All That's Left

All That's Left: What Labor Should Stand For

Nick Dyrenfurth
Tim Soutphommasane
Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: UNSW Press
Pages: 232
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt5vkqcw
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  • Book Info
    All That's Left
    Book Description:

    After a tumultuous few months that have seen an election-winning prime minister replaced as leader by Australia’s first woman prime minister, many people are questioning what Labor stands for, and wondering what it should stand for. In this book, young, prominent thinkers, players and commentators – as well as some experienced politicians – tackle these questions in frank, personal and often surprising ways.

    eISBN: 978-1-74224-545-4
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. NOTES ON CONTRIBUTORS
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-14)
    Nick Dyrenfurth and Tim Soutphommasane

    Whatever their political leaning or partisan inclination, public commentators and intellectuals share a fondness for debunking conventional wisdoms. It can only be thus.

    In recent times it has been fashionable to declare the death of ideology in politics. Our political seers insist that the division between Left and Right has become obsolete. This is a diagnosis shared by those with sympathies for old-style socialism as well as those who yearn for a more conservative mode of politics. For political scientist David McKnight, a stalwart of the Left, Australian political culture has simply moved ‘beyond right and left’. Such a shift...

  5. 1 IT’S THE CULTURE, STUPID
    (pp. 15-36)
    Nick Dyrenfurth

    ‘Writers aren’t people exactly. Or, if they’re any good, they’re a whole lot of people trying so hard to be one person. It’s like actors, who try so pathetically not to look in mirrors. Who lean backward trying – only to see their faces in the reflecting chandeliers.’ So declared Cecelia Brady, occasional first-person narrator in the F Scott Fitzgerald’s 1941 novel,The Love of the Last Tycoon.

    Ironically, the musings of an impetuous 1920s college student are perhaps more applicable to the world of politics than literature, whether it concerns global statecraft or the humble parish pump. For politicians aren’t...

  6. 2 SOCIAL JUSTICE AND THE GOOD SOCIETY
    (pp. 37-56)
    Tim Soutphommasane

    There is a certain truth in that familiar saying, ‘A young man who isn’t a socialist hasn’t got a heart; an old man who is a socialist hasn’t got a head’. The defining impulse of socialism – an abiding sense of equality as the foundation of a good society – is felt most keenly among idealistic youth.

    As a teenager growing up in Sydney during the 1990s, my own idealism stemmed from the experience of being an Asian-Australian at the height of Hansonism. If previous Australian generations had the Vietnam War or nuclear disarmament to politicise their youth, then I had the...

  7. 3 DOES SIZE MATTER?
    (pp. 57-76)
    David Burchell

    It’s in the nature of politics to generate friends and enemies, by drawing borders and declaring hostilities. Of all the many criss-crossed trench-lines traversing our contemporary political battlescape, none is more enduring or more deeply-dug than the one than defines Right and Left according to calculations of the size and ambition of government. Where government absorbs a higher percentage of gross domestic product, and declares for itself a more ambitious roll-call of duties, it is usually presumed the Left is in the ascendant, and the Right’s front-line is in danger of being breached. Conversely, where the public sector shrinks, and...

  8. 4 IN DEFENCE OF FEDERALISM
    (pp. 77-96)
    Geoff Gallop

    All too often, the Left has made the mistake of assuming that history is on its side. This seemed to be the case after the Second World War. Both the social democratic Left and the anti-parliamentary Left exerted significant influence over the conduct of government across the Western world.

    However, communism eventually collapsed under the weight of its own inefficiencies and injustices. The parliamentary Left has undergone significant revision not only in terms of its long-held belief in public ownership but also from its commitment to substantive equality. Inasmuch as there is a residual ideology of the Left, it is...

  9. 5 PROGRESSIVE ECONOMICS
    (pp. 97-112)
    David Hetherington

    It is tempting to interpret economics through the prism of personal political philosophy. Tempting, and bound to fail. Economics is the study of human interaction over resources. It is neither Left, nor Right; neither conservative nor progressive. At one level, it makes no more sense to talk of progressive economics than it does to talk of progressive physics or progressive psychology.

    Yet this does not mean that economics cannot be harnessed towards progressive ends. A holistic understanding of economics allows us to shape public policy to deliver progressive political goals – delivering prosperity, promoting fairness, strengthening community and ensuring sustainability. It...

  10. 6 BACK TO THE FUTURE FOR INDIGENOUS AUSTRALIA
    (pp. 113-134)
    Larissa Behrendt

    The national apology delivered in federal parliament by Kevin Rudd on 13 February 2008 appeared to signal a major transformation of Indigenous policy in Australia. Defeated Liberal Prime Minister John Howard had tenaciously refused to make this elementary gesture. Indeed, his prime ministership was hallmarked by a rejection of the reconciliation process that had begun in the Hawke/Keating era. His antagonism towards any recognition or protection of Aboriginal rights was almost visceral.

    The apology, together with the endorsement on the United Nations’ 2007 Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People immediately differentiated Rudd’s Indigenous affairs policies from those of Howard....

  11. 7 A REAL EDUCATION REVOLUTION
    (pp. 135-154)
    Tony Moore

    Whatever happened to the education revolution? While long overdue, the Labor Government’s commitment to a national school curriculum and transparent reporting of school performance do not an education revolution make. Nor do the laptops guaranteed to all Australian schoolkids; for most of them, after all, laptops in the classroom are as revolutionary as a telephone or a flushing toilet. And nor, for that matter, does the building program inaugurated in private and state schools across the country, even if they did prove a boon to ‘tradies’ and building firms. So, if the revolution is still to come, what will it...

  12. 8 A RED-GREEN COALITION
    (pp. 155-172)
    Dennis Glover

    The Australian Left today has two parts: the Red Left of the industrial movement and the Green Left of the post-industrial movement. Any Labor–Greens alliance notwithstanding, they are on a collision course, and if a smash can’t be averted Australian politics may end up looking very different.

    The portents are not good. Under Kevin Rudd’s leadership, the Australian Labor Party refashioned itself as the mainstream party of climate change. It was a significant step. As recently as the turn of the century, the Labor leadership was still debating whether it would even ratify the Kyoto Protocol if elected to...

  13. 9 TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY UNIONISM
    (pp. 173-190)
    Paul Howes

    I began my career as a paid union official in 1999. I was seventeen years old, and it was a grim time for the Australian labour movement. The mainstream media by and large ignored our existence. Internally, we were bitterly divided by factionalism. Externally, the Howard Government was increasingly successful in its fevered legislative campaign to effectively exclude us from the workplace.

    Sometimes it seemed to my generation of unionists that we would be the ones who turned the lights off on the way out. We were doomed to preside over the collapse of organised labour as a powerful and...

  14. 10 TRUST IN POLITICS
    (pp. 191-205)
    Lindsay Tanner

    Twenty-seven years ago, Labor won national office under Gough Whitlam. When the 1972 election was announced, Whitlam famously compared the coming contest with Napoleon’s victory at Austerlitz, which also happened on December 2. Sadly, Whitlam met his Waterloo rather more rapidly than did Napoleon. The Whitlam period sits at the crossroads in the long complicated process of transition from traditional to modern Labor. Yet it is his brief era, more than any other, which underlines the core questions facing social democratic parties. What are we for? What are we to be? The global financial crisis has cast these questions into...

  15. POSTSCRIPT: WHAT LABOR SHOULD STAND FOR
    (pp. 206-214)
    Tim Soutphommasane and Nick Dyrenfurth

    Ever since the execution of Kevin Rudd as prime minister in June, Australian politics has resembled Shakespearean drama. For many, the hovering presence of Rudd throughout the 2010 election campaign was like that of Banquo’s ghost. Yet on the afternoon of 7 September, as the independent MPs Tony Windsor and Robert Oakeshott appeared before the nation’s media to announce whom they would anoint as prime minister, one would have been excused for thinking of a different Shakespearean character.

    It had been more than two weeks after the Australian people had gone to the polls. After endless rounds of bargaining and...

  16. INDEX
    (pp. 215-222)