||Issue No. 242||15 October 2004|
Interview: The Last Bastian
Unions: High and Dry
Security: Liquid Borders
Industrial: No Bully For You
History: Radical Brisbane
International: No Vacancies
Economics: Life After Capitalism
Technology: Cyber Winners
Poetry: Do It Yourself Poetry
Review: Hard Labo(u)r
The Locker Room
Invest in Dignity Part III
You Need Help
Whose Party Is It Anyway?
And it's true, although - with the admitted benefit of hindsight - I would argue that the lies are not all of Howard's making.
In fact the central issue that dictated Saturday's dire result: economic management and interest rates, was allowed to grow a life of its own because of a lie we have perpetuated over the last eight and a half years.
That lie is based on the failure of both the ALP and the union movement to own the tremendous economic achievements of the Hawke-Keating Accord years.
This was an era when the Australian economy opened up to the world - driven by a partnership between a social democrat party and organised labour, something that did not happen anywhere else in the world.
We avoided the social dislocation and break-down of the Reagan and Thatcher regimes. The change, while radical, included industry plans, massive investments in education and retraining, and a national savings strategy.
And it went further; the union movement took the principled decision to back labour market deregulation - even though they knew it would make their own job tougher - because it recognised that an economy based on productivity could only benefit its members.
At every stage of this process the government worked with the union movement, through seven rounds of Accord negotiations, a series of agreements that fundamentally recast the workforce.
Yes, there was pain in the transition, including high interest rates. But the outcome was a national economy that is today delivering prosperity to more people than ever before.
It was a remarkable achievement for a party of the Left, but one which we have failed to take the credit for.
The tide turned after 1996 when an electorate fatigued by a decade of economic change, still waiting for its benefits to be realised, threw Labor out of office.
In the post mortems that followed, the ALP determined it had got too far ahead of the electorate and reverted to a more economically conservative policy agenda.
Meanwhile unions entered a period of denial where they seemed to give up on the benefits of economic reform and mount a campaign to wind back the changes, even as the benefits began to flow. By recanting the Accord we nullified our achievements.
And so the lie was planted - that Labor and the unions were against reform, against change.
From this lie many others have followed: Labor can not manage the economy; unions are anti-reform; the only way to achieve improved productivity is to smash collective labour.
This was the fertile soil that, seeded with an energetic but new leader, Howard was able to cultivate as proof of Labor's incapacity to govern at this election. It worked a treat.
There will be much soul-searching in the weeks ahead; valid arguments about the direction of Labor, the policy settings, the campaign tactics.
But until Labor comes to terms with its recent history and constructs a story that allows them to own the reforms that are delivering the standard of living that Howard now claims as his legacy, it will struggle to make a case to lead.
For the union movement the challenge, even at a time when the Conservatives will be on the attack, is to reclaim our positive agenda based on the acceptance that change is inevitable and the best ideas come from the ground up.
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