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The cries of a frustrated reformer: Lindsay Tanner’s vexed history with the left

Lindsay Tanner was one of a generation of Labor activists who came to political maturity in the 1980s. These were challenging years for the Australian left. Labor’s 1983 victory set Australia apart from…

Lindsay Tanner has railed against his own party in a new book. AAP Image/Alan Porritt

Lindsay Tanner was one of a generation of Labor activists who came to political maturity in the 1980s. These were challenging years for the Australian left.

Labor’s 1983 victory set Australia apart from the right-wing ascendancy of Thatcher and Reagan but Labor confronted a largely conservative electorate: voters in the 80s strongly favoured tax reductions over increased social services expenditure.

The Labor Left was excluded from the early Hawke government. Tanner’s first major political intervention was the widely circulated 1985 manuscript “The Left in Crisis”, in which he pointed to the examples of Thatcherism, affluence and individualism as evidence that the left was in serious decline.

The left, Tanner argued, needed to develop policies that went beyond the “pressure group politics syndrome of promising everything without … saying who is going to pay”. In his call to realism Tanner spoke for a broader milieu among the industrial left, which he was shortly to join as a clerks’ union office-bearer. Some on the industrial left hoped the accord signed between the government and the ACTU could be a vehicle of socialist change. They believed workers in partnership with a Labor government would be able to participate in the control of an economic surplus enlarged by their wage restraint.

The turn towards fiscal austerity and microeconomic reform revealed that those who had placed hope in the Accord as a socialist vehicle were misguided. The demise of Soviet socialism and third-world developmentalist nationalism deprived the left of feasible economic alternatives. Tanner was deeply influenced by these shifts; Francis Fukuyama’s famous pronouncement in 1989 of the “end of history” would remain an abiding inspiration for him.

Even as socialist hopes evaporated in these years a new ALP Left, of which Tanner was a leading activist, won renewed influence. Brian Howe championed a modernised welfare state that would in combination with liberalised economy replace older models of economic regulation.

The left’s long defence of indigenous rights, marginalised by Bob Hawke, enjoyed a dramatic revival under Paul Keating. The Australian left (in this period largely within the ALP) was divided between traditionalists and modernisers.

Tanner and Julia Gillard were both modernisers. Yet Tanner’s style was distinct from that of Gillard, he was more attuned to the sentiments of the left; to the continuing yearning among many Labor activists for a politics beyond the routine grind of government. Tanner’s 1993 victory over Gillard for Labor endorsement in Melbourne demonstrated his appeal.

The 1990s were the decade in which the “old left” vision of the working class as a unified progressive subject passed from the mainstream of Australian politics. The shift to enterprise bargaining ended the corporatist project of the accord, which had been the left’s most sustained intervention in national politics. The rightward shift of workers at the 1996 federal election was deeply traumatic for many on the left.

After 1996, Howard’s rhetorical social conservatism provided a convenient negative rallying point for the Australian left. But the left struggled to distinguish its critique from the broader 1990s agenda of elite modernisation represented by such projects as the republic and Asian engagement.

In these years, Tanner emerged as the first champion of late “Keatingism”, a mood which by 2012 would dominate the thinking of much of the Australian centre-left older than forty. In the late 1990s, however, “Keatingism” was under challenge. Tanner was empathic that Labor eschew the populist criticism of economic liberalism championed by Pauline Hanson. Those sympathetic to an older traditionalist left disagreed and cast Tanner as an apologist for neo-liberalism.

Tanner rejected this claim but his alternative to the agenda of liberal modernisation was unclear, he flirted with a communitarian critique of capitalist individualism (apparent in his opposition to voluntary euthanasia), but most of all he championed the cause of Labor party reform.

This was a popular appeal on the left. It was congruent with an old Labor tradition of being suspicious of politicians and party elites, but it evaded the core problem. An ALP that reflected the values of its remaining activist membership on issues such as asylum seekers, indigenous rights and taxation might not be electorally successful. Party reform became the internal Labor equivalent of the republic debate; it substituted for the development of alternative policies.

Kevin Rudd appealed to traditional labour themes in the campaign against WorkChoices, but he also offered an alternative to Howard’s conservatism. For a time the late Keating formula seemed to have made a comeback.

Tanner as Finance minister stood at the centre of the government, along with Treasurer Wayne Swan, Rudd and Julia Gillard. He was in the fabled “Gang of Four”.

Yet in government Tanner was largely bypassed by Rudd’s commitment to a bold stimulus package to respond to the financial crisis. It was Rudd who articulated a more coherent critique of capitalism than Tanner.

And as Australia escaped the worst of the global crisis, Rudd’s attempt to revive social democracy ebbed. In the end, his own downfall mirrored Tanner’s marginalisation. Gillard and Swan cast themselves as champions of labourism, and of a working class seen through the prism of 1996: suburban, socially conservative and monocultural.

Tanner had imagined something different. And he still wants the world to listen.

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70 Comments sorted by

  1. Craig Minns

    Self-employed

    I'm a big fan of Tanner. He was a genuine and committed politician who "walked the walk and talked the talk". A huge contrast to the spineless panderers to a whining middle-class entitlement culture based around an endless magic pudding that has replaced it in the ALP, devoted to "a working class seen through the prism of 1996: suburban, socially conservative and monocultural." and increasingly that vision is also monogendered, with the wants of middle-class women being vastly more influential than…

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  2. Bruce Moon

    Bystander!

    Geoffrey

    I don't think it much matters about the ideological views of Tanner, or anyone else in the Labor Party.

    The crucial point is that too many Labor identities seek to use the broader media to advocate ideological renewal for this party. That, in itself, suggests a (party) machine that is failing to engage debate internally.

    I am not a member of any political party. That said, whether I like it or not, my life is considerably impacted upon by political party machinations.

    Gone…

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    1. Dianna Arthur
      Dianna Arthur is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Bruce Moon

      @ Bruce Moon

      "The crucial point is that too many Labor identities seek to use the broader media to advocate ideological renewal for this party. That, in itself, suggests a (party) machine that is failing to engage debate internally."

      Totally agree.

      I was always an admirer of Tanner, however at a time when Labor really needs a united front he is engaged in some kind of tit-for-tat machinations. I understand that he disagreed with the Gillard takeover on 24 June 2010, but that was over two years ago - like Rudd is he placing personal vindictive above a party he used to support?

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    2. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      Spot on Ms A.

      I feel that Tanner's motivations are not just social and political but deeply personal. His refusal to endorse Gillard as a capable Labor leader points directly to that.

      Tanner seeks to assert that he has risen above the grubby business of day-to-day politics - which he dismisses as vote grabbing. His issues are more intellectual, more sweeping, the Big Picture - he is galled by the lack of the Vision thing. He is galled by the removal of Rudd. He wants to correct the record. But he will not comment on current leaders. Too coy by half.

      At the core of it - down deep where it counts - is a self-centred dummy spit. He could'a been a contender.

      Pity really. He had a lot to contribute - articulate and capable. But managing capitalism is rather dull compared to changing the world. But as for Labor having lost it's vision, it's more that he refuses to see it, or to look.

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    3. Michael James

      Research scientist

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      Sure.

      But we are forgetting that the reason why Tanner did not run in 2010 was that he knew his own seat was in dire trouble. Let us remember that if Tanner had run and had retained his seat there would not have been a minority government--it would have been a slim majority Labor government.

      With his two books and his latest outbursts of obvious frustration and passion, it seems he took the wrong decision. It would have been better and arguably more honorable, if he had stood in the election…

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    4. Craig Minns

      Self-employed

      In reply to Michael James

      Michael, I don't care much about the LNP. I assume it is not terribly interested in my vote or my problems as a matter of course.

      From where I sit, the real problem is that the LNP and the ALP seem to be now both owned by the same class of people - only the names on the doors and some minor details of which sub-group of women gets the biggest handouts are any different.

      The carbon tax business was a case in point: it plays well in the coffee clubs of the leafy suburbs, where middle-class Prius drivers can tell each other what a "sacrifice" they're making in supporting such actions despite its impact on the price of their coffee, while their homes are covered in solar panels subsidised by the poor buggers in the Western desert suburbs who are sitting at home trying to make the International Roast last another day and hoping the power doesn't get cut off for non-payment of the bill before they do.

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    5. Fred Pribac

      logged in via email @internode.on.net

      In reply to Craig Minns

      Your last paragraph was wittily writ. But it naturally raises the question are you an International Roast or a coffee club sort of guy?

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    6. Dianna Arthur
      Dianna Arthur is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Michael James

      @Michael James

      Yeah, I was rather disappointed with Tanner's withdrawal, believing he still had much to contribute.

      Maybe Tanner was not the adult I thought him to be. In addition, Labor is not the party it used to be either. Lots of blame all round. Shame pollies have forgotten they are voted in for all people, not just lobby groups (corporate and union).

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    7. Craig Minns

      Self-employed

      In reply to Fred Pribac

      I'm a moccona sort of bloke. Even take the stuff to work in place of the nescafe that is supplied.

      No solar panels or prius though. A motorcycle and aged 4wd and a power bill that is very small because I rarely watch TV and have low-wattage lamps in all my light fittings.

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    8. Julian de Ross

      Company Director

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Hi Peter, I'm unsure what the "Labor vision" is?? It seems to me it's to let the Construction Unions and Unions in general trample over the Economy for the dubious benefit of a small number of oligarchs who reside next to Boeing in Port Melbourne in an Opulent headquarters (CFMEU) How much do you think a 'pick that up and put it there laborer is paid on a Union controlled construction site? or..do you know that Safeways fork lift drivers are paid $47/hour ? Imagine how teachers must feel on…

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    9. Julian de Ross

      Company Director

      In reply to Craig Minns

      Craig... you have a strong style there...and speak some timely truths. Especially that "owned by the same class of people"....I'm just continually amazed that there are still people out there with a good education who actually think that Labor does stand for the working Aussies... rather than that 'same class' you refer to.
      On the Solar Panels, we are all subsidizing that lot, but the problem with that deal is the one Governments seem destined to make with companies which buy our previusly publicly owned utilities..ie.. "guaranteed profit" and.. I'm guessing a clause which says they won't make any decision which would adversely effect the profitability of those Utilities.
      The fact is..the Solar take up is now at the point where it is affordable just for the sake of lowering your electric bill, I can source panels at $0.89/watt but cannot sell them for that. It still means they are very very affordable.

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    10. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Julian de Ross

      Strangely enough I'm not a big fan of unions in Australia as they are currently typecast... far too conservative, far too sectional and self-interested - they reflect the self-interests of their members. I'm more interested in unions that want to change the world, make life better for folks, stop racism and that sort of thing. Modern Australian unions are far too much like the provisional wing of the Human Resources Department for my liking - constrained by laws and by the low expectations of their…

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    11. Craig Minns

      Self-employed

      In reply to Julian de Ross

      Julian, I'm not sure where you got that information about Safeway's forklift drivers, but I can assure you that none of the forklift drivers I now get paid even half that amount, except when doing overtime. Even skilled truck drivers with crane licenses and dogging certificates only get around half that amount.

      However, I do tend to agree with most of your sentiments. The Left of the ALP has been colonised by feminist women, thanks largely to the white collar unions which are predominantly female…

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    12. Craig Minns

      Self-employed

      In reply to Craig Minns

      A small correction, I should have said "The Left of the ALP [and the Right] has been colonised by feminist women..."

      Emily's List doesn't care about which of the old factions you belong to, as long as you're in theirs.

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    13. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Craig Minns

      Craig,

      When you express your hostility to feminism and feminists do you mean all of it?

      For example, are you opposed to equal pay for the same work? Rape crisis shelters? Women's refuges? Improving the wages for low paid women such as outworkers in the rag trade?

      Or are your criticisms more specific?

      Seems to me you are dismissing the whole business? That true?

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    14. Craig Minns

      Self-employed

      In reply to Julian de Ross

      Thanks for the kind words, Julian, I'm amazed at the way our modern political discourse has become so polarised on the surface and so homogenised beneath.

      I'm also amazed at the way we have allowed our politicians to become a "class" that speaks in dog-whistles, not in proper informative ways. Our media bears some of the blame, as many of them seem to feel a part of that class, or aspire to be. Look at the relationships that abound between politicians and journos: Kate Ellis/David Penberthy…

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    15. Craig Minns

      Self-employed

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Peter, thanks for the questions.

      I support equal pay for the same work. I believe it has existed for some considerable time in Australia, where genuinely equal work is performed. In another thread I've already shown that on average genuinely equal work is NOT performed and hence there is an entirely understandable tendency to evaluate women applicants slightly lower than males with the same CV.

      Rape crisis centres and women's refuges are essentially spruikers to a very large extent. Read Erin…

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    16. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Craig Minns

      So Craig,

      We don't need rape crisis centres?

      We don't need domestic violence laws or refuges?

      We don't need action to improve the wages and working conditions of marginalised workers like rag trade piece-workers?

      Women don't do equal work so campaigning equal pay is unnecessary or irrelevant?

      We blokes just need to think girls are really great - and that's enough?

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    17. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Craig Minns

      How so?

      These are real problems - real issues - practicalities of every day life.

      You seem to be saying that such things are unnecessary or irrelevant - that we blokes and our institutions will "look after them"?

      Not false dichotomies - difficult practical questions - which you seem loathe to answer.

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    18. Craig Minns

      Self-employed

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Indeed they are reality for some, but not of the class that seeks to profit politically from their existence.

      I believe that women of ability have always had the capacity to do as well as they wanted to. The only thing holding them back was an inconvenient tendency to become pregnant if what they wanted to do was make love. That has been avoidable for the most part for the past 50 years - 2 whole generations.

      I addressed your concerns about the "real issues" in my first response. The problem…

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    19. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Craig Minns

      So the short answer is: Yes - we don't need these things. They are divisive and blame men.

      We do not need rape crisis centres.

      We do not need domestic violence laws and refuges.

      We do not need equal pay for work of equal value.

      We do not need action to improve the wages and conditions of marginalised women like outworkers.

      Nothing special for women at all. We blokes and our institutions can look after them - because we think they're just great.

      That about it?

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    20. Craig Minns

      Self-employed

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Not even close Peter. If the only way you can respond is to try to put words in my mouth then you really don't have much to say.

      I don't appreciate being misrepresented. I'm perfectly able to say exactly what I mean. I suggest you go back and read what I mean again...

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    21. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Craig Minns

      No Craig I'm not putting words in your mouth - I am simply attempting to point out the logical consequences of your attitudes.

      Where do you think rape crisis centres came from Craig - from the Catholic Church? Or refuges? Or domestic violence laws? Or campaigns for equal pay or to end exploitation of marginalised workers?

      You might not like it - you might feel like you personally are being attacked and condemned by the politics of these places and those who work in them. But without…

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    22. Craig Minns

      Self-employed

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Peter, you exaggerate the need and minimise the negative impacts of these things. As I said, read Erin Pizzey's accounts of her experience with the feminist women who forcd her out of her own centre and attacked her because she made the simple observation that the women who were being served were every bit as violent as the men they were escaping from. That cold reality didn't suit the "woman as victim, man as offender" paradigm that has been the standard feminist fodder ever since. Genuine efforts…

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    23. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Craig Minns

      Sorry folks, I'm not going to waste my time talking to this person ... too nice a day, to many useful things to do.

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    24. Craig Minns

      Self-employed

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Oh, lovely dog-whistle Peter.

      Not much of a substitute for reasoned argument though.

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    25. Dianna Arthur
      Dianna Arthur is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Thanks Peter,

      I do not know how much time I have left to live - none of us do. With this knowledge I decided not to try to reason with the Craig Minns', nor let myself be goaded into replying to him.

      However, I AM free to write my opinions here.

      Craig claims "women are terrific" - appears to be conditional from everything he has written thus far on TC. Provided we don't have babies or fail to achieve in 50 years, changes to tradition that have been in place for millenia, we are terrific…

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    26. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      Fickle, hypocritical and easily threatened???? Not all of us Ms A surely.

      It's not so much about how much longer we have to live Dianna - it's what we do with it. So I just went out into the garden and picked myself a bucket of warm strawberries - Japanese ones that are too soft to pack in punnets - so you can't buy them. My goodness they're excellent. The bower birds agree. Even my dog likes them. Been getting a bucket a day for two weeks. Heaven on a stick. Trouble is it forces me to…

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    27. Craig Minns

      Self-employed

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      Gee, I'm glad you didn't reply to me, Diana...

      Please don't put words in my mouth. I did not say that either rape crisis centres or refuges for women were unnecessary, merely that they shouldn't be proselytising a religiously feminist message and that th actual need for such centres is marginal, they could easily be subsumed into mainstream psychological health units. Likewise with women's refuges. They should be compelled to desist from proselytising for feminism if they receive Government funds…

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    28. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      Ms A,

      Requires a plan this strawberry business. I bought 25 of these Japanese softy plants last year and the bower birds got most of the fruit. This year they have proliferated. I have hundreds of plants. I slash them. The bower birds cannot get into the air and have to trot along the ground with little tubby paunches. But even then they cannot keep up with the output.

      I am warbling in triumph. My fingers and lips are red. The bower birds have been totally out-fruited. The sweetest victory of all.

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    29. Dianna Arthur
      Dianna Arthur is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Will these strawberries grow in Tasmania? I am planning on moving there - the east coast. Hoping to sell my current home with enough left over to pay out mortgage and buy modest dwelling close to the land, to trees, birds and various other critters. Rather like where I am now but cannot afford.

      I know this move has to be done. But in stages, just like we need to approach change in society, business, technology must be done in increments that are achievable given the existing constraints. And not by burning bridges. And acknowledging the naysayers - simply that they exist and are best left alone.

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    30. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      You bet... they're Japanese ... bit of snow is OK too and frost. Lots and lots of cow doings and straw on top then just pop them in ... lots of morning sun. I got them from the Diggers Club in Victoria - but I suspect the Tasmanians have some quarantine system in place and one must be licensed to send plants both there and to WA. http://www.diggers.com.au/shop/browse-by-category.aspx?category=Strawberries

      There you go. A plan is hatched!

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    31. Bernie Masters

      environmental consultant at FIA Technology Pty Ltd, B K Masters and Associates

      In reply to Craig Minns

      Craig, I've been reading the comments between yourself and Peter and I'm almost 100% on your side. Peter has an unfortunate habit of grabbing the wrong end of the pineapple at times, so don't take his criticism to heart. Your arguments and positions are much more reasoned and reasonable.

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    32. Craig Minns

      Self-employed

      In reply to Bernie Masters

      Thanks Bernie. I was beginning to think my phrasing was more obtuse than first imagined. It's nice to know I wasn't speaking in tongues.

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  3. Bernie Masters

    environmental consultant at FIA Technology Pty Ltd, B K Masters and Associates

    There is actually a very simple first step needed to revitalise politics and governance in Australia. Stop public funding of election campaigns and this will force all political parties to go back to their roots, enlist larger numbers of lay party members who in turn will develop relevant, effective policies that will help Australia adapt to its multitude of existing and future challenges.

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    1. alfred venison

      records manager (public sector)

      In reply to Bernie Masters

      au cointreau: we should publicly fund all election campaigns with funding based on a formula involving reference to, say, performance at last election & size of membership, perhaps & cease altogether all corporate & business & union contributions to elections. -a.v.

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    2. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to alfred venison

      I totally absinthe my good Alfred.

      I would advocaat making the whole business of political donations entirely pernod myself. All those brown paper envelopes come with strings attached and we end up with the best governments and politicians money can buy.

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    3. Bernie Masters

      environmental consultant at FIA Technology Pty Ltd, B K Masters and Associates

      In reply to alfred venison

      Hmmm, nice in theory but:
      1. define performance
      2. size of effective involved membership or just bums on seats - very open to manipulation
      3. contributions from business and unions - the laws about disclosure are very weak and this would just be encouraging more false and under-reporting, etc.
      I remain convinced that doing away with public funding is the best way by far to revitalise political parties and, in time, elected governments.

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    4. alfred venison

      records manager (public sector)

      In reply to alfred venison

      in canada there are two sources for funding:- (1) a per vote subsidy from the public purse, now something like $2.02 per vote for registered parties getting 5% of the popular vote at the last federal election & paid to parties going into a federal election, and (2) tax deductable contributions from party members & individuals.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federal_political_financing_in_Canada

      per vote subsidy gets an proporationally calulated amount of money to vote performing parties whose…

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    5. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to alfred venison

      The only downside of this ham-fisted fairness is that we would be denied the insights offered into what the ruling class chat about at the $50,000 a head buffets.. like what Mitt and his mates really think of the poorer strata of US society like bank executives, auto companies and the like who depend on government hand-outs.

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    6. Dianna Arthur
      Dianna Arthur is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Mr O

      Are you trying to suggest that you never speculated on the deeply held views of the ridiculously wealthy on lesser mortals?

      Of course, it doesn't hurt to have such speculations validated. Although, given what Gina Rinehart has to say in public, I imagine that she would make Romney appear almost progressive, almost.

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    7. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      Morning Ms A.,

      Ah yes speculation is one thing - but there is nothing like having one's idle and of course totally ill-informed speculations confirmed by solid material evidence, the venomous utterances of their own thin lips on global TV. I wonder if anyone is still donating to Romney's campaign ... money down the drain I'd reckon and no one - No ONE - but himself and his spiteful mouth to blame. Delightful. You can't buy that. It has to be a gift.

      In her defence - our national treasure Ms Rinehart - doesn't try and pretend to be anything other than the self-absorbed greedy parasite that she is. She does not prance about making earnest statements of concern for the workers and the poor. Compared to Romney she's a straight shootin' sort of gal, advocating special export zones, nuclear weapons as a mining aid and the like. No doubts at all about where Gina sits, nor on whom.

      Trust you are feeling more chipper.

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    8. Dianna Arthur
      Dianna Arthur is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Gina is a "straight shootin' parasite? You really think she acknowledges just how she came to be so wealthy? The use of cheap imported labour? The street protest at the very idea of putting a little more back into the country which supports her lifestyle? She has what most captains of industry require, the absence of empathy.

      While you were responding to my comments, in your most inimitable style, I found the following article on why so many find it easier to believe B/S rather than the awful truth. I think you will enjoy it and it does provide additional fodder (weaponry?) to counter the seemingly hate ridden.

      http://www.independentaustralia.net/2012/environment/why-misinformation-works/

      And thank you for enquiring about my health - getting there, not easy but I have managed to survive this far despite the odds - sometimes I simply amaze myself.

      :D

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    9. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      Yep that's the ticket - a straight shootin' no frills sort of a tick, a gal whose every utterance leaves one in no doubt about where Gina's self-interest lies. Doesn't pretend to give a toss about anyone else, world peace or any of that rubbish ... Gina sees it - Gina wants it. The yawning open-cut mouth of insatiable greed.

      But I'm sure she's a really very nice in person of course.

      Imagine having all that money and doing that with it. Ugly is as ugly does I guess.

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    10. alfred venison

      records manager (public sector)

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      dear editor
      i'm confused.
      clive palmer apparently made his zillions the usual way by himself & sometimes says things that make sense. on the other hand gina reinhart apparently inherited her zillions the usual way from her father & rarely says things that make sense.
      is this a case of counter-intuitive reverse synchronicity or just a routine inverse plain coincidence gone south?
      alfred venison

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    11. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to alfred venison

      Confused?? That's not the half of it Mr V

      See to a 2nd generation tick like Gina, Clive just lacks ambition - he's an under-achiever, a member of nouveau riche squandering his money on fripperies like footy teams and buying political parties which he cannot control 100%. What's the good of that?

      You don't see Gina off sponsoring the roller derby or kitting out the Kimberly Seal Clubbers do you? What's that got to do with finding stuff and digging holes?

      See it's the "sense" business…

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    12. Craig Minns

      Self-employed

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      "so many find it easier to believe B/S rather than the awful truth"

      Indeed. Feminism requires that as a predefining condition.

      Thanks for pointing that out for us.

      I'm fascinated that there is so much interest in Ms Rinehart's utterances on a thread about the failings of the ALP. Another example of b/s being preferable to an unpalatable reality for some...

      Keep trying to "frame the debate", folks. It's a sure sign the rational discussion can safely pass you by.

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    13. alfred venison

      records manager (public sector)

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      easily distracted would go some way to explaining how/why clive "bought" the wrong party. methinks he sort of should have "bought" labor - its somewhat closer to his values than the current lnp apparently is. -a.v.

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    14. alfred venison

      records manager (public sector)

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      "Clive is still part of the society that spawned him". He likes to wade in on issues of common interest, politics and the like and throw in his two bob's worth... or more. Clive likes to come across as the occasionally common man."

      yup. so, with the conditions of modernity having morphed into corporate post-modernity, and in the current media ecology of images, mirrors & simulacra, the "organic intellectual" has become the "organic billionaire". he started off like a pleb, no silver spoon. got a big break, made a motza of billions and is now a contender, going at it with big corporations, &c. ya gotta love him, they say - "clive palmer, organic billionaire". -a.v.

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    15. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to alfred venison

      Yep dinky di Clive - just like the bloke next door made good ... not quite sure it's what Gramsci had in mind though.

      As for buying the Queensland ALP, would you? Erk. I'm not sure the Trade Practices Act would offer much protection actually.

      I wouldn't be too sure of Clive's values - a lot of self interest in there - but he does like stirring the ants' nest a bit ... very much a larrikin. He loves the limelight.

      I wish he'd buy the NSW ALP ... it's a bargain at the moment.

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    16. alfred venison

      records manager (public sector)

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      gramsci is innocent of this. its only in a world transformed so as to value intellect disproportionately little & wealth disproportionately lots that the "organic billionaire" has any traction. no doubt clive's values are narrow & largely driven by considerations of "wealth creation". but clive, at least, appears to understand, better than gina, basics like you have to have people (including public servants) employed (not sacked) & buying stuff (not staying home) from other people employed (not laid off) selling stuff & paying things like payroll tax or else the gov't will run out of money & then the gov't won't be able to build free infrastructure for miners & the miners then maybe will have to pay for it themselves & gina will be pissed when she finds out & will rue the day she fired her economics tutor. -a.v.

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  4. Hardy Gosch
    Hardy Gosch is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Mr.

    Excellent article. Mostly insightful comments so far. Thanks.
    Cutting it down to the quick.
    Party navel gazing is unhelpful in an environment:
    Where the largely mediocre MSM finds it difficult to come to term with the transition period caused by the impact of digitisation.
    Where vested interests for purely short term gain have largely hijacked the agenda and
    Where the somnambulist and/or apathetic public bombarded by the shallow 24hour "opinion" cycle is being kept in a constant state of befuddlement.
    The main goal at this point in my mind is to minimise the impact of the political "riff raff" by keeping them under control and out of power. Within the next term of government the process of dealing with essential wide ranging structural reform in the public and national interest can begin. Some of these issues have been touched on or ably addressed earlier.
    Good luck OZ.

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    1. Rob Manwaring

      Lecturer, Politics and Public Policy at Flinders University

      In reply to Hardy Gosch

      Geoff
      Insightful analysis (as usual), and I enjoyed this piece.

      Whilst I can see that a focus on internal party reform might be seen as a narrow or niche issue - it really touches upon a wider set of issues about the role of the ALP and how it is linked and embedded in wider society. If the party in its heyday was part of a larger flotilla of clubs, societies; and its membership is now hollowed out, with a leadership drawn from professional groups - its raises fundamental questions about its ability to articulate and engage with all groups - especially the poorest and most marginalised. The ALP seems to be shy of addressing this issue, despite Gillard's call to drive up membership rates.

      Rob

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    2. Leroy

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Rob Manwaring

      Rob, the membership drive is doing ok thanks.

      http://news.theage.com.au/breaking-news-national/labor-on-track-for-recruitment-target-20120927-26n5u.html

      > The Australian Labor Party is on track to meet its target of recruiting 8000 new members by the end of 2012, senior party figures say.

      In an address to the ALP's national conference in December, Prime Minister Julia Gillard called for greater involvement of grass-roots members in policy and decision-making and set a membership target to…

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  5. wilma western

    logged in via email @bigpond.com

    This article is a useful background summary. Most of the points Tanner has made in recent interviews are no different from those made in his previous book, without perhaps the incisive attack on media superficiality and with the addition of defence of Rudd. The timing is unfortunate to say the least. I think his assertions about the good old days of grass roots Labor inspriation might not stand up to historical examination - maybe apart from Chif's desire to nationalise banks ? Whitlam's strong…

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  6. davidlen

    logged in via Twitter

    Regardless, the article and Tanners dummy spit does not excuse his leaking cabinet documents and attempt to destroy Labors chances of winning the election in 2010. While it is now obvious he is the culprit, his continued denial is the makeup of the person. Man he is not. A traitor to the Party and the many many supporters who worked long hours to get him elected, he is.
    My best wishes for an unsuccessful failed book Tanner.

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    1. Sean Lamb

      Science Denier

      In reply to davidlen

      I don't think it is obvious at all, to be honest.

      There seems to be two types of labor supporters. Those who want a good labor party in government and those who just want the labor party in government.

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    2. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Sean Lamb

      And then there's folks that believe it's all "Liberal Totalitarianism" this guvvermint biznus and the country should be run by Alan Jones and Andrew Blot apparently. Find a better bumper sticker Sean.

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    3. Sean Lamb

      Science Denier

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Mr Ormonde, you seemed to omitted those who listen to talk-back radio from your hate list today.

      Any particular reason?

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    4. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Sean Lamb

      I don't hate them Shorn - but I don't want to listen to them or for that matter read them here.

      Unless of course you can point me to something a bit more considered that the frothing depiction of "Liberal Totalitarianism" posted by Alan above.

      Incidentally "liberal" means something quite different in the US context so you might want to be considering that as well when you are shopping for an off-the-peg intellectual tradition. They - at least the lunar foil-hatter right regard liberals as slavering cawmewnists, jews and big city folks with an edgerkashun ...not political pluralists or the liberalism of the English (and Australian) tradition.

      Just seems a very silly thing to say Shorn.

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    5. Craig Minns

      Self-employed

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      "I don't want to listen to them or for that matter read them here. "

      Interesting. I'm sure they have no interest in what you have to say either. What a great way to work out how to come to an agreement on things that matter.

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    6. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Craig Minns

      Oh no Craig - don't mistake me for some wishy washy democrat who reckons every idiot born with a tongue has something useful to say.

      No point trying to reach agreement with some folks at all. They can't agree. It's not in their nature. They don't read, don't learn and are upset by information they don't like. They'd rather pretend it's not true, not happening, or a lie spread by conspirators. That's why I live where I live and have a couple of apparently "savage" dogs.

      Some folks just have nothing to contribute to progress or even survival at all and I won't waste my time or my breath on them. It's just noise.

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    7. Craig Minns

      Self-employed

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Seems a good exposition of the attitude of the ALP as presently embodied.

      Lots of justifications for one simple thing: arrogant assumption of a vague, imperfectly imagined superiority. In your case based on some perception of intellectuality, in theirs on nothing at all.

      Tanner has the right of it.

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    8. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Craig Minns

      One of the really disgusting aspects of the NSW Labor party under the tutelage of the machine built by Graham Richardson was the deference and sycophancy shown towards Alan Jones and his fellow travellers.

      The ALP realised - believed - that Jones was targeting their traditional base in the West of Sydney with his "struggle street" posturing and demagoguery Their response - reaction - to this was supine, they buckled at every turn and on every issue. Anything Alan said was done. He dictated…

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  7. Joe De Lede

    logged in via Facebook

    As a casualized wage-slave & increasingly immizerated shit-kicker of all trades; I am reminded of the Confucian doctrine of 'right-naming' vis-a-viz the 'Australian LABOR Party' ... what the fuck has the "Australian LABOR Party" got to do with the mass of sweated-labour stiffs in this country?

    Sweet FA if you ask me; how about 'right-naming' this lowlife crew as 'The Australian Labor-Exploitation-Facilitation & Rent-Seekers Shill-Spruikers Party' ... call a spade a spade for christ's sake…

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    1. alfred venison

      records manager (public sector)

      In reply to Joe De Lede

      i'll meet yr confucius & raise you a pound.
      ______________________________________________________

      "language is the main means of human communication. If an animal's nervous system does not transmit sensations and stimuli, the animal atrophies."

      "if a nation's literature declines, the nation atrophies and decays."

      "your legislator can't legislate for the public good, your commander can't command, your populace (if you be a democratic country) can't instruct its 'representatives' save by…

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  8. Michael Leonard Furtado

    Doctor at University of Queensland

    Despite his ethical disclosure and scholarship, Geoffrey's CV shows that in the end he's a party hack. Nothing much wrong with that except that hacks usually focus on their preferred candidates winning elections at all costs, rather than on an estimation of the qualities, reputation, chances and standing of political leaders contesting the toughest job in town, which is what interests the rank and file of Australians when it comes to politics.

    Had Dr Robinson kept this in mind he might have read…

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