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In the Dark Shadow of Conservative Rule

ChifleyAs a senior Australian and one who has witnessed a variety of social reforms over the past 60 years, today I feel profoundly sad. This is the first such occasion where, instead of being proud that we are a middle world power with the vision and foresight to lead the world to a better place, I feel a sense of betrayal that we have, in fact, now gone in the opposite direction. While I can remember occasions where we have been at the forefront of innovation and cutting edge technology, I can’t recall a previous time where we have chosen to go against all the scientific advice and taken such a backward step as to reverse a progressive climate change policy using a market based mechanism.

As I reviewed the period that spans my life it became patently obvious that our progress, economically and environmentally over that time, has come predominantly from Labor governments. Over that period we have criss-crossed from conservative government to reformist on seven occasions. From Ben Chifley’s post war reconstruction of the Australian economy including our first locally produced car and the beginning of the politically divisive Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority, we then sat through 23 years of conservative rule where the baby boomer generation essentially grew up parallel to a trajectory driven by an influx of European immigrants and the augmentation of manufacturing, construction and overseas commerce.

WhitlamIn short, our economy, like most western economies of the time, was on auto pilot; a development not driven by any major reforms of the Menzies government, just a natural growth pattern born of a determination to give baby boomers something better. At the end of the sixties, sick and tired of a mistake-ridden, boring conservative ruling class, we looked to Gough Whitlam’s refreshing and progressive approach. It was here we saw the end of our involvement in the Vietnam War, the end of conscription and the introduction of social reforms based on compassion for an underclass and included a world class Medibank/Medicare social health system. The people, however, thought that the rate of change was too fast; it frightened them. The previous government had lulled them into a half sleep.

Hawke keatingThen after a seven year period of economic turmoil under Malcolm Fraser where the cash rate peaked at 22% under the management of the then treasurer, John Howard, we turned once more to Labor for relief and witnessed the great economic reforms of the Hawke and Keating governments.

Thirteen years later the conservatives returned and rode fortuitously on the back of a mining boom they thought would never end. It took a while to see through them but we finally got sick of the blatant hypocrisy of a conservative government that said one thing and did another. Kevin Rudd looked like the light on the hill with his, “great moral challenge” but it was Julia Gillard’s introduction of a carbon pricing mechanism, that confirmed Labor as the only party capable of showing the way forward.

GillardLabor’s demise in 2013 had nothing to do with the carbon tax or the influx of asylum seekers; they governed the country well under difficult circumstances but couldn’t govern themselves. Internal disunity is one thing Australians will not tolerate; nor should we. But the long standing tradition of reform begun by Chifley continued under Gillard’s watch.

Today we live once again under the dark shadow of conservative rule where the ideology of protecting the strong continues. Any agenda that smells of social equality is anathema to these proxies for big business and the free flow of capital and deregulation.

Now, with the carbon tax legislation repealed we are back in that vacuum of denial driven not by science but a theology so false and so evil at its source that it contradicts everything that has previously generated pride in our achievements. In time, the people will once again tire of seeing their living standards fall; they will be wiser to the broken promises, the pious rhetoric of dishonest men, the incessant greed that drives their masters so relentlessly. They will witness the rest of the world adopting some form of carbon price mechanism and eventually be forced to play catch-up. Then, they will long for the great reformers of the past. Frankly, it can’t come soon enough

To echo the words of Lenore Taylor of The Guardian: “It is a sad and sorry place for Australia to be after such a long and rugged process.”



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  1. robyn gow

    I agreed whole heartedly with what you have written. I feel so sad for our country. We must spread the word .god help Australia .how can we get rid of these bastards.

  2. PeterF

    Much of the responsibility for what has happened must be placed squarely on the shoulders of Rudd. When he had the people behind him he was not prepared to fight for his legislation, and he backed off. In contrast, Gillard pursued her objectives in spite of Abbots furious objections. Rudd, in the meantime undermined her position, when he could have made way for her. She nevertheless achieved much which will be applauded with hindsight. Rudd’s presence allowed this opportunist Abbott to manipulate his way into power.

    It will take a long time to undo the destruction Abbott is bringing to our economy. Where is the ‘careful, considered, rational’ approach he claimed to be presenting before the election, and still uses as a mantra.

    I, for one, did not expect it to appear. I have not been surprised.

  3. Wayne Turner

    Poor fellow my country.Easily led and manipulated by the MSM,who aided Abbott to this place.

  4. Tracie Carvin (@piecekat68)

    Since Hawke/Keating the ALP have moved incresingly to the right, taking onboard neoliberal ideology, albeit in a slower and less destructive fashion than the conservatives.

    They are also a party of deregulation, privatisation and corporate welfare at the expense of social services. The appear to support stratification of deservedness of a social safety net. Notice they have spoken out loudest in defence of pensioners RATHER than the system as a whole. Anyone who doubts the ALP’s waning support for our welfare state, which includes public health and education services, legal aid etc should read, ‘Australia’s Welfare Wars Revisited’ by Philip Mendes. Remember Labor’s attack on single parents, UNDER GILLARD.

    Australian’s need to realse that neoliberalism, no matter how kindly it is implemented, ultimately hurts most of us.

  5. patsy

    telegraph front page today……..absolutely over the top…shame on Murdoch portraying TONY ABBOT as a priest when we the people with common sense know abbot was not fit to be a priest makes me ashamed to be a catholic and once a novice…..he shows NONE of the teachings we were taught…….that is he is null and void to them!!!!!!!!!

  6. Tracie Carvin (@piecekat68)

    Well Patsy, he is known as ‘The Mad Monk’ and one would need extraordinarily reserves of ‘blind faith’ to believe a word he says :-).

  7. Matters Not

    Tracie Carvin said:

    Since Hawke/Keating the ALP have moved incresingly to the right, taking onboard neoliberal ideology

    Not so. Hawke/Keating pursued the neo-liberal ideology with some vigour, and much success, unfortunately. It was anything but a ‘golden age’. Let’s not forget.

    By the time Labor left office in 1996 the government had virtually abolished tariffs and had ceded its control over interest rates to an “independent” Reserve Bank and the dollar and wages to markets. This was the biggest transformation of the Australian economy since the end of the Second World War, a neo-liberal market revolution.

    The Hawke-Keating government reduced corporate taxes by 16 per cent from 49 to 33 per cent. They cut the top personal tax rate from 60 cents to 47 cents in the dollar. Union membership fell from over 48 per cent to below 31 per cent. These changes saw the wages share of GDP fall from around 61.5 per cent of GDP to less than 55 per cent, amounting to a transfer of $50 billion from workers to the rich.

    Labor did more than the Liberal governments of either John Howard or Malcolm Fraser to increase inequality, decimate union strength and erode Labor’s own support-base in the working class.

    More here:

    As for a price on carbon, it will be interesting to see how the G20 handles the issue. Can’t see the real powers letting this issue slip from the agenda.

  8. Tracie Carvin (@piecekat68)

    Matters Not, I completely agree that the ALP have abandoned their traditional raison d’etre, but not that the Libs have been any kinder.

    Neoliberalism is most certainly the REAL problem, and what Australian’s need to rally against if they truly want to maintain improve their quality of life.

    Also, small business and rural organisations have failed their member by supportingthese iddologies as they ultimately destroy the LOCAL (taxpaying) businesses and they are swallowed up by corporates or multinationals who pay little or NO tax. So, we either pay more or lose social services. Attacking the low and middle income earners damages local businesses also, as people have less and are forced to shop where it is CHEAPEST.

  9. Keitha Granville

    Agree with Peter F – if K Rudd had stepped back and shown full support for Gillard’s government Abbott would never have made it into the Lodge. In fact if K Rudd had managed his own prime ministership better he may still have been there himself. Labor ruined itself. Now it has to work it out, and get together and be decisive and make absolutely sure that next election we can get rid of this disease that it currently ruining our nation. Australia needs to get back to the front of the pack in the world – innovation, technology, renewable energy, education and all the other areas in which we used to be leaders.

  10. lawrencewinder

    I agree…. these barbarians (what else can you call them?) are effectively trashing the country and its future to rule according to the IPA’s (Coot’s -With-Queer-Ideas-From-a-Parallel-Universe) miserable medieval theories. I just heard their Head Troll, Roskam get well and truly “worked over” by wives and members of Vic. Ambulance when he showed all of an accountants empathy to their pay and conditions dispute and it made me wonder if his humanity is delivered via an ATM. Needless to say, even though some of the talk-back on Faine silenced him and there was a glimmer of doubt becoming apparent in his voice you know that this right-wing ideologue never knows or accepts that he is wrong and that and he and his Murdoch/Rinehart funded ilk is what is destroying this land.

  11. Helen

    PeterF. I agree. It could have been very different if Rudd had not undermined Gillard, and not leaked to opposition and media for his own interests. It is a sad and sorry day for Australia, and I worry so my grandchildren’s future. Australia needs a real leader…right now more than ever, and we have an embarrassment at the wheel…and a sideshow in part of the senate.

  12. Ian MacDonald

    I don’t agree with all said above – particularly about the notion that internal disunity is not tolerated by Australians. Conflict is the best (and healthiest) indicator of change and growth. In the alternative (meaning conservative) people don’t get to the top of the Liberal party by being nice people or on merit ( read Catherine Cusack’s exposé), its just plain ugly how they operate internally. No wonder their ideological dark side seeks to privatise profit and socialise debt. At the same time to control the justice system as Taibbi & Crabapple write in (The Divide:American injustice in the age of the wealth gap) to “criminalise failure, poverty and weakness, and to immunise strength, wealth and success.” Just watch Senator Brandis and you will get this drift.

  13. flohri1754

    Yes, agree with all above … it is ultimately Kevin Rudd who engineered the entry to the Lodge (eh, rather the AFP Barracks) of Tone Abbott. And, yes, it was Hawke/Keating that jumped onto the Neo-Con bandwagon and has pushed the country to the point where it is now.

    Perhaps it is time for a new Left Leaning and Progressive Party to get the loyalty and votes of all of those who find that both Labor and the Greens are just not fully satisfying. AND who find the Liberals and National anathema. Anyone for an O’Malley Party?

  14. mars08

    Sooo….. conservative leaders, more often than not, make things worse. And Bill Shorten is not as conservative as Tony Abbott. Well, I guess THAT’S the obvious solution then!!!!!!

  15. Anon E Mouse

    Gillard was busy undermining Rudd 6 months before she ousted him as PM – Wikileaks told us of how Shorten told the Americans so.

    Rudd’s ETS was voted down by the Greens voting with the Coalition against it and Gillard and co forced Rudd to walk away from the DD trigger. Rudd did not want to drop it, but those who ultimately betrayed him forced him.

    Rudd was undermined by Gillard and co from very early in his term and his greatest failing was that he actually trusted Gillard and believed her assertions that she was loyal and that she was ‘more likely to become a fullback for the Bulldogs than challenge for the leadership’ only days before striking.

    So for all the Gillard fans, you are entitled to your preference, but please stop trying to rewrite history.

    We would have had an ETS if the Greens weren’t too busy playing politics, and perhaps if Gillard was using her alleged negotiating prowess to gain the support instead of solidly working to stage a leadership coup.

  16. jimhaz

    As far as I am concerned you are the one rewriting history – other than the Greens failings.
    There is a difference between stridently disagreeing with a policy, and undermining a person.
    Rudd’s ego caused him to be a nutter.

  17. Tracie Carvin (@piecekat68)

    And as long as we fight among ourselves, the PROBLEMS remain…

    Get over it ALP and supporters.

    1. Sort out who you are and what you actually stand for. (Hopefully a return to traditional ALP values, and REAL opposition).
    2. Chose a strong leader, with principles and integrity.
    3. Support THAT leader.

    If you continue to support neoliberalism, you are betraying your traditional base and they therefore have no reason to support you.

    I imagine minor parties and independents will be popular next election.

  18. guest

    There is little point in being vindictive about the Labor party since 2007. Labor was not only fighting an opposition Coalition party; they were fighting a media empire as well. Murdoch claims he supported Rudd before the election in 2007 and my memory was that he did so the day before the election when it was clear Howard was gone. It was weak attempt to save face.

    The attack on Rudd was by stealth and drip-feed. There was the story of swearing at a steward over lack of sandwiches; too much holding interviews the church door; a log-jamb of correspondence on his desk…

    Rudd and Turnbull managed a bi-partisan agreement over Climate Change. The Coalition had had an ETS as policy since the early 1990s.

    There were people who thought Copenhagen would solve everything. The expectations of the public were too high; they still are, with people complaining that the Carbon Tax has not obviously reduced the the temperature of the world. Rudd was made to look like a fool, especially when he hesitated on pulling the DD trigger. It was easy to criticise from afar. If he was as bad as people say he was and deserved to be dropped, and if he set about a course of revenge, then it is best that he is gone. Such a waste of opportunity.

    One can only wonder what advice Rudd had been given within the party to rectify any perceived faults.

    The full story of Rudd’s demise is yet to be told. I await Gillard’s side of the story.

    I cannot believe that people could behave as appallingly as they did against her. The personal attacks, the lies, the misrepresentations and the sheer vindictiveness was gutter politics at its worst.

    So what did we get in 2013? A twice ejected bunch of politicians recycled. Its leader was no doubt a surprise to the party: a man riding around in lycra and spouting 3 word slogans.

    So he has achieved two big election policies: about boats and tax. But I hardly think that the world is applauding. Imagine him declaring his achievement at the G20. “I stopped the boats. I sent Tamils back to a peaceful country. I helped the Sri Lanka government with patrol boats. I repealed the Carbon Tax…” Imagine the silence of disbelief.

    And the Coalition Budget. They cannot believe that the country is not falling on its knees with gratitude. What a mean and muddle-minded budget it is. Compare it with the farsighted policy-making of Labor. And the populus knows it: the bluff and bluster, the born-to-rule mentality. They know that the Coalition is in thrall to the ideology of the kingmaker and the policies of the IPA and the Tea Party.

    This present bunch of ideologues represents the no-cons struggling against world trends and trying to maintain the business-as-usual mantra. That they should even survive to the next election would be a disaster for this country. As they go down, we need to sink the boots in. The present fiasco is horrible to watch.

    But for me, it is karma for Abbott.

  19. jimhaz

    [Gillard pursued her objectives in spite of Abbots furious objections]

    and this was a part of what killed her off.

    Rudd was too Whitlamesque. He tried to do too much. Gillard got in, and already had a big clean to do from Rudd’s policies, made some jump-the-gun errors trying to find a tougher workable least harm solution to the growing boat refugee problem, then starting putting in place a number of other initiatives, including NIDS.

    Due to the GFC scare and its spending fast-tracking; escalating refugee numbers and tragedies; various types of debt scares; market volatility, introducing an abstract outcome carbon tax; the NBN (the biggest ever government spend); Gonski, the Internet filter, attempting to put a boundary on Murdoch, change to Liberal State govs; and whatever else I’ve forgotten, simply gave the baddies (I refuse to let Abbott own that word) too much ammunition to use on an already very irritated population.

    I do not know what could have beaten the increasingly traitorous neo-con controlled MSM, who thrive on negative news whatever the subject, and Rudd’s team of saboteurs. But the ALP should have tried to ensure they were not given even more ammunition. Trying to prove yourself by spending money you do not have was the wrong approach. Gillard should have made the decision very early that there will be no more big initiatives. She should have calmed the population down by not doing things where new mistakes will always surface. Both Gonski and NIDS implementation needed to be slowed down, under the context and highly acceptable excuse of getting the budget in order, so as to transfer promisable expenditure levels in those policies to the next election platform.

    Perhaps she could have done it without the Rudd teams treachery; and something was not right about the degree of error in Treasury forecasts – they seemed obvious bulldust to me, considering what was happening to mining investment, ore prices, a plethora of manufacturing jobs losses, little housing price inflation. Maybe their models use formulas based too much on the last 2-3 decades (an engineered lack of recessions).

    The vibe was a population sick of politicians. When Gillard got in it had been some time that I’d been pining for “a f*cking government that has a platform of no-change for 2 years”.

    Only Abbott has changed that, it’s now “give me a government that has a platform of reversing pretty much everything he has done”, and whose only new aim in the first 2 years was to destroy the power of the Murdoch press by going in with legislative sledge hammers – an extremely dangerous endeavour admittedly, but someone has to fight the fight in the halls of power at some point.

    Major dental work in Medicare, even if future tax surcharges applied to those who used it, is my most desired initiative, but that along long way off it seems.

  20. donwreford

    A pertinent and good appraisal of Australian recent history, the use of Australian resources for sale at undervalued market prices and the over seas investors who make the money from these commodities and the dwindling of these valuable assets for sale with the Abbott government advertising abroad to come and get it while you can, will do little for the Australian people of lasting significance.
    Maybe the reflection of a hedonistic culture to live now and tomorrow may never come, for the present situation of our planet, tomorrow will come.

  21. Tracie Carvin (@piecekat68)

    Too Whitlamesque? Or not neoliberal enough?

    Interesting you mention Murdoch though. The ALP supported changes to cross media ownership laws which have handed Murdoch even MORE power. They were warned at the time it was a bad move. But through stupidity or fear, they did it anyway. One pillar of democracy unforgivably compromised.

    It is clear Murdoch is the real PM in Australia, despite giving up the privilege of citizenship. Seeing ALL his pet PM’s paying grovellong homage at the Australian’s birhday event made me sick to the stomach.

    By refusing to block supply ALP and the Greens have enabled a destructive Government with a corporate NOT national interest. Our democracy is under seige, apparently with the complicity of the alleged Opposition.

  22. Bob in Ngunnawal country

    Dear Matters Not “Union membership fell from over 48 per cent to below 31 per cent. ”
    I clearly remember that the attack on union membership began with Minister Street (Lib) when he stopped the Dept Finance from collecting union dues from the public servants. This was in 1978 or 1979. The memership of that union has never recovered.

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