Thoughts on Beattie’s resignation

A few thoughts, not well organised, which I may update

* Labor has now changed leaders in five states, twice as a result of illness and three times because of a voluntary decision to retire, with no sign of any damage as a result. Such a string of smooth transitions is almost unprecedented in Australian political history where the rule is that all careers end in failure (defeat by the electorate or by a party rival, or resignation in disgrace)

* Following from the previous point, if the Federal Libs get the drubbing predicted by the opinion polls and Rudd doesn’t run rapidly into disaster, Labor will be established as the natural party of government. It’s hard to see how the Liberals, for whom success is the main raison d’etre could survive this for long

* I imagine Beattie’s departure will take the sting out of the council amalgamations issue in Queensland, which will be a gift to Kevin Rudd in a couple of marginal seats such as Herbert.

* Obviously, this has contributed to the pressure on Howard to follow Beattie’s example. I can’t see him caving in to this, nor can I see a last-minute switch to Costello doing the government any good. On the other hand, the way things are going, this is Costello’s last chance to be PM, if only for six weeks or so.

17 thoughts on “Thoughts on Beattie’s resignation

  1. Prof Q, if sucess is the main reason for the existence of the Liberals, how is the ALP different? In other words, is there another reason for the existence of the ALP, other than sucess? Are you running the Doc Evatt line that the ALP considers it is more important to be pure than to be in power?

    Not sure how Beattie’s resignation helps Rudd, unless Bligh ditches the amalgamations. If Bligh keeps the amalgamations, then the state ALP still has a politically poisonous policy, but has lost the best salesman since Sir Joh.

  2. MP, while purism of the Evatt style is long-gone, I’d say there are still a fair number of people who’d believe that Labor stands for something sufficiently important to justify hanging on to it even if the prospect of gaining government seemed remote (not sure that this is a correct belief). I don’t think this is true of the LIberals, so it’s hard to see where they will get members and donors if they go out for a long spell.

  3. The Liberals were “out for a long spell” during the Hawke-Keating years. They had enough talent to come back. It is remarkable how little Labor talent there is behind the current resurgence.

    However, at the risk of over-projection, I do wonder if there is a structural shift on the right side of politics. If you’re young and talented, it is far easier these days to simply emigrate to the US than to battle endemic Australian nanny-statism.

  4. I still reckon that in Oz governments lose elections rather than oppositions winning them. The Libs wil be in utter disarray for a year or two but after that it’s all about how well the ALP does rather than how well the Libs do.

    The only unusually big structural problem the Libs have is they’ve got no State governments to train their up-and-coming advisors and public servants in. Conversely, some of the State Labour governments are going to lose their best and brightest to Canberra.

  5. I agree that the choice between Labor and Liberal is still very important.

    One clearly stands for the rich and powerful at the expense of everyne else, whilst the other stands, athough very ambiguously, for the less powerful including working class and the poor.

    However, in recent years the experience of Labor has been far more of it having served the interests of the rich and this is definitely the case with Beattie.

    Examples include:

    1. Encouraging population growth in Queensland without having a clue where the necessary additional water would come from.
    2. Coming out of the closet as being in favour of massive population growth, which for years he held responsible for state infrastructural problems.
    3. Entering negotiations with Howard over how to divide money raised form the Goods and Services Tax (GST) in 1999 at a time when popular opposition to the GST was growing.
    4. Jeopardising Federal Labor’s 2007 election prospects with his anti-democratic forced local government amalgamations that were enacted in accord with the wishes of the Property Council of Australia.
    5. The invasion of Maleny in 2005 with 200 police in order to enable the building of a Woolworths supermarket opposed by 80% of Maleny’s population.
    6. Privatisation of the Dalrymple Bay coal loader.
    7. Full privatisation of SunCorp (formerly State Government Insurance Office) in spite of election promise not to.
    8. Privatisation of the retail arm of Energex, Queensland’s electricity generating untility.
    9. Privatisation of the Golden Casket.
    10. Having privatised the Golden Casket and many other revenue earners, raising stamp duties on second hand car sales from 2% to 4% to make up for revenue shortfall.
    11. Ongoing efforts to privatise water and Queensland Rail.
    12. Attempts to destroy the last undeveloped coast land at The Spit on the Gold Coast with with a passenger ship terminal and housing development.
    13. Support for the North South Bypass Tunnel and the Hale Street Bridge.
    14. Accelerating the rate of export of climate-changing coal.
    16. Wasting hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money on the SunCorp Stadium white elephant, which was opposed by local residents at a time when Queensland did not have the money Beattie said was necessary to compensate farmers in order to prevent tree clearing.
    17. Choosing the Traveston Dam site over four other more preferable sites because the affected residents lived in a safe National Party seat.
    18. etc.

    What should be done about ‘Labor’ goverenments with records as bad as this?

    I believe that he answer is not to vote for the Liberals and Nationals, but to vote for parties which stand for something better, such as (arguably) the Greens, the Democrats or some good independents and to use the preference voting system to ensure that your vote gose to Labor before Liberal.

    Hopefully this will lead to political processes which will either lead Labor itself to rid itself of the influences of developers, land speculators, mining companies and other powerful vested interests have over it, or if not, something better emerging outside of the Labor Party which will enjoy popular suppport sufficient for it to stand a chance of forming government.

    The former should not be entirely ruled out as implausible as it may seem. It happened in the case of the Whitlam Government, although all too briefly, and it nearly happened when Latham was leader of the Labor Party.

  6. daggett said – “One clearly stands for the rich and powerful at the expense of everyne else”.

    What a load of rot. The buckets of cash handed to low and middle income earners through tax cuts and family benefits demonstrates how completely wrong you are. Teh retention and strengthening of Medicare through increasing bulk billing to record levels is antoher example.

    The record low unemployment, real wages growth etc etc disprove your point also.

    Absolute bollocks.

  7. “One clearly stands for the rich and powerful at the expense of everyne else, whilst the other stands, athough very ambiguously, for the less powerful including working class and the poor.”

    These differences are largely worn out old cliches now daggett. Modern govt is all about good management and budgeting and much policy is almost axiomatic given the problems faced(think globalisation pressures here) and it’s often about determining which problem gets the resource priorities at the time. Also it’s hard to ignore continued failure of well intentioned policy, no matter what the motives. (think Labor’s ATSIC experiment). Certainly there’s room for leadership and vision, but much policy is reactive rather than proactive these days. eg Rann is to make a big announcement on water this Thursday after the punters are screaming about having to bucket water on their gardens. Now Karlene Maywald is a Nat water mininster in his labor Govt, although he doesn’t need her to govern in his clear majority, second term now. What does that tell you?

    Face facts, problems like interest rates and, housing affordability, hospital waiting lists and aged care/ demographics, GW, etc are universal and self selecting for priority. Doesn’t matter who’s in power, they face the same electoral priorities. That’s what I reckon has tipped Beattie’s thinking about quitting, albeit he’s been at it for some time. Quit while you’re ahead, because pretty soon he knows right across ths country, the buck will stop with Labor for all ‘our’ problems. That’s an unprecedented mountain for one party to face and I reckon he understands that. More generally we seem to be burning out our pollies more quickly like AFL players nowadays, although the odd ones like John Howard and Robert Harvey are the exceptions to the rule.

  8. “One clearly stands for the rich and powerful at the expense of everyne else, whilst the other stands, athough very ambiguously, for the less powerful including working class and the poor.�

    I am in the camp of Razor and Observa (and LOTS of others). The blue-collar/white-collar type divide is changing, and faster than we realise.

    The liberal party is the party of the blue-collar worker, the small businessman and the corporations (interesting mix there)

    The ALP is the party of the teacher/grant recipient class.

  9. I think it is naive to endorse a situation where you have very rich people and very poor people and call it good management. The poor should not have to rely on hand-outs. They are citizens like everyone else. A society which cannot give everyone a fairly equal slice of the cake isn’t a successful society; it’s a primitively valued robber society.

    Sometimes people are so afraid of finishing up on the bottom that they kid themselves by identifying with the rather nasty people at the top; it’s a form of denial, or a hostage syndrome. People don’t like to think that Daddy John Howard is really a nasty-pasty so, like little children, they pretend that Daddy has really got a good reason for selling the country off – after all, he wouldn’t be Dad if he was a bad man, would he?

    And by the way, the State Premiers are no better. It really is a society thing. We are going the way of the ancient Romans.

  10. The policies of both parties are held hostage by the ‘Virtual Senate’ of mobile capital. A leftwing government would just trigger capital flight and the economy would be stuffed. Rather undemocratic, but that’s the way it is.

    There’s no great class or ideological difference now between Labor and the Liberals. There was back in the 70s when Whitlam’s policies on education and healthcare were such a blessing to the lower classes that the relatively moderate Fraser wouldn’t consider undoing them. Hawke/Keating deregulated the economy to adapt to the collapse of the Bretton Woods system, and from that time there has been little difference between the economic policies of the parties.

    Much as the US Democrats did in the 70s, Labor gave up representing the ‘working-class’ and organized labor, instead turning to the ‘cultural’ left for support. This is a much weaker support base and it allowed the Liberal to drive a wedge between the Libs and the working classes (as in Nixon’s Southern Strategy). Although the Liberals have the economic elites as their principle backers, their constant bashing of ‘elites’ (“Chattering Classes”, “Bleeding Hearts”, “Chardonnay Socialists”, “The Latte Set”) (along with Hansonist scare-mongering) managed to endear them to much of the working-class (at least prior to WorkChoices).

    I’m sure we can all remember the post Tampa months, when the Right’s favorite tactic was to accuse anyone to the left of Pinochet of being a Latte-drinking “elite”. We even had ridiculous spectacle of a posh tosser like David Flint writing a book called “Twilight of the Elites”. I think Rudd’s Australia will be rather similar to Howard’s, although a little less hard-edged and, thank God, minus the public anti-intellectualism.

  11. I think Rudd’s Australia will be rather similar to Howard’s, although a little less hard-edged and, thank God, minus the public anti-intellectualism.

    More like public anti-pseudo-intellectualism. The vast majority of latte lefties I meet are as dim and unthinking in their views as the Hanson bigots.

    I suspect the big difference between Rudd’s Australia and Howard’s will be a resurgence of political correctness and self-serving ideological public sector unions (eg teachers), and increased hammering of small business.

    One good thing about Howard is he has greater respect for small business than big business. Labor despises small business; unsurprising given that their ranks are made up almost entirely of unionists, teachers and public servants – people most threatened by individual risk-taking and success.

  12. Mugwump,
    The small business sector is far less delighted with the Howard govt than you think. They operate under so much red tape that they are tied up for hours every week.

    Small business believes that Workchoices has complicated their lives and given a lot of their money straight to lawyers whilst the GST has just passed huge amounts of their money to accountants.

    I don’t believe that small business is so enamoured of the Liberals – especially those who are struggling to pay increases in mortgages and have loans as well. There ia also the belief that the Liberals are really only interested in helping big business at their expense. Many will be voting Labor because they know that every time the Liberals have “simplified” something they end up not understanding what is going on and have added expenses.

  13. Jill, my experience is opposite to yours. I don’t know a small business owner who thinks wrongful dismissal is a good idea. Labor plan to reintroduce it.

    Workchoices was a mess, but where it affected small businesses it was a plus – eg free to set the terms and conditions of new employees without having to chase up 3,500 awards.

    The GST is certainly an added burden, but that was going to happen whenever a consumption tax was introduced and I have to say (from the perspective of a small business owner) that they made it about as easy as it could be.

    Super choice was also a pain for small business. But again, it had to be introduced, was made almost as painless as possible, and as a superannuation holder I welcome it.

    Howard unfairly gets it in the neck on many fronts. Certainly the Libs screwed some things up, but their policies for small business were overwhelming good. As were their social welfare policies (if you believe in large social welfare which I don’t).

  14. My problem is that for much of the Howard years, ‘debate’ consisted on nothing but Rightwing shouts of, “Oh, you’re just a stupid latte-drinking, Howard-Hating ‘elite’, why would anyone listen to you?”

    I really don’t understand why they think that the witty (to themselves) mention of the word ‘latte’ manages to close discussion on any topic, and I’m relieved that this pathetic line of attack seems to finally have worn itself out.

  15. Interestingly, I was reading yesterday (I think it was the smh) about how Rudd is going on about excess red tape and regulation burdening business. He was considering appointing a ‘Minister for Deregulation’. No wonder the business class is suddenly flocking to Labor.

  16. Big business lobbies whoever is in power, or is likely to be in power.

    Rudd seems as much of a control freak as Howard; if Labor actually carries out any meaningful deregulation I’ll be stunned.

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