The current status of the Federal Labor
Party might best be summed up by the phrase
"an arse full of splinters from sitting
on the fence, and haemorrhaging to the
Greens". But no political party is
an end in itself. And clearly when a political
organisation puts more energy into maintaining
the group than pursuing their original
goals then it's time to re-evaluate.
Labor seems demobilised by the paralysing
assertion that change is impossible. But
its forbears were not so content as to
acquiesce to fatalism in political
action - to the contrary they envisaged
a greater society. They believed in the
possibility that the world could be different
and acted politically to make it so. This
is why Labor is becoming increasingly
Beasley is a remnant of Labor's lost
past, and calls for his reinstatement
are symptomatic of a dearth of individuals
within the parliament who posess the quality
to inspire either a public fascination
or party-room magnetism.
We remember political leaders who led
instinctively and held an outward orientation
that promoted the premise that our collective
identity and purpose in life is bound
up inextricably with the wellbeing of
others. Leaders who knew that political
virtue is grounded in the inclination
to improve the lot of others. Who truly
understood the concept that social connectedness
is a prevention against the tide of hedonism
that pervades popular culture.
Labor with Simon Crean at the helm squandered
the opportunity to distinguish itself
on the issue of the war in Iraq, unable
to mobilise the imagination of human spirit.
Tried and found wanting - he must go.
So pathetic was Labor's display of political
navigation that the only message it managed
to deliver was that human rights are a
negotiable concept. And we the disenchanted
are left to ponder the thought that perhaps,
as Mary Robinson articulated, "it
is no longer possible to write poetry
But does Labor have a prophet? Is there
an heir apparent? Beasley, Rudd, Swan,
and Latham are the hot tips. But none
possess a Keatingesque je ne sais quoi.
Recently, I went to hear Mark Latham speak
on the future of the party. He spent some
little time developing his idea of promoting
citizens as shareholders. Don't give charity
to the disadvantaged, give them shares,
he suggested. I was immediately reminded
of how such a policy was implemented in
the territory of the former Yugoslavia,
where formerly socially owned factories
were privatised and distributed in shares
to the workers.
But what did these desperate workers
do with something as intangible as a share?
Predictably, they sold it - for food on
the table and fuel for the stove. They
sold their shares to those with the wealth
to accumulate luxury items, hence private
ownership became concentrated in the hands
of a few.
Latham's viewpoint lacks insight into
the plight of the poor, in the same way
as the sentiment written by Jean-Jacques
Rousseau but commonly attributed to Marie
Antoinette "Qu'ils mangent de la
brioche" or "Let them eat cake".
But he is not alone. Indeed, Latham is
typical of current Labor culture. Today
when the party speaks of a vision of improvement
for human living, it offers consumer
comfort. Labor politics has become about
the better administration of society as
opposed to its transformation. As citizens
we are being incrementally managed and
ameliorated in a manner that is profoundly
corrosive; our identities are more fragmented,
looser and therefore more malleable. Secretly
we despise a sterile politic devoid of
Any promised new leader will need to
understand the evolution of Australian
consciousness, and deliver us from the
frustration we feel at it having no voice.
Polarity and not popularity is the means
by which Labor will reclaim its distinctiveness.
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