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Julia Gillardís inability to change political direction: A price we all pay

By Bruce Haigh - posted Thursday, 8 September 2011


The Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, belted the last nail into her coffin with her ill considered criticism of the High Court and the Chief Justice, Robert French. She claimed the judgement was inconsistent with an earlier ruling by the Chief Justice when serving on another court. Gillard was very unwise to refer to inconsistencies when one of the main criticisms directed against her is the inconsistency of her position on a carbon tax: a case of the pot calling the kettle black.

Gillard’s outburst provided insight into her character. She is weak, not so bright and with respect to asylum seekers, a bully. Not qualities we want to see in a leader.

At the moment the Labor Party is on a hiding to nowhere under her leadership at the next election. The Party has absolutely nothing to lose by dumping her and if they choose wisely (for once) they might just give the Coalition a run for their money.

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Australian politics, indeed Australian discourse, lurched to the Right under John Howard. There was an expectation that under Rudd that the country might move back to the Centre. It didn’t happen and under Gillard the nation has been moved resolutely back to the past. She is firmly of the Right and not for turning.

There is no Left in Australian politics or discourse at the moment. There is just the Centre, now seen as the Left by the Radical Right and The Right stretching away to glorious infinity – a Nirvana of free markets, the centrality of self, supported by uncontrolled vitriol and uncurbed aggression.

Within the terms of the current political discourse, dominated by the intolerant and bullying Right and the lilly-livered Centre, the term Left, Left Wing or of the Left are pejorative terms. Anything to do with the Left is, in the current climate, dangerous and un-Australian.

And yet it is to the Left we, as a nation, must move if some of the pressing environmental, social and political issues are to be addressed. The imagination, creative drive, courage and egalitarian agenda of the Left has been sadly lacking from the national narrative for the last twenty years. ‘Whatever it takes ‘ elbowed it to one side in the push for self at the expense of service and civility.

The dominance of the Right in Australian politics is stifling initiative and leadership. We live in a managed environment, from the untruthfulness of media spin, to the short term managed outcomes of Ministers. Politicians have become public servants, helping to blur the distinction between their respective roles under the Westminster system of government.

The demise of the Left, like that of religion, can be laid at the feet of a long growth in prosperity, where the thrift and frugality of the Fifties has given way to multi-disposable micro moments of food and facts.

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The desire of the Right to freeze Australia in some non-existent idyllic moment of the past has the nation marking time, afraid to embrace and plan for inevitable change and to develop a vision for the future.

Both major political parties occupy the same side of the fence; actually it’s a feed lot, heads in the trough of the public purse, they fatten up on personal agendas of power and influence with their feet in the manure of their own making; for the moment at least Australian politics stinks.

Gerard Henderson refers to left wing publications and commentators; I can’t find them, although many in the reading public in Western Australia refer to The Australian as left wing. I guess it depends on how far to the Right you are on how you define what is Left. However abuse from the Right does not determine the agenda of the Left.

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About the Author

Bruce Haigh is a political commentator and retired diplomat who served in Pakistan and Afghanistan in 1972-73 and 1986-88, and in South Africa from 1976-1979

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