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The fall guys


Long time Webdiarist and Sydney artist Robert Bosler  has been deconstructing the politics of opposition with An artist's blueprint for a Latham win and A Webdiarist's speech for a Mark Latham address to the nation, The power of Latham's ghost and recently, Question time or a time to question.  See also The function of the Opposition in Parliament: a primer for Beazley by Sir Robert Menzies.

by Robert Bosler

Surely one of the toughest jobs in Australia right now is being a Coalition MP. Caught in a political system which has no effective Opposition, bound by both party duty and public duty, an unfair weight of effective government rests on them.

Without effective Opposition the political system is uncontained, spilling and revolting like a fish milkshake; misshapen. Perspective is lost. Distortion, necessarily, passes for public information from all quarters. We are all affected: the good public folk consider themselves being treated well by a government when they may not be; likewise, people consider themselves being treated unfairly by the government when they may not be. Opposition is the container to the mess that otherwise necessarily spews out and misshapes the political landscape.

Feeling desperately unrepresented, the good public folk eventually take it upon themselves to speak up and question or state their disagreement, and take it to the streets.

As we are seeing elsewhere in the world, this can end up in disastrous events.

Once again, the normally tolerant and laid back Australian folk are leaving their comfort zones and opposing the latest proposals from the Government, as they did when they opposed the Government's decision to go to war. Apparently the Labor Party opposed the war, and apparently the Labor Party opposes these latest proposals. You'd hardly know - and you certainly wouldn't feel it, if they did.

Perhaps Mark Latham is right. Perhaps the Labor Party is no longer a viable alternative. Perhaps the Labor Party is more concerned about things like farting in church than it is about making and promoting alternative policy. (Read the Diaries).

Perhaps the whole Australian approach to work has changed so that a representative working people's party cannot ever get a grip.

If that's the case, and we are left without alternative and without Opposition, the Australian people may have to do more than take themselves to the street to seek balance in our political system. We do not want the resultant unrest we see elsewhere in the world, so, against our natural apathy, we may have to participate intelligently in developing alternatives ourselves. It's in all our interests, including John Howard's as we'll see, to have a strong and effective Opposition.

We know this is because it keeps the voices of the nation more happily contained within the political system, where those voices feel heard and effectively represented. People won't always get a win, but if they feel their voice had a fair go they may whinge a bit but you won't get the anger and damage happening elsewhere in the world.

It may indeed in modern times be incumbent on all Australians to reinvent a political wheel. One of them seems to have fallen off.

All this places a terrible weight upon the shoulders of sitting Coalition MPs. This must surely be an unfair weight. It's a weight, in a good and balanced system, they would not bear. They are bearing the heaviness not only of government responsibility, but the unfair weight of the disaffected and the disagreeing, where the voice of those should be represented and responsibility carried elsewhere.

Most of the few significant alterations to Government proposals have come from within the Coalition itself. But what torment that must be. So misshapen has become our political landscape that to do what is unremarkable for a normal person, to simply question and disagree on something, now brands you with the distasteful sign of dissenter.

John Howard cops the blame for creating much of this distaste for dissent, but as leader he cannot be blamed for wanting to run a tight ship. Regardless of the distaste for some of his policies, there would be greater revulsion were he to flop and flounder within his own Party.

This is exemplified in no clearer or unfortunate way than what has transpired in the two alternative long(er) standing political parties: the Democrats and Labor. As bad as some may consider John Howard's way, worse, by a long shot, would be having those scrambled eggs mixed with fish milkshake in government. Quite simply, if you cannot lead your own party, and develop valid inspiring alternative policy, and promote that positively, how could you ever do it for the country.

While our supposed alternative parties, with the strong exception of the Greens, flop and flounder within themselves, our very own political landscape, uncontained, has spewed misshapen over absolutely all of us, un-served by a fallen system, and all of whom they are supposed to represent in Opposition.

In amongst all that, the Coalition MPs, without the soothing oil of the spotlight, are trying to not only steer the cart but carry the broken wheel as well.

Let's spare them a thought, as we seek from them in monumental matters of security and sedition - in the public and in the workplace - a duty and a burden beyond measure.

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re: The fall guys

Hi Robert, another good piece mate.

I think you are quite right about the people eventually taking to the streets. It is quickly looking to be the only way to oppose what is happening at both Fed and State level. Of course that would be sedition...

Our problem, as you indicate, is what on earth do we replace what is there with? The way it seems to work right now a Party only needs one person, a leader. The rest could be cardboard cutouts really if they simply obey their orders. It'd save us a ton of money though and may be a better system than what we have.

I'm quite encouraged by those Coalition MPs who are speaking up as they must have gone through as lot of turmoil and bullying to get them to that stage. I urge everyone to support those that do speak out, not with fake sentiment and urging, but from the heart. They may be coalition MPs but they have shown signs of a mind and conscience underneath Howard's "shut up or die" leadership.

The bit I disagree with you Robert, is that it is a hard job being a Coalation MP. What they have to contend with is simply what they accepted on election, maybe even pre-selection, and the longer they stay quiet and obey the longer their suffering, and ours. They perpetuate the travesty we call democracy by their obedience.

Of course there's always Barnaby. Shouting loudly to get noticed, new boy in class syndrome. He apparently still thinks people will believe a word he says when he is just a setup in a preplanned media exchange. If he's not then I'll be the first to applaud when he actually does oppose something instead of just waiting for an offer he can't refuse.

re: The fall guys

Prior to the last election you were urging us all to vote for Labor and get rid of Howard, without even thinking what the consequences of a Latham led government would be like.

Today Labor are a rabble of incompetent and inexperienced people. They are led by a leader who has no right to be there, he is a loser and still beholden to the union movement and does not to do anything unless Burrows says yes.

Robert, I cannot agree with you regarding The Greens they are a bunch of amateurs, and I consider Bob Brown to be a very dangerous person. His hatred of anything American or Capitalist is clouding his judgement.

We do not need the IR legislation in it's present form, it needs to be watered down. However we do need to curb the power of the unions, so the country can move forward. I honestly believe that without the tie up to the unions Labor could become a force again, which would be good for the country.

Perhaps you could write a piece about what you think Australia would be like under a Labor governement, and we could comment on that.

re: The fall guys

Robert...have always been impressed by your pieces - even when I did not entirely agree with them - but, frankly, this one takes the cake!

Congratulations, because...what you're saying here is exactly what I feel many (or even most) Australians, shorn of any party "loyalty" (and justifiably so) are now suspecting about "our" entire political class...

Has happened before - as I've said (repeatedly) in this forum - see Australia's UAP and the US Whigs for clear examples. However, neither of said debacles encompassed BOTH major political parties. On the other hand, as the psuedo-globalists constantly assure us, we live in UNPRECEDENTED times.

Let us hope - therefore - that the ruin in this case is bipartisan...as it certainly deserves to be...

And that those "representatives" who are genuine about their task will stick with it and, eventually, reconfigure into groupings much more truly representative of their respective electorates...

Has happened (many times) before, folks, which - I'd have to say - is the GENIUS of democracy, however imperfect its realization...

all the best

re: The fall guys

Thanks, Robert. I too have wondered at the gymnastics which coalition MPs are undergoing now that there is no effective opposition. They might have to 'think' about policy instead of relying on the Oppostion to do the leg work. Nature abhors a vacuum so someone will fill that role, no doubt. And I have also wondered how this impacts on the selection of the new leader from within the Liberal Party ranks.

Both 'Peter' and 'Pooh' must be tired of waiting for 'Tigger' to loose his bounce.

re: The fall guys

I'm glad that Robert recognizes that the Greens are a coherent force. Bob Brown is the most inspirational politician nationally at present. Bob had the gumption to make a fuss when Bush visited Parliament House. The Greens have been concerned for years about the environment prior to the environment becoming a mainstream issue. The Greens have also been concerned about social justice for many years.

Labor is rudderless at present, although Mr. Beazley has made a strong speech against the proposed IR legislation. But it mainly seems it's a case of me too, as Robert says. At least Mr. Beazley has given a guarantee that the IR proposals will be revoked when Labor is elected. Overall, Labor does not seem to have any kind of vision for Australia.

Meanwhile, Coalition politicians are cowered by Mr. Howard; Petro Georgiou is an example of a Liberal who presents a notable exception. Barnaby Joyce did seem to show promise, but in the end capitulates.

Politics nationally would appear to be at a very low ebb.

Anybody with any kind of ethics would not wish to be a candidate for the Coalition Parties at present.

re: The fall guys

Contrary to the views of Keith Antonysen and Robert Bosler, I do not think the Greens can be taken seriously. I have never liked Bob Brown yet, for obvious media reasons he has become the face of the Greens (and their whingeing voice).

Personal likes aside, what has he achieved? The measure of any cross-bencher is the ability to find the middle ground to achieve solutions through consensus. After all that is how most of our problems are solved and, for the most part, people tend to agree with sensible proposals for such solutions. One puts them on the table and dickers round the edges until a compromise is found (usually where everyone is a little unhappy but not so unhappy as he would have been by no solution or ramming a poor solution through). That, after all, is how lawyers settle cases and most (the vast majority of cases) settle.

Where I have most difficulty with the Greens, however, is when they start to play politics. They are not very good at it as events in NSW this week show. I have not met Ian Cohen but, to date, I have been impressed with the way he seems to be able to steer things through the quagmire of fractious interests that is the NSW Legislative Council. Sylvia Hale is something of an unknown quantity as yet but approachable and pleasant and our local Counsellor, after a bit of mild initial brutalising is now very willing to listen and discuss issues.

Because of the looming NSW election, the Greens have obviously made the choice that Lee Rihanon (or however the wretched woman spells her name) should be the front and make all the announcements since she is the only one of the three up for re-election.

The hottest political potato in NSW at the moment is Sydney's Cross-city Tunnel, the other major road projects and the general question of Public Private Partnerships and the funding of infrastructure (sound like the interest of a particular political party to anyone?) The Greens have made reasonably embarrassing running on this for the government but have not acknowledged a vast amount of community (non-green) work which has gone in over months both publicly and behind the scenes.

I have been inspecting the documents released to the upper house which pertain to the project and will continue to do so until I have seen them all. At this stage, I can say it is the worst piece of public sector mismanagement I have ever seen and I've been in the game for 20 years and seen public documents going back to 1901.

In three hours, because I know what I'm doing and what to look for, I have come across a small selection of killer documents which are enough to hole the Government below the waterline and force the resignation of the Minister then responsible. I anticipate that is inevitable. Good-bye Carl.

The Greens' political incompetence showed itself in two instances over the past few weeks. First, they shot their mouths off obviously without having found the killer documents or appreciating their significance. More importantly, however, the Opposition had managed to refer the entire issue to a standing committee chaired by one of their members. Under the Standing Orders, it is a chairman of a committee who has the power to order people to attend hearings conducted by committees not the members themselves. In order to stave off further embarrassment, the Government proposed a select committee chaired by Abide-with-me Nile. The Greens needed two cross-bench votes to swing a committee chaired by an opposition member. The vote was on Tuesday. What did they do last weekend? They attacked both Nile and the Outdoor Recreation Party chap, Jenkins, to the point where they have vowed not to support the Greens in the future. I have never seen such a clumsy piece of politics and it will be to the detriment of the people of NSW and ultimately the rest of the country if the NSW taxpayer has to pay these consortia (on a conservative estimate) $15 billion over the next 30-40 years as a result of the disastrous contracts entered into by the Government.

Quite frankly, against that, I'm not sure the Greens should be allowed in the sandpit. Let's hope they can see sense on preferences.

re: The fall guys

A very good piece, well said... however, let's remember that these ELECTED representatives are SUPPPOSED to be REPRESENTING the ACTUAL views of their CONSTITUENTS. There is nothing to feel sorry about at all - they wanted the job, they are playing with the lives of 20,000,000 AUSTRALIANS and that is their first and only REAL obligation.

Putting parties ahead of country is why we have such a mess on our hands and all political parties have been guilty of this, and more so of late. There are many "strong" leaders who have led their people and their countries to disastrous outcomes.

Strength without real vision and humanity is highly dangerous, as we are now seeing on a daily basis with the Howard government and policies which are going to make most Australian's lives far more precarious, far more miserable, and far more uncertain both for now and for the next TWO generations at least.

There is no reason to be patient with any sitting member - indeed we have been patient for the last 15 years. They are there to get this right, not to collect their super. This is a time to DEMAND that they do their job. It IS a time for ANGER, for PERSISTENCE, and for unrelenting pressure on those who claim to represent ALL of us. If they do not do this right we will indeed have to reinvent this particular "democracy" (because it isn't at the moment).

re: The fall guys

The problem is that the new 'paradigm', requires government to do little more than 'administer' AustCorp. It is managerialism brought to the Parliament. A manager doesn't spend time sitting around and debating, to gather all views and attempt to 'persuade'. A manager worthy of his/her name just 'does it', after a bit of ‘listen up and take note' talk. This is the reason in my opinion for the fondness of Howard and others for ‘Executive’ rule, since it is the closest thing to the way managers ‘manage’ that there is.

The issue is, do we agree that the government is there to 'manage' us or do we regard it as a place where the most important 'conversations' (meaning debating decisions that have the greatest impact on the many) take place? We are fast losing control not just of Parliament, but of the whole direction of the polity, since the new paradigm I referred to assumes away the role of government and therefore Parliament, in favour of technocratic fiddling with settings designed to permit a more smoothly functioning 'market'.

That is the conversation we all need to have. It is the political economy, not the individual failings of the people we elect from time to time that is the problem here, in my opinion.

For what it is worth, I don't think that the current mob, whatever party they represent, are any worse, and in fact some are a lot better than we have had in the past. It's just that they are not sure what their purpose is any more, since that purpose is fast being assumed by a variety of other actors, who are busy trying to reassure us and them that unaccountable private power is somehow more democratic than accountable public power!

The next time someone moans about the role of government, or about how corrupt and hopeless parliamentarians are, I suggest we take note of what they would rather have in its place. Too often, such talk is ‘cover’ for a plea for power to be placed in the hands of private entities whose accountability to the people is somehow assumed, rather than demonstrated. People who believe that the government should just ‘get out of the way’ should be asked to tell us who or what should therefore govern, and in what manner they think decisions that effect everyone’s lives should be made.

That is the dirty little secret at the heart of the IR laws. The laws do not remove ‘regulation’ from the ways people are treated at work, or from the terms and conditions under which they work - the laws simply place that regulation in the hands of individual employers, and remove it from institutions that are open and accountable in various ways to the polity as a whole. Now some may argue that is better, and others not. The point here is to illustrate that the mantra of ‘deregulation’ has more often covered a process of removing ‘regulation’ from the public part of the polity, to private actors. Sometimes this is good, sometimes it is not, and sometimes it is a matter of debate, but the role of Parliament, and the feeling that people have that things are slipping out of their control, relates, in my opinion, to this movement, which has been underway now for some twenty years in polities such as ours.

re: The fall guys

I was thinking further about this aricle yesterday and the way Howard ignores public opinion and it dawned on me that he doesn't actually draw his power from the Australian people at all. His legitimacy is based on his direct relationship with Bush and all that this implies. So the knowledge that Howard is a liar and a fraud doesn't matter. What we are employing him for as PM is to protect this economy from the ravages of the market. It's the kind of thinking where a locksmith would employ a 'break and enter' specialist (thief) to test out the inviolability of a security product.

re: The fall guys

Malcolm, would you allow Mr. Howard in the sandpit? We come from different States Malcolm, and so what you say has no meaning to me in relation to your experience of Greens. However, the Greens were the vanguard in relation to promoting environmental issues in the very early 1970s when very few people had any knowledge about environmental issues. Federally, Bob Brown has stood up for social justice issues. Currently, Bob Brown is against the Anti terrorist and IR legislation.

re: The fall guys

Laura Tingle (Financial Review, Nov 18th) wrote this, in 'Short shrift is the order of the day':

... But in a week when political headlines continued to be dominated by counter-terrorism and industrial relations, it's worth remembering that there are all sorts of things happening in the Senate which you don't hear that much about any more because, at the end of the day, nobody thinks the Senate can change things. ...
Democrats leader Lyn Allison has noted a few more acts of grace.

These include: refusing to allow the Senate committee examining the Workplace Relations changes an extra six days to do its job; "refusing to agree to changing the government's proposed reporting date for the Senate committee inquiry into Welfare to Work from November 28 this year to February next year; refusing to permit the Tax Laws (Superannuation Contributions Splitting) Bill to have a short committee inquiry that would neither hold up the legislation nor disadvantage anyone; and refusing to extend the reporting date for a non-urgent, very detailed inquiry into the administration of the Migration Act by a very overworked committee to early next year".

This is stuff that wanders well into the petty, and the petty tyrannical.

But what really matters is that nobody is getting to have a proper look at a mountain of legislation which, in its more conspicuous and publicised drafting flaws, shows every sign of needing proper scrutiny.

Also by L. Tingle, 'Senate must do its job or die: Joyce':

[Senator Joyce:]"If we strongly believe senators have no capacity to amend legislation or senators can never operate away from their party political lines, then we should really be honest about: save a lot of money and votes and get rid of the thing."

re: The fall guys

As Robert Bosler says: "John Howard cops the blame for creating much of this distaste for dissent, but as leader he cannot be blamed for wanting to run a tight ship. Regardless of the distaste for some of his policies, there would be greater revulsion were he to flop and flounder within his own Party."

To paraphrase Howard's own words, he is damned if he does, and damned if he doesn't. But it is Kim Beazeley who comes across as the Grand Master of the Flop and Flounder. He has never succeeded in differentiating the ALP from the Liberals on any significant issue, and his 'small target' election strategy expresses this well.

These days, the only difference between the two major parties is in their histories.

The Liberal Party has from its foundation been a top down party. It was after all set up by its politicians. All decisions that matter in Federal politics are the prerogative of the Leader, and John Howard is simply continuing a tradition established by the party’s founder Bob Menzies, who made his decisions after consultation with members of his Inner Cabinet.

Going downwards in that party, past back benchers and party officials to rank and file members, policy making power diminishes dramatically. But people join the Liberal Party not to have an influence on policy, but to get closer to power and/or to position themselves for preselection. In this world it is not what you know, it is who you know.

In contrast with the Liberals, the ALP was originally set up (at least in large part) by the unions for the unions, to represent the union movement in the parliaments. Unlike the case of the Liberals, there was no original founding meeting. 'Labour leagues' sprang up spontaneously in the wake of the great shearing and maritime strikes of 1891. And its organisational structure was the opposite of that of the conservative parties it opposed. The annual conferences of the affiliated unions, along with a large party membership organized into local branches across the nation, were constitutionally the ultimate source of policy. The ALP politicians in the parliaments (the “Parliamentary Party”) were there to carry out the party’s decisions made outside of the parliaments. They functioned as executives only. Hence Bob Menzies’ 1963 jibe that the ALP was ruled by ’36 faceless men’, by which he meant the party’s Federal Executive. (This was after a press photograph appeared of the Federal Parliamentary Leader Arthur Calwell and his deputy Gough Whitlam waiting outside Canberra’s Hotel Kingston for their instructions while the Federal Executive met inside.)

In other words, the ALP was a mass-based, and largely mass-controlled political party. In the 1930s and 1940s it had 370,000 members, almost double the peak membership of 200,000 the Liberal Party achieved in its heyday after WW2. ALP branch meetings in metropolitan suburbs and country towns were lively social events, particularly before the advent of TV. Party members and affiliated unions had an important role to play in financing the party and handing out how-to-vote slips outside polling booths.

Now the ALP is neither mass-based or mass-controlled, and its popular vote is largely inertial. The rise to dominance of the Parliamentary Party at both state and federal levels is a reflection of the decline in mass participation in the ALP. Indeed, with state funding of election campaigns, and party affiliation of each candidate printed on the ballot paper (greatly reducing the need for how-to-votes) the Parliamentary Party can survive without the mass membership. In this period an enormous number of previously ‘rusted on’ Labor voters have become swinging voters, and particularly since the Hawke and Keating governments, policy has been unprincipled ‘pragmatism’, made up on the run, and has converged with that of the Liberal Party. No significant issue now divides the two parties. Kim Beazeley’s policy vacuum is the expression of this, not its cause. He has no rivals within the party putting up strenuous opposition to the stand he takes, or more commonly does not take, on anything.

To give credit where it is due, the Liberal Party is true to its own constitution. This is far more than can be said for the ALP, where notionally, the Federal Conference still makes federal policy. Except that the politicians called its bluff and won. Over uranium exports. In 1984.

Street demonstrations such as those recently held over the IR legislation are still important expressions of mass power. It is important to remember also that politicians on both sides, for all their claims to ‘leadership’, are in the last analysis only followers. They have an ability to sniff the breeze that would put a dingo to shame. And while John Howard dismissed the large turnouts in the recent IR demonstrations as ‘of no significance’, he would have held it to be highly significant if only two men and a dog had shown up.

A spectre is haunting Howard. It is Clarrie O’Shea, the Victorian Tramways Union leader who went to jail in 1969 rather than pay fines under the penal clauses of the Arbitration Act, and brought the nation the closest it had been to a general strike for the previous 40 years. Greg Combet’s speech signaled that he was ready for a replay of that. You can have all the words you like written down in Acts passed in a pyramidal building in Canberra, but realpolitik is something else again.

The recent demonstrations are a departure for the Australian people, who normally appear to be not too concerned with politics. This normal lack of concern is bad. It lets politicians get away with far more than is their due. But it is also good. Countries where the mass of the population cares passionately about politics tend to be rather dangerous places to live.

re: The fall guys

Well, thank goodness for geography, Keith Antonysen. I remember years ago when the Greens were starting up (at about the time the very hard left was disintegrating possibly because the Trots finally realised that an icepick was a sort of finality in itself) a cousin of mine by marriage was working for them and singing their praises at a family function.

I predicted that the movement would be taken over by and swamped with the left as it was. Ever since then, the movement (which eventually expelled the hard left by splitting) has been struggling to find any sort of coherent identity. It opposes a lot of things, it attracts a lot of loonies, it panders (and I mean that in all its senses) to the homosexual lobby, the furry idea lobby and the anti lobby, but it has no coherent policy of its own. People like Brown and Cohen may be competent at what they do so far as it goes, but it does not translate into effective policy.

That Brown will jump onto any bandwagon that gets him on national TV does not mean that he has any coherent policy. That he opposes is a given. What would he do with a terrorist?

I oppose the AT measures (in fact I think I committed acts of sedition about five times yesterday) and the IR nonsense, but it will pan out when the High Court downs both. A lot of people will suffer in the meantime, but, at least as IR goes, perhaps that's what they deserve for turning their backs on the unions.

The suggestion that the Greens have a monopoly on "environmentalism" is clearly nonsense. Many farmers have been practising good husbandry for decades (Australia does not have its reputation for being the best dry farming country in the World for nothing) and many politicians over the years (Billy Wentworth for example) have taken up the fight and did so long before the Greens were anything other than a part of three veg.

My point about politics is one of general applicability. I do not think the Greens have any coherent policy either in NSW or elsewhere in the Country. For many of them, their hearts might be in the right place; but that is not enough. The policy is sustainable development (and development it must be for myriad reasons), but it must be sustainable and it must be development. There is still plenty of room to expand on this planet as every scuba diver knows and the Universe: it is mankind's oyster.

Why should we bother? Well, if we don't we may as well find a nice prospect and top ourselves in front of it now. There may be no point, but if there is anything at all to being human, we need to keep expanding.

I assume, in good Green fashion, Keith Antonysen, you don't have children - no point cluttering the place is there?

As for your initial question, on balance, hate him as I do for the rational reasons I have often expressed on WD, I think it is important to have people like Howard in the sandpit. First, one knows where he is; secondly, it is easier to keep an eye on him; thirdly, it is a good way of seeing which other kids he is thugging up; and, finally, it always allows the possibility of seeing some other kid grind his face into it. It has the added inherent advantage of being smaller than the world stage.

I shall entertain any rational response.

re: The fall guys

Sharing some thoughts:

Ross: "It is quickly looking to be the only way to oppose what is happening at both Fed and State level. Of course that would be sedition...Our problem, as you indicate, is what on earth do we replace what is there with? The way it seems to work right now a Party only needs one person, a leader."

Might I add to this that a party needs at least two other things. It needs the resources to draw on to make valid policy. (We're not merely talking about ideas here, but valid alternative policy for enactment.) And it needs the political relevence to have them viewed as alternative.

This would lead to the Greens, where Malcolm makes his points clear, and especially in relation to them "playing politics."

The Greens don't have the resources to draw on to make valid policy, and they lack the political relevence to have them heard. Some would say they don't have the leader able to imagine and set about the long term focus and building of alternative policy, either. But my point of strength of leadership includes those limitations in consideration.

In brief, Bob Brown has led a team who've largely stood long, straight and clear on issues as voice for the disaffected and the disagreeing. Many times we've seen the Labor Party response to Howard, in attempt at representing the disagreeing and disaffected, bend, wobble and waffle. At times it's mattered, the voice of the Greens in strong contrast has come forth loud and clear.

While the Greens have no real resources or relevance for an alternative living policy - yet? - and by that means perhaps it's too early to judge Bob Brown for policy, they have certainly been strong in opposing Government policy, which has represented the disagreeing and the disaffected. It is on that basis alone I am giving them credit in this unbalanced political environment.

And in this unbalanced system we now have we'd be rarely mentioning them if the true oppositional representative voice was more effective in Labor.

In that balanced system, not having the focus on opposing government policy as representative voice for the disagreeing and disaffected, the Greens would benefit from that release and would be forced by the need for relevance to begin to produce-and-promote alternative policy, and obtain the means to do so. The benefits in that for them and us, and the government (being forced to produce better policy themselves), is healthy and uplifting, as an idea clinging to life in the realms of possibility.

Syd, the reason I expressed interest and support of Mark Latham was based on the fact he showed, in an environment vacant of it for too many years, that he held an alternative vision for Australia. He was about making policy. And that he bridged the gap between real life and political life. These were vitally needed, and deserved attention from us. That he was too green himself to succeed in these difficult needs, in the environment of a dumbed down national debate, and that he may have been entirely unsuitable as well, and that he may have been whiteanted by a dead shell Labor Party structure, all take nothing away from the clarity of his unique place in Opposition - unlike anyone else he actually produced and believed and promoted alternative policy.

We simply hadn't heard alternative policy for the best part of a decade. As though there were no other way! That Latham put forward alternative policy - just the existence of it - was valuable in the political environment of the last decade.

It's that point: the production, commitment to and positive promotion of alternative policy which has left us.

On Beazley, I'd say these brief things. The voice of the disaffected and the disagreeing has gone way past being served by huff and puff. If, as Latham says, Beazley's belief in what Opposition is all about is "piss on them and piss off" (according to Latham, that is Beazley's belief, in Beazley's own words), with Beazley leading, Labor is way past being in trouble.

The only chance I can see Labor has, with Beazley as leader, is if Howard ends up so much on the nose on the electorate that people warm to something they may see in Beazley's personality, bereft of policy, by comparison. That's a pretty crook scenario any way you look at it, and yet the unlikely best, making it more crook.

Something in Beazley does come across as having an understanding and connection with a greater, more compassionate spirit. But there's one defining characteristic which is crippling for our system, and makes Beazley in my view culpable for our unbalanced political system now, and that is he's not created, committed to nor put forward alternative policy.

Russell, your points are well made about Coalition MPs representing all of us. I am not here to disagree with that. Rather, I would like to put forward the point that Opposition carries the same responsibility. Opposition is not the time to indulge in inner party squabbles and battles. It is not the time to huff, puff nit and pick, as though Opposition is a place of haven from public duty.

Opposition, by that very same responsibility bestowed on our elected MPs, is equally representative of all of us. Just like the elected Government, Opposition is a wheel on the cart of healthy democracy - a cart carrying the hopes, dreams and daily reality of all our national folk.

For the better part of a decade the Labor Party has not respected that responsibility.

And that has affected all of us.

Let me state it again. There is no greater force or value of Opposition, working effectively and healthily for all of us, than to create valid alternative policy, commit to it, and promote it positively.

Doing so not only opens up the Australian future to alternative paths in national growth, it opens up the individual to the belief in the existence and value of choice in life. It serves also to sharpen the Government of the day, and it lifts the whole game, Jane, I would suggest, out of that fiddling or meddling administration it otherwise becomes, at best.

So back to our Coalition MPs. Jenny, Trevor and Keith, for what it's worth, may I add a further thought?

What happens if Howard does get on the nose across Australia? What happens to the Coalition MPs currently steering the cart and carrying the broken wheel as well?

On past form, should we expect Mr Howard to stick around and accept any responsibility for the smell?

Or will he sense it first, and shoot through, resigning in a blaze of media glory?

What then?

Our Coalition MPs, carrying the broken wheel of a broken Opposition, would find themselves facing the anger of the electorate Howard would have dodged. It would be the Coalition MPs who "get it in the neck".

Truly, it would be a hell of a tough job as Coalition MP right now.

re: The fall guys

Malcolm, I think we have a common target, and so, arguing about how good the Greens are or are not; is not that relevant in the debate about IR and Anti Terrorist legislation.

I'll make only one comment; however, in Tasmania there is a small township of Strahan. In years gone by it was beginning to stagnate; however, the saving of the Franklin River has now enabled Strahan to become one of Tasmania's icons. The work done by Green organizations enabled the Franklin to be saved from damming. A tourist industry has been growing around visitors cruising up the Franklin River. It is truly spectacular and would not be available now had the River been dammed.

re: The fall guys

I am intrigued by your view that the High Court will strike down the IR laws. In my opinion,(not a lawyer, but legally literate) and the opinion of others who are lawyers, this is highly unlikely, except perhaps for some technical trimming at the edges re local government perhaps, and the Commonwealth's reach into state statutory corporations. Of course I would very pleased to be wrong, but I am not counting on it.

Re the Greens-if they didn't exist they would have to be invented. They are the natural result of the implosion of traditional social democratic politics, and of the collapse of a the kind of liberalism that sued to be the hallmark of both major political parties in this countries.

re: The fall guys

I've been reading Web Diary since its inception and the more I read, the more I despair. The great democracy debate is valid and all the anger about its imminent demise is valid. However, come the elections I'll bet pounds to peanuts that the majority of you who SEE the dangers of re-electing this dictatorship will turn to water and your votes will be cast in favour of it as you did at the last one.

The excuse that Labor is weak, that Beazley is soft and offers no alternative (true, in my opinion), that Latham couldn't be trusted because he was too inexperienced etc. etc is all simply poor excuses for being lily-livered. ANYTHING would be better for this country than the current regime. The only way to get rid of those who are leading this nation like lemmings over a precipice, is to vote to kick them out in no uncertain terms.

For me, I have lost faith in my fellow Australians who cringe in fear and refuse to get their heads out of the sand to stand up for the values we've held dear for a century or more. If Australians cared as much for their country as they do about their football club they would take the trouble to inform themselves and not allow themselves to be conned and lied to. Those Australians who are concerned, who do see the writing on the wall, would do well to voice their opinions in the ballot box rather than in places like Web Diary where their opinions only have entertainment value and a place where they can see their opinions in print.

re: The fall guys

Well now Malcolm,
I don't actually spend time with lawyers who advised Combet and the ALP on the High Court challenge re Government advertising, which seems in retrospect to have been a handy piece of political theatre which cost a lot. However Combet is neither reckless nor careless, so someone got their calculations quite wrong, unless they never meant to win in any case. But anyway, notwithstanding that, I would still be interested in your views-as I said, I hope you are right and I am wrong.
And your point about 'we know who you are' is what exactly?

re: The fall guys

Yes, but Jane Doe (we know who you really are) you spend your time mixing with the sorts of lawyers who lost Combet. May I remind you who got the result right?

re: The fall guys

I am in very substantial agreement with you Robert Bosler. I have decided to limit my initial activity to NSW because I think it an achievable objective but the point you make about resources is a good one. I am gathering backers at the moment and I think I will get the substantial money I need to run an effective and successful campaign (but I'm not letting the details out of the bag just yet). I am a saleable leader and know how to handle the press.

There is no point in doing any of that, however without coherent achievable policy. That is what I shall spend the next 12 months developing. In NSW the times suit me. The debacle that has engulfed the Labor [sic] Government over the Tunnel and road projects, while not enough to lose it government is going to put an almighty dent in its majority. It is already starting to propose solutions which accord with the sims of the Taxation Reform Party. I don't care who steals my ideas as long as the voters know who thought of them first. As the economic picture in NSW gets worse (and it will - stay tuned to the Tunnel inquiries over the next few weeks - some of the documents I copied yesterday are dynamite) the times will suit me more. Funnily enough, things have a tendency to fall into my lap. The Dental Health policy, surprisingly, is the easiest and I have established the contact with the professionals I need to sell it.

That will be the approach: you get the critical people onside by asking them to contribute to policy formulation before you announce it. If you are going to alienate anyone (and in politics one always does - a reality with which Clover Moore cannot cope), you explain why and it has to be a good reason.

If I did not think I would be able to achieve my policy objectives, I wouldn't even run.

Keith Antonysen, if the target is stupidity and bad policy, we do, indeed have it in common. I spent my honeymoon in Tasmania and have been back I think five or six times (I take all my women there). So I have seen Strachan (please spell it properly) from 1982 to the late 90s (last time we just went to Hobart - wonderful break - all Webdiarists should visit Tasmania at least three times in their lives). My worst memory of Strachan was a kangaroo quennelle. Why "saving a river" (and destroying a pile of much needed jobs) leads to buyip pretention I don't know. I don't particularly like what Strachan has become - an expensive, pretentious tourist trap (and like all remote locations in Australia dependent on inadequate staff who are not properly trained or up to the 5 Star facade such places like to present) set against one of the most beautiful backdrops in the country.

Like so many, you seem to see the country's salvation in tourism - well that worked well during the Olympics didn't it? NSW is still paying for the ludicrous excesses committed by the now, thankfully, departed Fahey and Knight. This country will only survive in the long term on ideas. We've got about 50 years to get back on track or we're stuffed - back to being the world's resources pit and nothing more. Where's your Greens policy on that? They've had years to develop one: where is it?

re: The fall guys

Malcolm, you argue from the particular to the general in relation to my only concern being the promotion of tourism. It has been a good thing for Strahan, just as plantation forests are good for other areas within Tasmania. Tasmania has mining on the West Coast and that is appropriate too. The North West has some of the best farming land in Australia that is also an important industry.

You directed your comments towards me as I suggested Bob Brown is an inspirational political figure. If we had several more free thinkers in Parliament like Bob Brown perhaps we would not be in the mess we are in. I don't mean just Green, Labor and Liberal as well. In the past we have had some notable political mavericks within the Liberal Party. Now as somebody has indicated, Coalition politicians are either scared or greedy, except for a few such as Petro Georgiou.

We do agree that ideas are important to get us back on track; more specifically research and development should be promoted to the hilt. However, the Coalition government's concern re education is to educate for particular jobs, research and development has been stymied. It is research and development where Universities have excelled in the past.

re: The fall guys

Well, Jan Piper, you'll find a membership form to stand up and be counted in 2007 at link here by the end of the week. Or email admin@taxationreformnsw.org.

Can't do much more than run can I?

re: The fall guys

Jan you appear to have a pretty dismal view about Australians and people corresponding on Webdiary.

This last week I met two people who stated that they voted Liberal at the last election. They are quite remorseful and taking actions; such as contacting the Coalition and letting them know in no uncertain terms that they are angry. The people I spoke with have felt betrayed by the IR legislation.

If you are angry with the Coalition Government don't forget to tell your friends and family and let them know why you have felt betrayed.

re: The fall guys

Worth thinking about this statement:

Mr Bush may disdain timetables for our pullout, but, hello, there already is one, set by the Santorums of his own party: the expiration date for a sizable American presence in Iraq is Election Day 2006. As Mr Mueller says, the decline in support for the war won't reverse itself. The public knows progress is not being made, no matter how many times it is told that Iraqis will soon stand up so we can stand down.

I wonder how this will play here in Oz ... see for discussion and context. The tide is turning in the US... how far behind will Australia be?

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