No New Labor

Monday, 9 April 2007 

An amusing well-written piece in today’s SMH by Paul Sheehan which unfortunately disproves precisely what he sets out to prove. If the appointment of Gibson was a sign of the influence of the power-brokers, what are we to make of his rapid exit barely after being sworn in? It would seem the Gibson episode marks instead the decline of the powerbrokers rather than their influence, a direct measure of the decline of the power of the factions they manage.

It is why the encouragement from the right-wing press for Rudd to ‘do a Blair’ at this year’s conference is meaningless. Blair’s role in the 1990s was to create a new entity through ‘New Labour’ on the back of the formal defeats of the unions and the left a decade before. In Australia there was no formal defeat of the unions and the left, they sold themselves out quite happily through the Hawke/Keating years. Without any formal defeat of the left, factions in the ALP are left in a curious state. They carry on but these days without any purpose. Instead of their existence being a result of their stance on certain issues, issues are more taken up to justify their existence.

One favourite issue for such shadow-boxing is of course uranium. This issue first came to prominence in the state where the decline of factions began earliest, in SA, during the late 1970s and early 1980s (this was also the state where the death throws of factions was marked by the rise and fall of that peculiarly SA phenomenon, the Centre Left).

Uranium is threatening to fulfil its traditional role at this year’s conference but any defeat of the Left would symbolise nothing. It would no more be a ‘Clause IV’ moment than Howard’s pointless faux-Thatcherite IR agenda is a repeat of that lady’s attack on the unions. It would be merely a second time farce without the first time tragedy.

Posted by The Piping Shrike on Monday, 9 April 2007.

Filed under State and federal politics

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