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June 27th, 2005

In the Monday Message Board, Paul Norton points to this piece by Trevor Smith of the CFMEU, advocating a culturally conservative agenda for Labor, and points to similarities with Michael Thompson’s Labor Without Class. There is one important difference, in that Thompson sought to combine cultural conservatism with support for economic rationalism, while Smith is opposing it.

I reviewed Thompson’s book when it came out (over the fold). The conclusion I drew was that it was, in effect, a policy manifesto for Howard.

I’m not necessarily averse to a conservative approach. And I’m no fan of cafe latte. Still, I don’t think the apparent equation of “conservative” with “whatever Howard supports” is valid. And I don’t think much of Smith’s one concrete example, the fight over Tasmanian forests, the issue on which Smith and his union sold out Labor’s chances last year and helped to give us such blessings industrial relations reform. If conserving our natural environment isn’t conservative, what is?

Review of Labor Without Class

The basic thesis of this book is simple. There is a fundamental conflict in Australia between the middle class (managerial, professional and para-professional workers) and the working class (including not only manual workers but routine clerical workers and those employed in sales and personal services). From the time of Gough Whitlam onwards, the Labor Party has been taken over by the middle class. Members of the middle class have secure careers and favour post-materialist policies of feminism, environmentalism and multiculturalism which are hostile to the working class. It was Paul Keating’s embrace of these policies that led Labour’s traditional supporters to abandon the party in 1996. What working class voters care about is economic security, and this, they understand, will be given to them by the policies of economic rationalism adopted by the Hawke-Keating government until from 1983 to 1990. Most of the book consists of Thompson’s critical analysis of the writings of his middle-class opponents within the Labour Party, a group he extends to include all those who take seriously the party’s stated socialist objective. Not surprisingly, the book has the endorsement of prominent economic rationalists like Peter Walsh and P.P. McGuinness. More surprising, perhaps, is a laudatory foreword by Martin Ferguson, referring ominously to Labor’s ‘courage and responsibility in revisiting policies – on welfare, employment and education, for example – that were once treated as sacred.’

Undoubtedly, Thompson is correct to point out that some middle-class advocates of postmaterialist ideas have a patronising and condescending view of the working class as rednecks obsessed with narrowly economic goals, and that middle-class people of this kind were prominent among those (not very many as it turned out) who swung to Keating after 1993. But Thompson simply presents a mirror-image of these views. He accepts without question, and without supporting evidence, the view that the working class is anti-feminist, anti-environmentalist, anti-Aboriginal and so on. The view that environmental concerns are alien to the working class comes particularly oddly from someone who claims to have spent ten years as a builder’s labourer ‘active during the Mundey, Owens and Pringle era’. Evidence from opinion polls and similar studies suggests that both pro- and anti-environmental attitudes are well represented in all social classes. There is some tendency for younger people and those with more education to hold more pro-environmental views, but even these correlations are not particularly strong.

Accepting however, that Thompson’s distaste for the ‘chardonnay set’ who gravitated to Keating after 1993 is shared by many traditional Labour voters, this point does not yield anything like the consequences he wants to derive. His argument suffers from crucial analytical, economic and political errors.

As far as analysis is concerned, it is bizarre to read a book, supposedly about labour and class, that does not even mention employers, capital or wealth. In claiming that there is an irreconcilable conflict between the working class and the urban middle class, it might be expected that Thompson would try to refute the more traditional labour view of an irreconcilable conflict between labour and capital. Thompson simply ignores the question.

Even Thompson’s conception of the middle class is incredibly narrow. The only groups mentioned are teachers, academics and public servants (most of the latter group, on Thompson’s classification, are actually members of the working class). Thompson describes himself as a consultant to the law firm Clayton Utz, but neither consultants nor lawyers (both groups heavily overrepresented in the political system) get a mention. Although ‘urban’ and ‘professional’ are dirty words for Thompson, he ignores the fact that of all the professional groups in the workforce, teachers are the least concentrated in urban areas and work under conditions most similar to those of the clerical workers he wants to assimilate to the working class.

In economic terms, Thompson is committed to the thesis that economic rationalism is necessary for the welfare of the working class and has their political support. The first part of this proposition is simply assumed. Thompson repeatedly and correctly refers to the economic insecurity that faces the working class (though he might have the decency to observe that much the same insecurity faces his betes noires, teachers and academics). He does not explain how privatisation and the accompanying mass redundancies, the abandonment of Keynesian macroeconomic policies, the gutting of the award system and so on are supposed to enhance workers’ security. The argument can perhaps be made that any policy that attempts to protect workers’ interests is doomed to failure, so that there is no alternative to economic rationalism. However, Thompson does not attempt to make it.

Thompson does make a half-hearted attempt to defend the proposition that the Australian working class actually supports economic rationalism. To do this he has to ignore the entire period from 1983 to 1990 when, as he agrees, the economic rationalism of the Hawke-Keating government was at its peak. During this period, Labor’s share of the primary vote fell from 49.5 per cent in 1983, to 47.5 per cent in 1984, 45.8 per cent in 1987 and 39.4 per cent in 1990. The only time Labor’s vote increased was in 1993, when the Liberals were led by the ultra-rationalist John Hewson. In any case, Thompson’s claims on this point are simply incredible. I invite him to walk into any working class pub in the country and announce himself as an economic rationalist.

The final problem with Thompson’s argument is political. Suppose we accept that the Australian working class wants or needs a combination of economic rationalism and cultural conservatism. Precisely that policy mixture is offered to them by John Howard. In the only direct reference to Howard’s views in the book, Thompson says of the 1996 election

The Coalition did not mobilise women around more government intervention, less economic orthodoxy and pro-environment policies. Its leader was John Howard of ‘white picket fence’ fame. But having captured 53 per cent of the women’s vote in 1996, could it not be argued that the Coalition is rather more astute at gauging ‘women’s’ needs and aspirations, and winning their support. (quotation marks in original)

The obvious inference from Thompson’s book is not that Labor should change its position but that he, and others who share his views, should join the Liberals. In fact, Gary Johns, the only figure in the Keating government whom Thompson quotes with any approval, is now affiliated with the Institute for Public Affairs, a right-wing think tank with close historical ties to the Liberal party. P.P. McGuinness, who gives an approving plug, is a former Labor staffer who has long been identified with the most free-market elements of the Liberal party, and now edits the right-wing magazine Quadrant. Senator Peter Walsh has followed a similar trajectory without, so far, actually joining the Liberals. Doubtless, Thompson will not be far behind him when he does.

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  1. June 28th, 2005 at 00:40 | #1

    I reviewed Thompson’s book as well when it came out for the Journal of Sociology. My take is basically the same.

  2. anon
    June 28th, 2005 at 08:42 | #2

    I knew Mick Thompson when he was an economics student at the University of New South Wales 25 years ago. He wasn’t a bad bloke, but he made a big deal out of his builder’s labourer, working class background. Mick was an Irish Catholic working class lad from Balmain, an endangered species even back then.

    He managed the feat of being both very defensive about it and yet using his background to effect an air of moral superiority. Having had all this school of hard knocks experience (he would have been around 30 at the time) Mick thought he had a much better insight into the human condition than the other students. He had a particular contempt for the radical student politicans of the time, who he thought were middle class poseurs. I am sure he didn’t know any of them personally. It was just an assumption on his part.

    As I recall , he was heavily influenced by a Marxist economic historian called David Clark, who attracted quite a following amongst the better students, until they realised he had nothing to say. Clark later converted to economic rationalism, under the influence of P.P. McGuiness.

    I am not surprised that Mick went on to write that book. It would have neen cathartic for him.

  3. Paul Norton
    June 28th, 2005 at 08:56 | #3

    One of the points Thompson made, to which John refers, is the strong gender gap in favour of Howard over Keating in 1996. Aside from changes in the “gender gap” since then which are less congenial to Thompson’s argument, the “gender gap” in electoral behaviour is substantially affected by a major confounding variable, namely the age gap.

    Women generally live longer than men. This means: (a) that there are a great many more older women than older men in the voting population, and (b) that older voters make up a much higher proportion of female voters than of male voters. Given the tendency of older voters to be more conservative in their electoral behaviour, this means that women in aggregate will tend, ceteris parabus, to be more conservative in their voting behaviour than men in aggregate.

    Meaningful conclusions about the influence of gender per se on voting behaviour can therefore only be derived by analytically disaggregating male and female voters according to age (and, one could argue, class, religion, ethnicity, etc.).

  4. Paul Norton
    June 28th, 2005 at 09:09 | #4

    Also on an important point of political sociology, there is a body of evidence to suggest that support for pro-environmentalist positions is higher amongst unionised workers, and amongst occupational categories (e.g. skilled industrial workers) which are core constituencies of the trade union movment, than amongst the population as a whole. In other words, the forestry union and the AWU are the “unrepresentative swill” of the union movement when it comes to relations with the environmental movement. I made this point (in more scholarly language) in a refereed journal article which can be found at:


  5. the commenter formerly known as anon
    June 28th, 2005 at 09:27 | #5

    Looks like I will need to change my moniker. Anon above is not the anon of coarse language, Wigan Pier, and right-wing tub-thumping.

    In terms of job security, there is little difference between the working class and the rest. Just take the current plight of IT workers in the US: outsourcing to India is shifting huge numbers of jobs offshore. Of course, globally, this is a good thing: while the US workers will suffer in the short-term, they’ll find jobs elsewhere, and the long-term benefit to India will far exceed their suffering.

  6. June 28th, 2005 at 09:50 | #6

    The ALP has work to do in regaining middle (and to a certain extent) working-class Australia, but I think it is in the invidious position of also coming to rely on the vote of the so-called “chardonnay set”. You could run the argument that all the ALP has to do is stay a bit left of the Liberals (as Bill Shorten sort of has), given that the worst that the chardonnay set would probably do would be to vote Green and preference the ALP anyway.

    However, selling out the morality that the ALP embodies is IMHO not really an option. One of the standout things that Labor has going for it today is that it offers a considered, quasi-social-democratic alternative to the Liberal Party. Take this away and there will be precious little reason to vote ALP as compared to Liberal.

    Completely selling out principles for votes is not the Labor way. How the principles are sold to the electorate is key. The ALP needs to communicate its policy better – and certainly does not need fresh new policy in all instances.

  7. MB
    June 28th, 2005 at 09:54 | #7

    Thompson’s claim that neo-liberal policies AREN’T unpopular with workers is ludicrous, and I think few would disagree. However, at the same time I think there is an element of truth in his argument about workers’ attitudes towards “post-materialist” issues, though he exaggerates them to suit his argument.

    From my own observations I would say that, on the whole, there remains a great deal of apathy, scepticism or even outright hostility on the part of workers towards these, though others’ observations might differ from my own. I think this is particularly the case with issues like the environment and racial issues.

    I think this will pose problems for the ALP, particularly as the party’s move towards the Right on economic issues has led to a tendency on their part to emphasise issues like the environment in an effort to differentiate themselves from the Liberal-National Parties. I think this failure to address “bread and butter” issues has been a major failing of the ALP in recent years.

    This situation has been skillfully exploited by Howard, and by conservative commentators, who have portrayed the ALP as a party run by trendies, a matter that has not been helped by the “middle-classing” of the ALP and union leadership, opening up a division between educated and uneducated people. This mirrors the “latte liberal” argument thrown up by the Republicans in the U.S. against the Democrats.

  8. Paul Norton
    June 28th, 2005 at 10:08 | #8

    “I would say that, on the whole, there remains a great deal of apathy, scepticism or even outright hostility on the part of workers towards these, though others’ observations might differ from my own. I think this is particularly the case with issues like the environment and racial issues.”

    The social science which has been done on the subject suggests that this is not at all the case with environmental issues – certainly not in terms of the working class as a whole. “Revealed preferences” in terms of election outcomes also shows that Labor did best amongst the punters when it was running a fairly hard pro-environment line, i.e. 1983, 1987 and 1990 under Hawke. One of the most important, but apparently least well remembered, features of Keating’s Prime Ministership was Federal Labor’s retreat from pro-environmental stances and worsening of its relationship with the environmental movement. Indeed, Federal Labor’s relationship with the environmental movement was at its worst during the 1996 election – and there is, to put it mildly, no evidence that the working class rewarded Keating in that election for “taking on the bloody greenies” over the preceding five years.

    There is (regrettably) a strong body of evidence to suggest that the population as a whole, and the working class, are considerably more conservative than mainstream political actors on racial and “multicultural” issues. The ALP’s internal magazine Labor Herald published an interesting study by Murray Goot on this question in (I think) 1996 or 1997.

    Having said all that, I think this entire discussion could do with a lot more serious empirical sociology and less of the fatuous cultural sectarianism which masquerades as “class analysis”.

  9. June 28th, 2005 at 10:18 | #9

    But Thompson simply presents a mirror-image of these views. He accepts without question, and without supporting evidence, the view that the working class is anti-feminist, anti-environmentalist, anti-Aboriginal and so on.

    There is plenty of evidence that the populus are more conservative than the elites on cultural matter (just as the populus are more progressive than the elites on class matters). Katharine Betts has painstakingly accumulated mountains of data on this very topic.

    Labor candidates’ views on important economic and social issues are significantly to the left of what those who voted for them thought, according to research that says Labor risks a “hollowing out” of its support base.

    Pr Q’s condenses, in a nut-shell, the knee-jerk self-righteousness of the Wets that bothers so many conservative social-democrats, like Thompson, Smith and others [!]. This supports a complete false consciousness of their class position when their own class interest is at stake. Thus all other participants in the class and culture wars are grubby materialists, but the Wets are saintly idealists who rise above the political ruck floating on wings of dreams.

    He assumes, without argument, that all Wets cultural policies are “[pro-]feminist, [pro-]environmentalist, [pro-]Aboriginal and so on” simply on the Wets say-so. When, of course, many of the Wets cultural policies are simply pro-Wets eg equity and diversity bureaucracts, welfare dolers, immigration advisors, exotic gourmets etc. Whether Wets policies do some good for their “clients” or not is a moot point. Some welfare-dependent Aborigines and spinster career women may demur.

    And Pr Q, again without so much as a peep, tip-toes daintily past the 800 lb “settlement policy” gorilla that squats in working class living rooms. Politicised immigration policies has been a painful sticking point with those concerned to defend working class interests in the labor movement.

    From the late eighties to the early nineties, when the Wett-Left was ascendant in Cabinet, the numbers men of the ethnic lobby winked at allowing criminals to come in, which sparked off a crime wave during the early nineties. And encouraged an excessive number of low-skilled persons persons which put alot of pressure on the workers living conditions (rent, health, education) which has caused social pathologies in some suburbs.

    This practice was a part of a more general corruption of the ALP’s organization, as it moved from class to cultural politics. Again this was repelling native grass roots support for the ALP, who have no sympathy with ancient ethnic grievances or modern cultural wankers.

    I bang on about this because it the ALP has now lost three federal polls in series (1996, 1999-R, 2001) on cultural issues, thanks to the Wets. A Wet-controlled ALP is on the road to becoming, like the US Dems, the party of the majority of minorities whilst the L/NP will become the party of the majority of the majority.

    This would lead, in the long term, to the dominance of the Right in federal politics in both political culture and political economy. That would spell the doom of social democracy. If the Wets want a picture of the direction where they are leading the nation one only has to look at where Red State/Blue State politics have led the US: GW Bush.

  10. Paul Norton
    June 28th, 2005 at 10:27 | #10

    To elaborate on the last sentence of my last post, in the late 1980s and early 1990s I was involved in an ill-fated attempt to establish a new left-wing political party. One of our activities was the organisation of political discussions at an inner-city(!) Brisbane pub under the title “Politics In The Pub”.

    The pub’s daytime and front-bar clientele was largely male, middle aged and what is conventionally referred to as “working class”. One day in 1991, the publican decided, in order to entertain this clientele, to require one of the female bar staff to attend work wearing. . . not very much at all, really.

    The organiser of our group got wind of this, and proposed that we cease to hold functions at this particular pub in protest against management’s treatment of the female employee. This proposal was accepted, but not before being strenuously opposed by a middle-aged male member of the group (who was also a University lecturer) who was on friendly terms with the publican. His argument was that we obviously didn’t understand the interests and values of the working class, and that seeing female bar attendants wearing a couple of rubber bands (more or less) was “what the working class wants”.

    What is interesting is not only the projection of extremely backward values onto “the working class”, but also the conception of the working class and its interests implicit in this argument. It did not consider the female bar employee to be a member of “the working class”, nor that her interests as a worker might have been adversely affected by being forced to work in such uncomfortable, humiliating and potentially unsafe conditions.

    I humbly submit that in this instance our group’s organiser, and the majority of the group including myself, had a better class analysis, and were better friends of the working class, than the impresario of the working class who defended the pub’s policy.

  11. the commenter formerly known as anon
    June 28th, 2005 at 10:32 | #11

    Labor did best amongst the punters when it was running a fairly hard pro-environment line, i.e. 1983, 1987 and 1990 under Hawke.

    Back then environmental issues were relatively novel to the majority of the electorate, and Labor was the first (and natural) party to exploit them. Nowadays environmental issues are much more mainstream. Hence adopting an environmental policy that distinguishes Labor significantly from coalition requires embracing the more radical elements of the environmental movement, which are both untrustworthy in their claims and electorally unappealing.

    Conclusion: using Labor’s success on environmental issues in the 80’s to justify environmental policy today is probably unwise.

  12. June 28th, 2005 at 10:32 | #12

    Jack – I’m not sure that you can accurately contend that the recent federal elections were lost on cultural issues. There was more in play at all these elections than the so-called big-ticket reasons trumpeted by the media as the reasons why the ALP were not successful. 2001, in particular, was not just about Tampa.

    And you could probably argue that the Right have been largely ascendant since the end of WWII in Australia anyway, whether in name or indeed through the ALP who have adopted economic rationalism in approximate terms.

    Kerry was not particularly distinct from Bush on a range of issues anyway.

  13. Paul Norton
    June 28th, 2005 at 10:53 | #13

    “adopting an environmental policy that distinguishes Labor significantly from coalition requires embracing the more radical elements of the environmental movement, which are both untrustworthy in their claims and electorally unappealing.”

    In the light of our exchange on a previous thread you obviously consider the SA Labor Government’s ban on plastic shopping bags as an example of “embracing the more radical elements of the environmental movement” which you obviously consider to include Clean Up Australia.

    Here in Queensland, the State Labor government distinguished itself from the Coalition in 1999 by adopting a policy to end native forest logging in south-east Queensland. This policy entailed “embracing the more radical elements of the environmental movement” which included the Queensland Timber Board, which negotiated the policy with the peak conservation groups. This policy, which the Federal Government attempted to obstruct, was so “electorally unappealling” that Labor has since won two State elections by landslides and obliterated the Coalition in metropolitan Brisbane.

  14. the commenter formerly known as anon
    June 28th, 2005 at 11:17 | #14

    The Queensland Timber Board is hardly radical, and I would call ending old-growth logging mainstream (even I am in favour of that).

    Besides, we were talking about federal not state politics; the two are virtually incomparable nowadays.

    In the light of our exchange on a previous thread you obviously consider the SA Labor Government’s ban on plastic shopping bags as an example of “embracing the more radical elements of the environmental movement� which you obviously consider to include Clean Up Australia.

    No, in that case, I consider it to be an example of embracing the more stupid elements of the environmental movement.

  15. June 28th, 2005 at 11:29 | #15

    “… female bar attendants wearing a couple of rubber bands (more or less) was “what the working class wantsâ€?

    paul – I think you’ll find it’s yobbos of ALL classes who want this.

  16. Paul Norton
    June 28th, 2005 at 11:42 | #16

    Further to Guy’s comment, and to reiterate a point I’ve made before in response to Jack’s DOTW thesis. I would argue that in substantive terms, the Labor Government under Hawke was at least as wet as it was under Keating, especially when one considers the Sex-Discrimination and Equal Opportunity Acts, the record high numbers of working mothers as a proportion of women in the 25-34 age cohort, much higher annual immigration intakes, and Neal Blewett’s HIV/AIDS strategy developed in close consultation with the queer community and other survivor groups (I’ve already mentioned environmental policy). Keating merely made a lot of symbolic noise about the minimalist republic, Mabo (the reconciliation we had to have, forced on him by the High Court and the WA Greens) and engagement with Asia, whilst presiding over the introduction of mandatory detention, fast-tracking of environmentally destructive projects and the export woodchipping debacle of 1995.

  17. observa
    June 28th, 2005 at 11:54 | #17

    Jack nails it really with Labor’s multicultural shortcomings. Australians as a whole have firmly rejected fascism and communism and as a result, are amenable to asylum seeking from those regimes. The latest threat to their interests is the rise of Islamofascism and this is inextricably linked to the feudal religion of Islam itself. Consequently they are suspicious of all Muslims and any of their apologists. The ALP don’t get it, while the Coalition speak to the electorate in the code they understand-‘We’ll decide who comes here’. By supporting middle class and business migration, the Coalition now achieve this cultural desire to exclude Islam from this country. Australians are by and large no longer racist, but are culturist in this regard. (Adelaide has a Vietnamese lord Mayor for chrissakes) It’s hard to argue that a feudal religion offers this country any positive benefits. Just ask 50% of the population of a country, where the vast majority have at least one or more living immigrant in their family tree. Australians understand immigrant culture well, but they don’t want Islam here any more than fascism or communism.

    The dilemma here for warm fuzzy multiculturalists, is nowhere more evident than the brick wall MrsO strikes when I challenge her on this. Yes we lived next door to some very affable, Malaysian, Muslim students some years ago. They babysat the kids with our blessing. The boys and girls wore traditional dress, but all of their group were well-to-do middle class kids. You have to be to afford to study here. Very nice people MrsO, but would you be in favour of filling this country with the Shufti Mufti and his flock, to the point where Islamic law and customs prevail democratically? Personally, I could handle it but can you and MissO? Stony silence from a wet, feminist, multiculti luvvy. Sooner or later cultural relativism runs up against the brick wall of absolutism and you gotta decide baby. The ALP must decide likewise.

  18. observa
    June 28th, 2005 at 12:13 | #18

    Daily reminders of the failure of multiculturalism at all costs here
    What will Labor’s response be I wonder?

  19. observa
    June 28th, 2005 at 12:25 | #19

    Bracks creates some new martyrs for the cause

  20. michael.burgess
    June 28th, 2005 at 13:17 | #20

    Victoria’s Racial and Religious Tolerance Act (linked to above), apart from being an outrageous attack on our civil liberties is a good example of how Labor alienates unnecessarily many potential voters. If the legislation is to be even handed the Victorian Government should start prosecuting the numerous Muslim preachers who constantly attack Christianity and other religions as well as atheists such as myself who are constantly being told by religious types of all affiliations that we lack morality etc. Does this mean now that we cannot pass judgement on past religious leaders who committed mass murder and married a child etc because it might offend a particular group. Such an even handed approach will basically put an end to scientific progress and comedy among things.

    If the legislation is not applied even-handedly then right wing commentators will have a field day at Labor’s expense.

  21. June 28th, 2005 at 13:51 | #21

    From what I can see, evangelical Christianity is just as feudal as Islam, and just as harmful to cohesion in society. The attitude of balkanisation from the “infidels” is just as prevalent at Hillsong as it is in Lakemba, except it’s far more insidious precisely because the practitioners seem to have ingratiated themselves into the highest levels.

  22. Paul Norton
    June 28th, 2005 at 13:52 | #22

    Interestingly, one element of the cultural conservative response to Labor’s 2004 electoral defeat is that, according to one anonymous Labor insider, “We’ve got to do the God stuff like Howard does, only better.” Trevor Smith’s contribution also implicitly rebukes the secularism of the alleged elites which have allegedly taken over Labor. Insofar as this is a manifestation of the Catholic Right’s desire to resacralise society, it is bad enough. But if other Labor forces of no particular religiosity are arguing that Labor should pander to religious conservatism and religiose reaction in the electorate, and make a conspicuous (and insincere) show of deference to such sentiment, this is even more worrying – ultimately self-defeating electorally, and bad news for those of us who want a genuinely tolerant society which is prepared to call intolerance (in whatever faith or creed) for what it is, rather than let it go unchallenged for fear of seeming intolerant.

  23. June 28th, 2005 at 13:56 | #23

    Oberva, I’m almost speechless that you able to use recent ASIO raids, which at this stage have resulted in NO arrests, as a means to discrediting multiculturalism.

    Multiculturalism is defined as “Of or relating to a social or educational theory that encourages interest in many cultures within a society rather than in only a mainstream culture.

    I know that that the right wing has an obsession with critising multiculturalism, as it interferes with their dreams of a class driven monoculture. But blaming it for a series of ASIO raids boarders on delusional.

  24. observa
    June 28th, 2005 at 14:20 | #24

    “I know that that the right wing has an obsession with critising multiculturalism, as it interferes with their dreams of a class driven monoculture. But blaming it for a series of ASIO raids boarders on delusional.”
    Who allowed the Mufti to become an Australian citizen? How many of his type were allowed to settle here under the ALP and what is their stance on immigration now? Australians understand no govt can guarantee that every immigrant or immigrant group can be perfect citizens (mafia, triad, gangs, etc) However, they do expect a transparent screening process to minimise the risks that immigrants will not integrate and assimilate into our way of life. Middle class immigration from MDCs ensures that. Do the ALP/left/luvvies favour that?

  25. observa
    June 28th, 2005 at 14:38 | #25

    Middle class immigration from MDCs and LDCs ensures that.

  26. observa
    June 28th, 2005 at 14:46 | #26

    “But if other Labor forces of no particular religiosity are arguing that Labor should pander to religious conservatism and religiose reaction in the electorate, and make a conspicuous (and insincere) show of deference to such sentiment, this is even more worrying – ultimately self-defeating electorally……. ”

    Those dangerous religious nutters here eh Paul?

  27. observa
    June 28th, 2005 at 14:51 | #27

    “From what I can see, evangelical Christianity is just as feudal as Islam, and just as harmful to cohesion in society”
    Ditto for you with the religious nutters Graham

  28. June 28th, 2005 at 15:05 | #28

    Ah, the CFMEU! I still fondly remember at my 2nd or 3rd Labor party branch meeting in Mount Druitt as a keen and enthusiastic 18 year old member. By that time I had already familiarised myself with the factional system with the help of my right wing Young Labor factional mates. I decided I’d sufficiently settled in to propose controversial motions so when the time arose, stood up and subjected the meeting to a lengthy 15-20 minute discourse on the economic and ecological merits of Synroc – whatever happened to it, anyway? (having, a few weeks before the meeting, absorbed tonnes of literature ordered from the CSIRO and working myself into enthusiasm for this wonderful invention) – ending with a proposal to take a policy for Australia to develop an international nuclear waste storage facility in central Australia, utilising synroc and simultaneously to abolish the 3 mines policy given that Synroc would take care of any ecological issues. I was of course expecting some dissent from my views but was pleasantly surprised to find someone I knew to be from the Left of the party seconding it and speaking in lengthy support of it. Of course he happened to be from the CFMEU.

  29. observa
    June 28th, 2005 at 15:12 | #29

    Now I wonder if this mum was dressed culturally insensitively when the robbers called?

  30. Paul Norton
    June 28th, 2005 at 15:13 | #30

    Observa, if you re-read my post you’ll see that I was referring to the possibility of the ALP “pandering to religious conservatism and religiose reaction” which is not what your linked article is about.

  31. Homer Paxton
    June 28th, 2005 at 16:09 | #31

    In the early 80’s I studied the ‘Tasmanian ‘ situation studying Environatal economics under David James at Macquarie University.
    I discovered then that most of the work done there was in low value-added areas and as such employment was falling not rising.
    It reminded me of the tariff debate.
    They were supposed to protect jobs yet never did.

    lo and behold I come forward 20 odd years and nothing has changed except that people such as Steve Edwards and others who believe they are conservative are still braying about ways to protect jobs in Tasmania that in fact does the complete opposite.

    The ALP like the British labour party started off social conservative ( this is the religous roots. A strange unity ticket in Australia of Methodists, Catholics and Sydney Anglicans of all people) and somewhat more innovative economic policy.
    I see nothing wrong with this today.

  32. observa
    June 28th, 2005 at 16:14 | #32

    Fair enough. I thought you were referring to Christian religious conservatives, who have been left wing for so long now, they are largely the status quo. I guess you were referring to the neo-conservative Hillsong and Islam mobs.

  33. Darryl Rosin
    June 28th, 2005 at 16:36 | #33

    ANSTO signed an agreement in April with British nuke company in April for a trial of Synroc with 5t of plutonium waste. They’ve been working with the US DOE and Minatom for the best part of 10 years, but I don’t think anything’s actually developed out of that, except a couple of successful trials

  34. June 28th, 2005 at 16:37 | #34

    I’m sick of CFMEU types going off about “metropolitan dwellers” and urban types living it up in the cushy life while persecuting the poor heroic bushies. We’ve had national environmental policy totally skewed in order to (they reckon) save a very pitifully few jobs in the old growth forest regions, because the CFMEU members have a god-given right to pursue the same thing in the same way as long as they bloody well like without having to reskill in some value added industry. Meanwhile, us urban “latte” types have been outsourced, downsized and productivitied until our pips squeak. Who cares about Agfa / Kodak workers thrown out of work because their industry is now a dinosaur? IT workers on contract? Teachers not paid in the holidays? No one loves them, they live in the city. Save the heroic timber workers and their bulldozers till it’s all gone.

  35. June 28th, 2005 at 16:43 | #35

    I’m trying to visualise just how to fit the rubber bands. Suggestions please (but remember JQ’s language rules).

  36. matt byrne
    June 28th, 2005 at 17:02 | #36

    So the actions of a few are reason enough to scrap the idea of multiculturalism? Come on ‘observa’ don’t be silly. In your part of the country its ‘muslims’ committing these crimes, in my part of the country its white anglo-saxons of christian heitage so it shows that a persons background doesn’t relate to what they’ll do in life. By the way, I think the tories were in power when our lot arrived in the 1700’s…

  37. joe2
    June 28th, 2005 at 17:19 | #37

    Personally, I am thrilled at proposed ‘reforms’ in the area of industrial relations by the Howhard mob.

    Australia needs to catch up!

    Casuals have been copping bad conditions, for a long time in Victoria, thanks to JEFF the role model. ( Now helping the depressed in a voluntary capacity.)

    Total insecurity of working conditions for some, while the price of a latte is the major concern of others. An extra dollop of something to those who maintain conditions because “they need to prosper” and reckon our P.M. is a fair bloke.

    Bring it on John!

  38. observa
    June 28th, 2005 at 19:21 | #38

    “So the actions of a few are reason enough to scrap the idea of multiculturalism? Come on ‘observa’ don’t be silly. In your part of the country its ‘muslims’ committing these crimes, in my part of the country its white anglo-saxons of christian heitage…”

    Well Matt I take your point about the heritage of villains in general, but in my neck of the woods its not muslims committing many of the crimes, but that other product of our failed multicultural elites, the Dreamtimers, now on smack and meth, that are doing much of the raping and pillaging. Being in the Cinderella State of SA, we’re not privy yet to the latest trends in multiculturalism.

    Let’s look at the background of one the typical ALP, multiculturalists fighting the good fight shall we? Mr Rob Stary accuses Ruddock’s office, that notorious repository of bad guys, of vilifying the good guys here

    A bit of background on Mr Stary here, but it seems he has a bit in common with Mark Latham these days

    Just an honest private practising solicitor providing advice on education for the kiddies here it seems

    Fighting the good fight as Jihad Jack’s lawyer here

    Addressing the Maritime Union here http://www.iso.org.au/socialistworker/543/p2a.html

    More of the usual at the MUA

    At one with the ETU with a call to free the innocent

    Although Rob thinks this bastard got all he deserved here(scroll to second media release)

    Some sinister drug conspiracy theories from our old mate

    Yada, yada, yada

  39. observa
    June 28th, 2005 at 19:46 | #39

    What about moi, what about moi?
    Keep your pants on Mr on the Outer, because some of us remember your multicutural enthusiasm for Mugabe and Co.

  40. observa
    June 28th, 2005 at 19:51 | #40

    While some successful Labor blokes have their heads firmly screwed on

  41. observa
    June 28th, 2005 at 20:04 | #41

    And if you believe the histrionics of the multicultural luvvies, that all this supposed xenophobia makes us an international pariah, there’s some real truth awaiting you here

  42. observa
    June 28th, 2005 at 20:53 | #42

    And perhaps some home truths here

    Labor roots or Labor rooted? That is the question.

  43. Econwit
    June 28th, 2005 at 22:22 | #43

    Commies, A-holes, what ever you want to call them; A-Hole Labour Party (ALP).Thank god they are sidelined federally for a few years. Hopefully the whole party will imploded and we can rid the states of this vermin as well.

  44. observa
    June 29th, 2005 at 13:24 | #44

    ASIO are raids are politically motivated according to Melbourne’s Sheik Mohammed Omran

    Sheikh Omran defends Jihad Jack

    Some AlQaeda connections perhaps Sheikh?

    What’s the answer for the ALP? Urgently coopt Peter Beattie or Bob Carr into the Federal Leadership, reform it root and branch, kick out the union gerrymander, purge the party of its multicultural apologists for terror or any links thereto and return it to decent working class Australians.

  45. Homer Paxton
    June 29th, 2005 at 13:31 | #45

    Observa, go settle down and have a bex.

    Anyone who believes the current ALP frontbench is poor should go and have a look at the Liberal frontbench in 1996.

    If you need Messsiahs to win elections then how in heavens name ( I am so funny) did john howard become leader in 1995?

    The link between those who apologise for terror and the ALP may well be apparent to readers of tim blair’s blog and would pass for evidence as well however they are specious to anyone else!

  46. Dave Ricardo
    June 29th, 2005 at 14:08 | #46

    Observa, what is your point with your multiple links to things Rob Startey has said, other than showing us you know how to search for “Rob Stary” in Google?

    It would appear you don’t like his clients. Well, what can one say? The clients of criminal lawyers are rarely likeable. Mind you, the clients of Liberal-leaning lawyers are often not all that likeable, either.

    As a lawyer, Stary appears to run a successful business. Labor has precious few businessmen in its ranks as it is. He should be encouraged to stay in the party.

  47. observa
    June 29th, 2005 at 14:29 | #47

    Dave, if you don’t think the Starys of this world haven’t been and aren’t the problem with Federal Labor, then what can I say? Some credence(with obvious reservations) must also be given to Latham’s critique of the ALP here. After all he did represent a Western Sydney seat and the Party faithful thought he was worth hitching their star to. You’re right though, Google is a pretty good tool for quickly connecting some obvious dots.

  48. Elizabeth
    June 29th, 2005 at 14:32 | #48

    The posts so far have been very interesting and illuminating.

    However, the simple point is this, and to paraphrase Bill Hayden – the ALP (federally) ‘doesn’t have a drover’s dog’!

    Until that time, the ALP will wax and wane. Find the drover’s dog, and it will be startling how ‘progressive’ and ‘dynamic’ the party will then appear.

    Bob Hawke anyone?

    Perhaps its time we went back and recyled Hawke, Keating, Dawkins, et al and stacked them into safe seats!

  49. Benno
    June 29th, 2005 at 15:37 | #49

    Very good post John, well done.

  50. Paul Norton
    June 29th, 2005 at 15:56 | #50

    Elizabeth, I’m dating myself here, but I remember the context of Hayden’s comment, and the point of it was that the objective conditions (i.e. the state of the economy in February 1983) and the subjective conditions (i.e. the organisational and political capacity of the ALP in 1983, including its embrace of big pro-active ideas like the Accord and preserving South-West Tasmania), meant that Labor was bound to win the imminent election regardless of whether he, Hawke or the proverbial drover’s dog was leading the party.

    At the moment both the objective conditions and the subjective ones militate against Labor unseating the Coalition. The former is beyond Labor’s control, but the later is, at the present time, a cleft stick of its own cutting.

  51. observa
    June 29th, 2005 at 16:17 | #51

    True enough with the waxing and waning Elizabeth, as anyone about in the Howard-Peacock years could attest. I don’t think the ALP need Homer’s Messiah, just a pragmatic, practical manager of some experience to pull a disconsolate and disparate team together. That’s why I’d suggest coopting Beattie or Carr. At least Carr could pick the danger within our midst and call a spade a spade on the ASIO raids. IMO the Fed ALP have to put its ‘cuddly with fundies’ association to bed with the electorate once and for all. It has to understand the limits to multiculturalism here, because feudal Islam forces you to draw that line in the sand. The Coalition have marked that out very successfully.

    Since some ALP blokes seem to be off with the fairies on multiculturalism, let me ask the girls the same thing I put to MrsO- Would you prefer to live in a country under feudal, Islamic law and customs? If not, why would you advocate allowing one more Sheikh Hilali or Omran, or member of their flock into this country? Are you comfortable with those who think all immigrants are equal?

    If the ALP can’t reform its unrepresentative, union gerrymander, then in the longer term Howard’s IR reform will. Here I think the unions have been taken over by the agendists, much to the frustration of many workers. More or less like the student unions with their politicking at member’s expense. IMO, the unions will have to get back to basics, directly representing workers economic bargaining interests, or whither and die. The labour hire companies may have already carved up much of their traditional territory here. Perhaps they should become non-profit labour hire/placement/AWA advocacy organisations with a narrow focus on worker welfare, a bit like industry super funds have in the super field(yes I’m with CBus)

  52. Elizabeth
    June 29th, 2005 at 16:19 | #52

    Paul – could u please explain that in English – thanks

  53. michael.burgess
    June 29th, 2005 at 16:53 | #53

    Observa, re Carr. Well I agree with you that he can see ‘danger within our midst and call a spade a spade on the ASIO raids’. However, for a supposedly educated, cultured and environmentally sensitive man his lack of vision for Sydney has resembled more that of what one would expect from the likes of John Singleton (although, at least, he might get the trains to run on time). Greenies might get all exited about old growth forests in Tasmania but Australia has just about the most urbanised population in the world (after Hong Kong and Singapore) and its getting to the stage where Sydney’s remarkable natural heritage can cover all the cracks caused by bad planning. As for long term planning in Brisbane and the Gold Coast the less said the better.

  54. June 29th, 2005 at 17:08 | #54

    i see you’re running a thriving trade in false dichotomies as usual …

  55. Dave Ricardo
    June 29th, 2005 at 21:33 | #55

    Observa, you certainly are a Silly Billy. Having Muslim immigrants no more makes us vulnerable to Islamic law than letting Jason and his family into the country increased the chances we were going to be taken over by the Triads.

    Michael, Carr is an opprtunist, pure and simple. He has figured it pays to be as far right as humanly possible on law and order issues and that is where he has pegged his tent. It keeps the Daily Telegraph off his back, which is the sine qua non of long term political success in NSW.

  56. Martin
    June 29th, 2005 at 21:42 | #56

    Homer’s Messiah???

  57. observa
    June 30th, 2005 at 01:43 | #57

    “Observa, you certainly are a Silly Billy. Having Muslim immigrants no more makes us vulnerable to Islamic law than letting Jason and his family into the country increased the chances we were going to be taken over by the Triads. ”

    Poor analogy Dave if you were an aboriginal in 1788 gazing down at some new arrivals with the First Fleet. I understand those new arrivals, their followers and offspring, magnanimously gave your hypothetical descendants the vote, about half a white man’s lifetime ago. How’s your tribal law and customs doing in this democracy these days brother?

  58. June 30th, 2005 at 08:22 | #58

    I may not be subject to Shar’ia law, but I’m already subject to comments by males who refer to adult women as “girls”.

  59. Paul Norton
    June 30th, 2005 at 09:23 | #59


    Sorry about the obscure prose. What I meant to say was that in February 1983:

    1. The economy was stuffed, which was bad news for the Coalition government and good news for Labor.

    2. Labor actually had some good, interesting and popular policy commitments, and a “big picture” of where Australia should have been heading, to take into the 1983 election.

    3. Labor was a healthier political organisation in 1983 than it is now.

    Therefore, when Bill Hayden said that “a drover’s dog could lead Labor to victory” in the election, he meant that there were strong reasons (including the ones I’ve just listed) for believing that Labor could win the election even without replacing him with Bob Hawke as leader.

    Clear enough?

  60. Dave Ricardo
    June 30th, 2005 at 09:53 | #60

    Observa, why don’t you explain to us a plausible scenario under which we will become subject to Sharia law.

  61. observa
    June 30th, 2005 at 12:13 | #61

    Helen, when you’re a bloke over 50, everyone looks like a girl. (err, half of ya, although it could be more)

    Dave, I didn’t necessarily imply Sharia Law. Think muslim beliefs and customs generally. (they’re not all Osamas and Amrozis. There are educated moderates like Dr Mahatir). Think about Brian Harradine’s achievements, ALP branch stacking or Brack’s Religious Vilification Laws here. Do you really think the Rev Nalliah would be facing jail for his comments now, if Australians professing Muslim faith hadn’t grown about 40% from around 200,000 in 1996 to over 280,000 in 2001(ABS Census) and where to today? They include Hicks, Habib, Hilali, Jihad Jack,…. Lots of supporters of homosexual marriage there infidel Dave? Lots of feminist thinkers there too infidel Helen?

    She’ll be right, until the day any of those faithful, pull off a Sept11 or Bali on Oz soil eh? You can bet the Robert Starys of this world won’t be around offering his public comments if they do. That podium will be left to those paranoid ASIO types, Howard and Carr .

  62. Elizabeth
    June 30th, 2005 at 12:23 | #62

    Paul – thank you 🙂

    I completely agree, though despite the fact Howard keeps winning elections, there is a general feeling out in voter land that he has gone past his used by date. The question is who is a suitable alternative, and Beazley (unfortunately, who I like), Crean, Latham, Beazley again haven’t been the people voters conclude as being suitable substitutes.

    Again the drover’s dog may still be worth barking about!

  63. observa
    June 30th, 2005 at 12:29 | #63

    Some of us can picture the usual suspects screaming the loudest for their explanations too. The gummint orta dun sumpink!

  64. what the
    June 30th, 2005 at 12:51 | #64

    … that sharia could actually arise in a civilised country?

    no doubt you mob have been following this story…for those who haven’t, try a plausible scenario to introduce archaism, as requested above…

    Quebec rejects sharia system
    Thursday, May 26, 2005 Updated at 1:21 PM EDT
    Canadian Press

    Quebec — Quebec has rejected the use of Islamic tribunals, which can be used to settle family disputes, in the province.

    In a unanimous vote Thursday, the Quebec legislature passed a motion against allowing sharia to be used in the legal system.

    “The application of sharia in Canada is part of a strategy to isolate the Muslim community, so it will submit to an archaic vision of Islam,� Fatima Houda-Pepin, a Liberal member of the legislature, said as she introduced the motion against use of the Islamic law.

    “These demands are being pushed by groups in the minority that are using the Charter of Rights to attack the foundation of our democratic institutions.�

    The debate over sharia surfaced in Canada two years ago when a Muslim group in Ontario proposed the arbitration of family disputes according to Islamic law.

  65. June 30th, 2005 at 13:38 | #65

    before anti-religious vilification law there was racial vilification law. for the record i am opposed to both on civil liberties grounds but the problem here is one of a general statist mentality that is to be found in muslims and non-muslims alike. the solution is for government not to get involved in such things in the first place and stick to tort for remedies.
    as for the canadian situation i am in two minds about this. i don’t see how it differs from the situation among orthodox jewish diamond dealers in new york who apparently have their own customary law for dealing with commercial matters – there was a study done by an economist about this a while back. if the sharia family law is an opt in provision i don’ see the problem with it as a libertarian.

  66. what the
    June 30th, 2005 at 14:49 | #66


    is the customary law practised in new york that you have mentioned enshrined in a statute or merely adopted by individuals as a convention or habit?

    It is the enshrining that is the problem surely, why incorporate protection for an utterly different species of law? would daughters and wives continue to understand the better and more traditional protection afforded by the formal legal system and would they (be allowed to) opt to opt into that?

  67. StephenL
    July 1st, 2005 at 20:28 | #67

    Hang on a minute here. The Quebec legislature, which has three parties represented and more of a history of people crossing the floor than we have here, voted *unanimously* to reject sharia. Doesn’t sound to me like sharia is likely to come in any time soon in Quebec.

    I don’t know how many Muslims there are in Quebec, but suspect they’re a larger proportion of the population there than here. Consequently it is reasonable to assume that the Islamic population of Australia would have to rise a very long way before we need to seriously worry about Sharia being imposed, even for some members of the community.

    I hate the fundamentalist wing of Islam at least as much as I hate fundamentalist Christianity, but the solution to it is the establishment of a strong moderate muslim population, who, like this Fatima Houda-Pepin will expose the bankrupcy of the extreemists, unless attacks from non-Muslims leading to a circling of the wagons.

    The alternative is to either refuse people on the basis of their country of origin, or to start quizzing people on their religious beliefs when they apply to immigrate – ie only the liers are allowed in.

  68. July 1st, 2005 at 20:46 | #68

    Repeat after me class:

    “The Workers United, Will Never Be Defeated.”

    Those who want to conserve Australian community, should place their hope in the proles.

  69. SJ
    July 1st, 2005 at 21:50 | #69

    We gonna have another Orwell debate, are we?

  70. July 1st, 2005 at 22:08 | #70

    “Those who want to conserve Australian community, should place their hope in the proles”

    Yup, those proles in South Africa sure did protect their ‘community’ under the slogan ‘Workers of the world unite for a white South Africa’
    In 1922, under a banner reading, “Workers of the World Unite For a White South Africa,” white miners took to the streets of Johannesburg to protest the increasing competition from black miners. White miners demanded job protectionism, or the color bar. The government of Gen. Jan Smuts used the army, artillery and even aerial bombardment to put down what came to be known as the Rand Rebellion. But, to prevent future white worker protests, the government instituted the color bar.

    I hear they did a smashing job here in Australia for a while too under the Trifecta policy of Protection all round (White Australia, centralised wage fixing and high tariffs)

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