heard from this kind of human people, i.e., a majority, lately.

So this is not just a political or economic issue, but a health and psychological business. I won't discuss the effects on the family.

I actually think people should be prevented from selling off their meal-breaks and their tea-breaks (often under covert pressure), just as they should be forbidden to sell their organs (other than donate to a loved one as a life-saver).

And they shouldn't be seduced or bullied into selling their future health prospects or their present peace of mind. Or their family life.

I hope Senator Fielding puts these concerns into the form of amendments, and I hope that the Government has the grace and the foresight to accept that.

For we are watching a process of human asset-stripping.

It may not save the Coalition parties their election, for I think Kevin Andrews and John Howard have doomed their government with their absurd initial hubris; but it would restore a lot of the Government's reputation.

- Max Teichmann

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