||Issue No. 181||06 June 2003|
History: Nest of Traitors
Interview: A Nation of Hope
Unions: National Focus
Safety: The Shocking Truth
Tribute: A Comrade Departed
History: Working Bees
Education: The Big Picture
International: Static Labour
Economics: Budget And Fudge It
Technology: Google and Campaigning
Review: Secretary With A Difference
Poetry: The Minimale
Satire: Howard Calls for Senate to be Replaced by Clap-O-Meter
The Locker Room
Response to Gould
Aged Policy Looks Hairy
God Save Billy Deane
More Bad Language
The problem with the current manoeuvrings is that both sides of politics seem to be driven by a myth the idea that Howard is unbeatable; but it is a proposition that doesn't stand up to scutiny.
In 1998 Kim Beazley got tantalisingly close to making John Howard a one-term leader; despite the landslide of 1996 there were only a few seats in it.
Then in 2001, Labor fell victim to their own conservative strategy and the unprecedented and cynical manipulation of public opinion by the incumbents.
Since then, we have had a war that is looking increasingly like a bad case of Wag the Dog; the fall of a head of state the PM hand-picked himself; and looming attacks on health and higher education.
That Howard is now celebrated as some sort of national hero, shows how fatuous and bereft of principle modern politics has become.
And that Labor does not appear capable of launching a sustained challenge underlines serious structural weaknesses in the party.
As those within Labor circles continue to ruminate on Beazley or Crean, I've framed my own question. If your loved one's life depended on a Labor victory at the next election, who would want to lead the party? I bet you one thing; the answer you come up with will be neither of the two main protagonists.
The fixation on leadership by both parties misses the broader point; they are both expressions of a process that stifles talent, ideas and momentum.
The parliaments of the nation - both state and federal - are over-populated by a class of hacks who have moved from student politics to a job in parliament, to a seat, without ever having to come into contact with the real world.
The Liberals use polling to identify issues that will divide Labor's two bases - the Whitlamite middle classes and the traditional working class.
And Labor? It uses polling to develop bland messages that trick these two groups into thinking they have something to gain for voting for the party that used to represent their interests.
And when they win elections, as they have around the states, they slip back into a conservative agenda of 'managing for re-election'.
It's no coincidence that both these major parties have preselection systems controlled by factional warlords; disenfranchised rank and file members who are leaving in droves and youth wings in total disarray.
As the major parties have corrupted, the only drive in Australian politics over the past decade has come from One Nation on the Right and The Greens on the Left.
Disagree with them and call them loonies if you like, but you can't deny that their focus on issues creates real energy around their political agenda, the sort of energy that can create real change.
One only has to think of the anti-war rallies and the poll position the Greens held there to see an alternate model of politics in its emryonic stage.
Compare this with the way the ALP succeeded in tying down and stifling the Labor for Refugees group, bulldozed the unions on the 60/40 issue, seeing the rank and file activism around policy as the threat to business as usual.
For both major parties, this week's focus may sum up their real problem - it takes more than a figurehead to lead a party; and when you've lost your base, your ideology and your way even a figure as bereft of ideas, principle or vision as John Howard can begin to look good.
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