||Issue No. 244||29 October 2004|
Raking Over The Tea Leaves
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
Nothing To Stand On
Itís The End Of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)
Dear Mark letter
Raking Over The Tea Leaves
Yes, it's the ALP's election loss post mortem, where history is rewritten, mistakes are corrected and self-flagellation is a feel-good optional extra.
Workers Online is reluctant to join the conga-line of knockers; but we do have a serious beef with the post-election carry on which seems to be ignoring some obvious facts.
Labor lost the federal election for a few simple reasons: it's new leader had only been in the job 10 months; the government ran an effective scare campaign and the majority of the previous three years had been spent pursuing a media-driven agenda to wind back union influence in the party.
The punters voted for Howard because they are in debt to the eyeballs and he managed to fuse the ideas of Latham's inexperience with memories of high interest rates under Keating. It was a simple message hammered home again and again and again.
When pushed to justify his scare campaign, Howard would mouth off about industrial relations - but never with any underlying logic or conviction, just the mantra that his reforms stood for productivity (as if he invented enterprise bargaining).
But out of this campaign an orthodoxy is being written by the conservative press and business lobby that Labor's problem is that it is not a party of business.
History aside, the logic goes, it needs to trash its relationship with the union movement and, in the words of the execrable Financial Review, become a party of small business and contractors. Exc use me, I thought this was the Liberal's turf.
The tragedy is that Latham appears to be dancing to this tune - the clear messages coming out of the new front bench are that industrial relations policy is up for grabs and will be based on a closer dialogue with big business.
This is the same business lobby that has remained silent as James Hardie has perpetuated one of the most inhumane frauds in corporate history; whose reason for being is to cut back the sort of regulations that provide workers w it h protection, whose track record is to oppose Labor whatever policies it advances.
At the risk of being provocative in this period of mass revisionism, there was nothing wrong with Mark Latham's key policies before the last election.
Sure, he may have laboured the term "Ease the Squeeze" just a tad, but the squeeze is there and, with a few more months to push the issue, it has the capacity to reap real political dividends.
Central to easing the squeeze are decent rules for work; extra financial support for families, a health system that works - all the basic requirements for an alternative government are there.
Wrapped with a more aggressive social justice platform that respects all humans, be they indigenous, refugee, Iraqi or even Republicans, Labor would be eminently elect-able next time around - given just a little more familiarity with its leader, a positive policy agenda and some clear air to establish himself free of the internal fighting the current trajectory is sure to spark .
Labor does not require a divorce from the trade union movement to garner broader appeal. Indeed if Labor could only connect with rank and file members - about 40 per cent of whom voted for Howard - it would be implementing its agenda today.
No-one likes election nights which end with John Howard giggling, but the fear is that in dancing to the Tory tune, federal Labor will only be condemning itself to more nights of misery.
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