The Official Organ of LaborNET
click here to view the latest edition of Workers Online
The Official Organ of LaborNET
Free home delivery
Issue No. 144 12 July 2002  

The Lotto Economy
The failure of George W Bush's much-hyped pitch for corporate responsibility underlines the current crisis facing unregulated global capitalism: the system is corrupting all before it.


Interview: Capital in Crisis
ACTU president Sharan Burrow outlines the global union response to the corporate carnage gripping an increasingly shaky system.

Industrial: No Sweat
Neale Towart surveys the international debate around sweatshops and what can be done to regulate them

Bad Boss: Super Spam
Several late scratchings have seen Workplace Relations Department secretary Peter Boxall win this week�s heat of the Workers� Online Bad Boss handicap.

History: Living Treasures
Labour History is 40 this year. Greg Patmore looks back at what it took to get a regular journal of the labour movement in Australia up and away.

International: Axis of Evil
George W Bush�s scarecrow trio of Iran, Iraq and North Korea is not an original invention, argues Stephen Holt

Solidarity: Pride of Place
NSW Labor Council and CFMEU flags sit alongside the mounted jersey of former Kiwi Rugby League hooker Syd Eru in a modest home at Manurewa, south Auckland.

Technology: The Art of Cyber-Unionism
More Unionism? Transformed Unionism? Peter Waterman looks at a new handbook for unions and the internet

Poetry: The Masochism Tango
Tony Abbott's comment we should accept a bad boss like a bad husband or bad father has made us all realise that instead of fighting bad bosses, we should love them. Anyone for a tango?

Satire: Foxtel-Optus Merger 'Anti-Repetitive'
The ACCC has ruled today that the proposed content sharing arrangement between Foxtel and Optus Vision would constitute anti-repetitive conduct

Review: Bob Carr's Thoughtlines
Stephen Holt reviews one man's journey from collectivism to the centre


 Sweat Shops � Coming To A Street Near You

 Glassworkers Walk for the Umpire

 Family Friendly For A Buck

 Abbott in Slow GEER

 Royal Commission Bugs Workers

 Drivers Frozen Out by Corporate Spin

 Coca-Cola Brews Storm In A Tea Cup

 Bush Prepares for War on the Wharves

 Safety Summit A Hit With Unions

 Beattie Faces Bargaining Face-Off

 Casual Work Exploits � Catholic Church Agency

 More Effort Required On Disabled Workers

 Protecting Security Officers From Disease

 Activists Notebook


The Soapbox
Why Modernisation Matters
Labor frontbencher Mark Latham argues that the ALP's reform agenda must go way beyond the 60-40 debate.

The Locker Room
Playing To The Whistle
Phil Doyle takes a look at the man in the middle, and he doesn�t like what he sees.

Inquiry Into Executive Pay
The ACTU Executive this week called for a public debate on spiralling executive pay packets, seeking feedback from workers, community representatives and unions.

Up In Smoke
Wobbly Radio's Nick Luccinelli reports from England where drug law reform is on the political agenda.

Week in Review
Bulldust and Boofheads
Jim Marr casts his eye over a week in which bullshit and bad bosses fought for headlines�

 On Aspiration
 GST Agenda
 Amanda's Mediocrity
 Capital Ideas
About Workers Online
Latest Issue
Print Latest Issue
Previous Issues
Advanced Search

other LaborNET sites

Labor Council of NSW
Vic Trades Hall Council
IT Workers Alliance
Unions on LaborNET
Evatt Foundation

Labor for Refugees



Bob Carr's Thoughtlines

Stephen Holt reviews one man's journey from collectivism to the centre


The media is fascinated by NSW Premier Bob Carr's eggheaded interest in American history and fine literature, but this stress on his originality is a trifle exaggerated. More than a century ago Carr's colonial predecessor, Henry Parkes (a fellow journalist), showed that it was perfectly possible to pursue these same two high-brow passions while governing NSW.

Thoughtlines, Carr's recently published selection of speeches, reviews and essays, is important despite the gush. Along with extracts from an unpublishable novel (Titanic Forces), which reads more like a film script, Carr's best occasional pieces present crucial insights into the making of a keen political mind. If there is originality in Thoughtlines this is where it is.

Carr was a Laborite but, except for a few months, he was hardly a "teenage Whitlamite'', although he describes himself as such. When he joined the party in the 1960s he was inspired by Arthur Calwell and Professor L. F. Crisp's biography of Ben Chifley.

Carr started off as a "democratic socialist'' who believed in the old-fashioned virtues of government ownership, but his youthful collectivist faith withered under the impact of Calwell's electoral defeats in the 1960s. He ceased to be a 1940s-style socialist and instead embraced Gough Whitlam's revisionist brand of Laborism.

The failure of the Whitlam experiment in the mid-1970s drove Carr further to the centre. He became, as he explained in Quadrant, a "social democrat'' of the sort encountered in Europe. Society was to be reformed in an unambiguously pluralistic spirit. Faith in state ownership needed to be wound back lest voters confused Labor with the Cold War tyrants of Eastern Europe.

Carr was a courageous ghost writer in the lead-up to John Ducker's presidential address to the 1978 NSW party conference. He drafted a speech calling on the ALP to repudiate a "bogus militant style''. Labor should regard socialism as a Marxist-Leninist bugbear; it had to rise above claptrap and convince voters that it could outperform the conservatives in prudent economic management. Labor had to be competent as well as compassionate.

Ducker repudiated Carr but the aborted draft speech was prophetic nonetheless. It pointed to Labor's current post-Hanson challenge because it was all about the need to target the concerns of "rural and provincial Australia''. Carr wanted Labor to uphold the pragmatic strategy originally forged by NSW Labor leader William McKell back in 1941. Steering carefully between Labor's conservative opponents and its industrial wing, McKell swept into office on the back of a swag of successful rustic candidates.

Carr once dreamt of becoming a foreign minister but factional machinations blocked his path to Canberra. He never matched the federal career of Paul Keating, hailed in a 1979 article as Labor's "chief emissary to the boardrooms''.

Long confined to state politics, Carr still champions McKell as his political hero. He hopes to emulate him by sticking to a Labor style carefully suited to a deeply conservative people. A Labor leader must be "non-abrasive'' and politically sensitive, with reform emanating from the middle ground. Applying this template brought Carr electoral success in the 1990s just as Keating's once brilliant star was fading.

Carr's approach is presented in Thoughtlines as the product of a post-Whitlam era. More relevantly it is also a non-Keating vision. His version of party history makes it hard to revere McKell's erstwhile ALP rival J. T. Lang. Paul Keating, in contrast, drew strength from the ever-divisive Lang cult. This poisonous legacy defined his status as a true believer.

Downplaying the tribal importance of the lugubrious Lang allows Carr to distance his state government from residual unpopularity generated by dark memories of the late Keating years. It makes it easier to become identified as a voter-friendly political persona. Carr favours a sunny Sydney Olympics-style ethos of community service. The task is to keep things ticking happily along in "the world's most favoured nation at the best moment in our history''.

State politics is, as Carr readily admits a "provincial'' affair, but it provides a perfect locale for a cautious Labor leader wishing to do better with less. Practical yet non-market-driven reforms can be pursued in areas such as conservation and reconciliation. Federation year praise for "our British heritage'' adds to the aura of sweetness and light.

Bob Carr's career shows that new laurels can still be added to the six-decade saga of an impressive tradition of centrist Labor politics. Thoughtlines is his third-way road map.

Thoughtlines: Reflections of a Public Man, Viking, Paperback, 416pp, $35. ISBN 0670040258


*   View entire issue - print all of the articles!

*   Issue 144 contents

email workers to a friend printer-friendly version latest breaking news from labornet

Search All Issues | Latest Issue | Previous Issues | Print Latest Issue

© 1999-2002 Workers Online
Workers Online is a resource for the Labour movement
provided by the Labor Council of NSW
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2005

Powered by APT Solutions
Labor Council of NSW Workers Online