Thursday 2 September 2004


Australian Labor Party - a Policy-Free Zone.

The election in Australia is coming up in just a few weeks. In the Right Corner, John Howard's coalition of Liberal and National Parties. In the Left Corner, the Australian Labor Party, under Mark 'Basher' Latham. Contending for Referee's spot, the Greens.

So I thought I'd do a bit of research on the ALP's policies. I mean, there's less than 6 weeks to go, I really need to examine the alternatives PDQ.

Exhibit A : Do a Google News Search for "ALP Labor Policy Platform". Go ahead, I'll wait.

Not much, is there?

5 weeks to go, and they're saying... nothing. It's almost as if they have nothing to say. Oh well, maybe it's just a slow start. As we're at war - albeit a low-key war, but Australian military personnel are fighting and being put in harm's way, and we've suffered hundreds of civilian casualties already, I thought that would make a good beginning. So off to the ALP website.

Exhibit B : Here's the ALP policy on Defence, the War on Terror, and in fact their major policies on National Security, from the ALP's policy site :
Labor will protect our nation's security and the integrity of Australia's borders.

In Government Labor will:
  • create a Department of Homeland Security to respond in a coordinated way to security threats;
  • establish a Coast Guard to protect our borders 24 hours a day, every day.
    Tougher penalties for people-smugglers
That's it. The lot. As opposed to the 40+ major "policies" on health and education, and even the 7 on 'Job Security'. I use quotes for "policies" because we have things like this:
implement a six point plan to put downward pressure on petrol prices. We want to break down the power of the big oil companies and help the motoring public.
Well, I'm sure that will do a lot to lower the world oil price, which has been the only reason for climbing petrol prices recently.

They're not taking this seriously, or they don't have a clue, or both.

Exhibit C : The ALP's platform, again from their official website. Go have a look. You'll search in vain for words like 'Defence", or 'Military'. There's one mention of 'Security', but that's ' Security and Opportunity for Older Australians'.

Go down to Chapter 15 (out of 17), immediately after critical policy areas such as 'Stronger Urban and Regional Communities' and 'Our Arts, Culture and Heritage', and you'll see the heading 'Australia's Place in the World'. Follow the link, and go read the few lines it has on 'The Challenge of Terrorism'. The few concrete proposals - the regional summits on terrorism and people-smuggling - have both been carried out by the current government.

The Howard Government has done a number of notable things in the past - gone in to East Timor (sold down the river by Gough Whitlam's government in the 70's), gotten stuck in in Afghanistan and Iraq (and with no military casualties). It's introduced a consumption tax, the GST, yet kept inflation down to 3% despite an Asian Economic Meltdown, and slowly reduced Unemployment to tolerable levels. But it has done less well in the sector of Higher Education, Science and Technology. It's past its 'Best Before' date. Its policies are basically 'same as before', 'steady as she goes', and 'Win the War', with some minor but useful tweaks here and there. Not nearly enough of them.

Labor promisses... more of the same, a few useful tweaks here and there, but rather more 'We can Build A Better Australia', but no actual concrete policies behind that, just plattitudes and mumbling about "7 point plans to improve the Trade Practices Act" or the aforementioned "5 point plan to reduce petrol prices". Basically, a Howard Government but with inexperience to bollix things up, and a few bits of idealogically-driven lunacy to boot. As for the war, what War? Latham attempted to recycle the hoary old 'It's Time For A Change' slogan from his political Idol and mentor, Whitlam, but that went down like a lead balloon. Change was not what he was selling, and it reminded too many people (like myself) of the 22% inflation we had then, of East Timor condemned to thirty years of political bondage and economic poverty, and of politicians with desperately needed good, radical ideas who couldn't organise a piss-up in a brewery.

The Greens meanwhile are talking about increasing the number of bicycles. I'm not kidding.

One comforting thought : if Labor gets in, they probably won't do too much harm, based on what they've said so far. They might even do more good than the Libs, being less tardy about implementing some of the 'minor tweaks' I've alluded to. But odds are, inexperience and sheer lack of talent will cause them to screw up. Twelve months ago, Mark Latham was merely another inexperienced backbencher, one who had a habit of shooting-from-the-lip and given to incoherent and scatalogical rants against opponents. Since election as Leader of the Opposition, he's turned... almost sane. He had to pull his head in, and he did. Full marks to him for that.

The deciding point though, is the ALP's inability to take the War against Terror seriously, despite our casualties. That and the rabid anti-Americanism of much of the more vocal, and more influential, factions of the ALP.

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