Recently there has been debate around the blogs and in the mainstream media about who and what the ALP represents these days, and whether, because in some commentators' opinions they represent no one and nothing any more, that therefore they are going the way of the Dodo and will soon dry up as a political entity, like a puddle after a sun-shower. Or, on the other hand, after the watershed of the NSW State Election, they will now go on to form some new sort of Rainbow Coalition, no longer tainted by the 'NSW Disease' and the influence of the NSW Right. Who will be supporting the ALP if so?
I thought I'd address this topic because I have recently been peppered with questions by D Mick Weir with respect to the future directions, philosophy, support base and soul of the ALP today. To whit he has put up a link to a new Progressive political outfit, Replacing the ALP
and has referred to articles critical of the ALP by Rodney Cavalier similar to this one
. Which has the observation: “Where exactly does modern Labor draw from? Once upon a time Labor could draw from all the factories in Australia and all the mines, the railways and ships and trucks, the waterfront, the gangs working in the open air. It could supplement that gene pool with a growing army of adherents in the liberal arts, teaching, the law and other professions, essentially anyone we might have characterised as progressive in a whole range of social issues, foreign policy, nationalism, civil liberties. Either directly or through the ranks of union officials, Labor could draw on the best out there for renewal. Each such source of supply has dried up.”
Now, while I support that assertion in a general sense by Cavalier, I also agree with Trevor Cook who rebutted a lot of what Cavalier so often asserts, in his review of Cavalier's book: Power Crisis
Even more recently, John Quiggin has opined along similar lines to Cavalier
Wherein Quiggin quibbles at length around the point that in Julia Gillard's Whitlam Oration, she does not refer to 'equality' as a philosophical aim of the Labor Party, only to 'fairness', whereas the Liberal Party does mention 'equality', and 'living a life in dignity', in their party's Mission Statement. As if these tone words mean more than any action. Which I could not understand as a basis for criticism because, if there is one difference between the parties, Liberal and Labor, which is crystal clear to the objective observer, it is that Labor DOES practice what it does not explicitly preach, that is, employs policies which aim to see the most disadvantaged in our society provided for, so that they may live their lives in dignity; and the Liberal Party merely mouths the platitudes, but by their actions create a life undignified for those on the bottom rungs of our society, such as by opposing pension increases, and encouraging unpaid 'Traineeships', and ‘Work for the Dole’ with no training component attached which aims the unemployed towards a worthwhile job.
Of course there are many others who have contributed commentary to the effect of analysing the current state of and future directions of the Australian Labor Party, and I may refer to some of them later.
Also, I would like, in this piece and subsequent ones, to address the assertion that it is somehow wrong for the ALP to appeal to an expanded base, which encompasses Menzies' 'Forgotten People', of all things. I will address the assertion that it was wrong of the Prime Minister to align herself philosophically in any way with the principles enunciated and encapsulated by Robert Menzies in that famous speech
, and reflected in the Prime Minister's Whitlam Oration
Therefore, what I intend to do is take up the gauntlet thrown down by D Mick Weir and others, and attempt to articulate the triangulation between the PM's 'Whitlam Oration' speech, and the Menzies' 'Forgotten People' speech. My interpretation will go to the connections and commonalities between the two which can be clearly shown to exist, and which may actually benefit the Labor Party into the future in ways which are sympathetic to traditional Labor Party and Australian values. For how could Menzies have been such a successful leader for so long in Australia if he did not realise that he must incorporate strands of Labor Party thinking into his own and which would appeal to demographics that normally identify with Labor?
These ideas can benefit the Labor Party into the future, so as to breathe life and purpose back into the party, and so that it can remain a viable political force and not be swallowed up by the Greens from the Left and the Conservatives from the Right. So that it can become the party of the Middle Way and the Middle Class, whilst continuing to embrace its natural constituency of the Miner, the Railway Worker, the Port Worker and the Shop Worker, plus, of course, the disadvantaged, disabled, and the dispossessed.
Don't forget Malcolm Fraser's words, that the Liberal Party of today, under the influence of Tony Abbott and the Conservatives, no longer reflects the party of Menzies. Also that if you are to represent Australians in government you have to take the middle ground electorally, wherever that middle ground may fall. Whilst I also respect John Quiggin's assertion that a Labor Party must lead the way toward 'The Light on the Hill' so to speak, I feel that it must also take the temperature of the middle ground.
Therefore, I hope to present the case to you that says that a lot of what the PM attempted to articulate in the Whitlam Oration, if somewhat clunkily, and with some obvious missteps with respect to her characterisation of Greens supporters, but nevertheless, in the main, it was a valid appropriation of the middle ground that the Middle Class, and those who aspire to it, have always represented in various incarnations, and which any smart politician, from parties on either side of politics, has always sensibly had an eye on.
I intend to show this by taking Menzies' speech apart, theme by theme, and show how it relates to the places where the ALP needs to go in the 21st century, if it wants to refresh and rejuvenate itself. Not entirely and exclusively, of course, because then the ALP might just as well rename itself the 'Liberal Party', and while there's some validity to that assertion, considering how far to the Conservative Right Tony Abbott and his claque have yanked the Coalition, there are still, to this day, aspects of Liberal Party ideology which will never sit well with the Labor Party, and nor should they ever.
Also, I must stridently assert that, in identifying common threads between Menzies’ and Gillard's conception of ALP values, I am not condoning other aspects of the political road travelled by Robert Menzies during his long stay in power in Australia. He truly did some reprehensible things in government.
As the speech is a long one, and as I have a lot to say betwixt and between the lines, in order to keep it all in a digestible form, there will necessarily have to be a Part 1 and a Part 2 to follow this Prologue.
What do you think so far?