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46 responses to “A tale of two Labor post-mortems”

  1. Fine

    Gillard has gone missing? She can’t do anything right, can she? Hopefully, Brack’s post-mortem might be rather enlightening.

  2. Paul Burns

    Its taken them this long – nearly twenty years – to wake up to the fact that Keating and Hawke sold us out. Amazing! I would have thought it was obvious years ago.
    As for Milne – well its no surprise he’s ended up on the staff of the ABC is it? His stuff is still rarely worth reading.
    Now, as for Julia’s “disappearance”. Did it occur to any of these omniscient scribes that she might have been packing to move to the Lodge? Moving is a helluva hassle, especially if you haven’t moved for years.

  3. Doug

    Sometimes in politics and media appearances “less is more” gives an edge of gravitas to the appearance

  4. Pavlov's Cat

    I thought Gillard had made it very clear that she does not intend her, or her party’s, agenda to be set by the news cycle. Perhaps Milne missed that. Or perhaps it’s just a predictable response from a journalist who doesn’t like or understand change, especially if it means there’s no “story” for a whole 24 hours or *gasp* more.

  5. phil@vvb

    I wonder how many people read “reform” as a euphemism for “working and middle classes about to get screwed again?”

  6. Pavlov's Cat

    I’m also gobsmacked by the way Milne appears to be implicitly blaming Gillard for ‘the soap that is becoming the Speakership’. (I think he means ‘the soap that the Speakership is becoming’, but why let grammar get in the way of a good story?) If the Speakership has become a soap then there is one obvious person to blame, and it is not the Prime Minister.

  7. Paul Burns

    I think its hilarious that Julia doesn’t return Milne’s phone calls. Maybe he’ll be forced to go and dig up some dirt on Tony Abbott. I didn’t get the impression from this morning’s Insiders that our various oracles are highly impressed with Abbott. In fact some of them think he’s blown it.
    Now could it be that Julia is just letting that impression stew? I love her!

  8. Fran Barlow

    It’s a pity that in addition to not returning Milne’s phone calls, she doesn’t add his number to some list of spammers on discount holidays and mortgage seminars.

  9. hannah's dad

    Who at the ABC hired Milne?

  10. joe2

    “Who at the ABC hired Milne?”

    Could it be the man of such impeccable judgment that he recently spoke of Tony Abbott thus?….

    A dangerously honest Opposition Leader with – to use Annabel Crabb’s memorable phrase – a truth parrot squawking on his shoulder.


  11. Diogenes

    “Hush now baby, baby, dont you cry.

    Mother’s gonna make all your nightmares come true.

    Mother’s gonna put all her fears into you.”

    Pink Floyd

    Maybe Milne will be replacing Kerry O’Brien.

  12. Michael

    Milne’s lament about Gillard is understandable – that’s an extra minute of actual news that has to be found when there is no prime ministerial statement on nothing in particular

  13. Paul Burns

    Diogenes @ 11,
    No need to worry. Only journalists can apply for that job.
    It really is time (any Labor staffers out there!?) for Gillard to clean out the ABC. Use O’Brien’s departure as an excuse and kick out all the Murdoch staffers and clones. Put the fear of God into the bastards!

  14. Sir Henry Casingbroke

    Mark Scott’s gotta go.

  15. joe2

    I think he would know that his time is up Sir Henry. His contract ends in about nine months time.

    Maybe he is up to creating further angst by appointing loathsome people up front; in addition to those he has already stacked behind the scene, before he leaves.

  16. Francis Xavier Holden

    What sort of nonsense is this?

    If it wasn’t for Hawke and PJK’s economic reforms we would be ranking somewhere below Ireland, Greece and Albania, in economic health.

  17. Francis Xavier Holden

    They are much much better off than they would have been had Hawke and PJK not reformed a smug and feather bedded nation.

  18. bmitw

    Before Hawke and Keating, an ordinary Australian had as much chance of getting a home loan as of flying to the moon. Credit was too tight – my own father was a senior teacher and had to change banks in 1973 to find one that would lend to him. The economic reforms changed all that.

    And Super Guarantee has been instrumental in bolstering the retirement savings of all employee Australians and will continue to be so if the rate is raised to 12%.

    Compared to the cynical vote-buying economically lazy government that followed it, they were geniuses.

  19. GregM

    True, fxh. Quite true.

    But their reforms have deprived Paul of the socialist paradise he yearns for in Australia, as exemplified by the excellent system of work camps that sprang up throughout the much lamented late Soviet Union.

    In his wonderful world, no doubt, Mudgee would be a camp of strict socialist discipline where the unworthy recalcitrants would learn to utter the timeless messages of the great Lenin and maybe one day realise their eternal truth.

    We should brush aside his adherence to the teachings and behaviour of genocidal psychopaths as a small idiosyncrasy.

    Let us leave Paul with his dreams of the joys of coercion and mass murder as the solution of humanity’s problems.

  20. Ken Lovell

    @ 19 how do you explain then that home ownership in Australia reached such high levels in the 1950s and 1960s? Certainly people weren’t all saving up and paying cash.

  21. Nickws

    Hawke and Keating may have saved us from getting a national Kennett-style government. For that they get a free pass in my book. (Though having the actual Kennett—or Hewson—as Coalition PM probably would have meant a conservative leader opposed to the culture war nastiness we eventually got in the post-Keating era. Go figure.)

    Milne is still pushing the meme that the leaking was pro-Rudd inspired.

    I would have thought he would creatively consider the theory I now lean to—the leaking was a dozen little acts of political nihilism by unimportant people acting without coherent agendas. No reason why you can’t turn a narrative like that into pro-Liberal spin, Glenn. Feel free to run with it.

    Karl Bitar, it seems, is going to voluntarily look for career opportunities elsewhere

    I’ve said it before—Julia Gillard is going to recruit Bruce Hawker to be the de facto national secretary. Ahem, her defacto national secretary.

    That’s one way to shake up the system.

  22. bmitw


    Not sure how relevant it is to look at an economic era that took place before decimal currency, let alone the floating of the dollar. The problems that Hawke and Keating addressed had built up during the 70s in particular and should have been but weren’t addressed by the Fraser government.

    Is there anyone here who seriously thinks that we should have stayed with a fixed exchange rate and a full tariff protection regime? Or no capital gains tax or fringe benefits tax? Maybe the pie has not been carved up fairly but it would be a lot smaller had the Hawke/Keating reforms not been implemented.

  23. Kim

    Can I just point out that it’s quite possible to have an open economy without the sorts of levels of income and wealth inequality and exclusion from full time work we have in Australia?

    It’s just ridiculous that the whole thing is presented as an either/or package – and ideological myth makers like Paul Kelly with his “Australian settlement” stuff (historically very shaky) have a lot to do with that TINA narrative.

  24. bmitw

    I agree with you Kim but my particular bete noire as far as income inequality is concerned would have to be JWH not Hawke or Keating.

    And the sense of entitlement that he fostered along with all of his middle/upper class welfare means that it will be very difficult for future governments to wind any of it back or redistribute to the more deserving.

  25. Ken Lovell

    Well the nostalgic discussion of Labor governments of long ago has predictably (and no doubt intentionally) derailed the thread.

    Trying to get back on topic … sadly Kim I think all parties must conduct themselves in the foreseeable future as if an election will be called within weeks, because that is the undoubted reality. Whether it happens of course remains to be seen but either major party would seize the opportunity if they thought developments would give them an advantage.

    Therefore while Gillard’s comparative absence from the limelight might be deliberate, it’s more likely to be an image-management tactic than a reflection of her determination to be a more thoughtful kind of prime minister.

  26. Andrew E

    Keating was undone in 1996 by many people who, as FXH rightly points out, were better off for him having been in government. Keating railed at the ungrateful bastards but it was just another sign of his distance from them. Marx was wrong, the whole economics=politics=economics syllogism is a mistake and will drive you crazy the longer you focus on it.

    I’m not sure that services were necessarily withdrawn from outer suburban areas. It’s probably more accurate to say that those services did not grow at the same rate as population, or match the demand from that population for specific services.

    As to the bush: yep, ninety years of CP/NCP/NP/Nats boondoggles, and what do they have to show for it? The only successful Nationals communities are those in coastal NSW and Queensland, and they only tend to become successful once they shake off the dead hand of the Nats. It’s significant that the Federal electorate with the lowest per capita household income is the electorate held comfortably by the leader of the Nats.

    I understand your focus on inequality, but I also believe that it’s not necessarily the main game and that the targets of your anger might need review.

  27. BK

    You’re going to have to do better than that if you want to bag socialism. Invoking the ghosts of Lenin and Stalin is simplistic and miseleading. The USSR was a centralised, command economy run by a party dictatorship that had abandoned the principles of socialism, which is one of the reasons it failed.

    Many in the Coalition would regard the current minority government as socialist, so there goes your oogy-boogy theory. You must have thought this was the Quadrant blog.
    As Kim says, if it was an attempt at satire, don’t give up your day job.

  28. Andrew E

    BK, leave aside the poor attempt at satire and ask yourself: what is socialism? Is it some ever-shifting spectre: not Lenin or Stalin, not Whitlam, not anything or anyone you can point to? If so, you can’t blame anti-socialists for conjuring up insubstantial “oogy-boogy” theories when this is what defenders of socialism are doing: keeping it real by refusing to face reality.

  29. Fran Barlow

    If socialism is, Andrew E, a materially abundant classless society arising out of the political triumph of the producer class over the exploiting class on a world scale, in which wage labour has vanished and the state is withering — as it was indeed considered by orthodox Marxists, then clearly, it is both a yet-to-be-realised condition and sharply at odds with the caricatures one saw during the 20thC.

    One supposes that it is a fairly straightforward proposition to assume that those who claim to be socialists must, when they have control over the state, be in charge of “socialist” societies, but this is a fallacy.

    Existing social arrangements did not arise by accident. If they are seen to have failed, or even if they cannot be sustained for one reason or another, it does not follow that some better condition will immediately fill the space. Even if those who acquire hegemony after the collapse of the old order have a clear, coherent and more equitable and maintainable set of social arrangements than those which fell over, it does not follow that they will immediately occupy all that social space. A transition will be needed, and it may well fail, for reasons that have little to do with the longterm viability of the proposed system changes. Civil wars occur. People struggle to be better than the circumstances that authored them.

    Certainly, one saw that amply in Russia, China and any other number of the regularly cited examples of “already existing socialism”. None of these places could function in isolation from the states surrounding them and of course, none of them had even achieved industrial society on the scale one would imagine prefiguring socialism. You can’t have workers rule without lots of highly disciplined, engaged and educated workers. Creating a proletarian society out of one based on subsistence peasant labour doesn’t merely seem improbable – it is — and so claims of “socialism” in so far as they refer to Marxist socialism can only be bombast.

    Lenin acknowledged as much in 1920, and in this, he stated no more than the pre-Stalinist orthodoxy.

  30. john

    Sorry to invoke another ghost, but Kevin Rudd was a passionate advocate of social democracy, and critic of neoliberalism. He also prosecuted that ideology with nation building and attempted to redistribute wealth with the mining tax.

  31. Andrew E

    I agree Kim, but it’s also hard to develop any sort of idea or have any sort of argument with those who would ‘question’ everything but accept no answer, and who refuse to pay opportunity costs. Fran has shown the very kind of vulnerability that I described: apparitions can be both dreams and nightmares, and to make your apparition more the former than the latter then you have to take the chance of making it real.

    Lenin was a bullshit artist. Marginalising moderate socialists and liberals was a mistake from which the regime he brought about never recovered.

  32. Jacques de Molay

    John @ 37,

    and Rudd brought in the plan for nationwide income management which Gillard has dutifully carried on with and also making it even harder for people to claim unemployment benefits & the disability pension. They’re both conservatives and the ALP continues it’s lurch to the Right.

  33. john

    You can blame Rudd and Gillard for lots of things, but the income protection is Macklin, and Howard stacking the department of families with culture warriors.

  34. joe2

    Extending income management to all welfare recipients, so that the Racial Discrimination Act could be reinstated, after the Howard government suspended, it was in fact a Tony Abbott idea.

    But that is another sidetrack based on a posters selective memory of cause and effect. Made all the more strange by his support for Abbott in the last election albeit with a vote for the Greens first, if I recall correctly.

    John I believe your original [email protected] stands

  35. Don Wigan

    I’d normally regard a Milne article as a waste of time, but this one, assuming he has a reliable source in the NSW Right (and they seem to favour leaking to known ALP opponents), is useful.

    It confirms that it is seriously out of touch, despite fighting an excellent rearguard action in the tough marginal NSW seats. If it is increasingly being dealt out by Gillard, this will be a good thing. It will need the purge of the pending State Government trouncing to allow some renewal there.

    The average punters take no interest in political machinations, but even they must have cottoned on to the NSW Right strategies by now. If you’re on the nose, dump the Leader, reshape the image, move on. It’s happened so many times at NSW level. I suspect they may even be wise to the obsessions with focus groups and opinion polls.

    The dumping of Rudd (while it is becoming clear that there were a lot of factors contributing to it) fed perfectly into that script, as did Gillard’s initial responses highlighted by her mindless repetitions of “moving forward”.

    What happened probably justifies a deep enquiry bordering on a bloodbath, but will almost certainly not, given the precarious position of the government. Mistakes there were aplenty and not just with the machine. Gillard should have stayed out of the Boat People stuff and she should certainly not have gone so early and so unknown. That is probably why the leaks were so damaging.

    But the machine did take the cake for going initially with that inane TV camera shopping mall type of approach. The huge advantage, even gulf, Labor enjoyed over the opposition, apart from incumbency, was policy and economic and employment performance. And they rated barely a mention for the first 3 weeks or so.

    I do hope that Nickws @26 is right and that Bruce Hawker will be called in. The time is long past to realize that you don’t get useful policy from focus groups and opinion polls. All you get are attitudes and reactions.

    We could do worse than go back to the distant past when Don Dunstan used such methods not to decide what to do but to decide what must be done to swing voters around to accepting socially desirable policies.

    That is a lot harder work than just pinching vague ideas from the polls (eg does anyone really think Scott Morrison achieved anything by hamming it up on the Boat People and Nauru?), but will lead to longer-term success.

    I’d agree with Kim’s summing up. A low-key approach is much better at this point.

  36. Incurious and Unread

    I thought that this thread was about Labor’s electoral performance.

    Which, as I recall, fell short of spectacular prior to Hawke/Keating.

  37. Jacques de Molay

    joe2 @ 43,

    which the Labor government implemented and took even further. My post at 41 still stands.