30/11/2004 - 21:00

Joe Poprzeczny: State Scene - Loose connection in Labor’s plans

30/11/2004 - 21:00


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IT’S no secret that Prime Minister John Howard and his inner Liberal sanctum want Labor’s Mark Latham to stay on as Labor leader for as long as possible.

Joe Poprzeczny: State Scene - Loose connection in Labor’s plans

IT’S no secret that Prime Minister John Howard and his inner Liberal sanctum want Labor’s Mark Latham to stay on as Labor leader for as long as possible.

They believe, and their polling appears to confirm it, that Austra-lians have had a good close look at Labor’s man with a road rage personality, and they don’t like what they’ve seen.

That, as much if not more, than the interest rates issue explains why Latham Labor lost the October 9 Federal contest.

Last week State Scene briefly discussed Labor’s fate with a very observant Liberal Canberra insider.

Towards the end of our chat I asked what he’d urge Labor to do if his advice was sought.

Without hesitation he said: “Re-connect”.

He, like so many across the Liberal spectrum, and thankfully, several within Labor’s ranks, believes that too many in Labor’s upper echelons are neither in sympathy with nor in contact with the average, hard working Aussie and the hopes and aspirations of such people.

When our chat finished I couldn’t help casting my mind back to an insightful Spectator article I’d recently read that considered a little-noted characteristic of many African politicians.

That article revolved around a concept I’d never before heard – Afro-Saxons. The columnist had borrowed it from an Afrikaner sociologist who coined it several years earlier.

According to the sociologist, many African politicians love to wear suits, ties, nice shiny shoes and all the other paraphernalia of modern Western leaders.

All are extremely comfortable attending conferences in London, New York, or Parisian hotels and mansions, where they are at ease mixing with prime ministers, foreign ministers and “Yes minister”-type senior Western bureaucrats.

But the Afrikaner sociologist who coined the term Afro-Saxons said that, whenever he observed these same individuals among their own people, they looked uncomfortable and ill at ease.

They appeared disconnected from the people they allegedly represented and pontificated about on the world stage – condemning imperialism, neo-colonialism and exploitative capital-ism, which they claim condemns their people to such squalor.

Whenever they’re among their poor and underprivileged they look distinctly miserable and appear to be keen to get away, and as quickly as possible.

Because of the ease with which they take to the Western lifestyle, and their discomfort among their fellow Africans, the Afrikaner sociologist chose to describe them, not as Africans, but rather, as Afro-Saxons.

There’s much to be said in drawing on this comparison to understand so many of our Labor MPs, Federal and State.

They enjoy and relish their jarrah-topped office desks, spacious river-view offices, chauffeur-driven lifestyle, free flights, and they so often look distinctly ill at ease when with ordinary Aussie Joe Blows.

Their noticeable discomfort goes a long way to explaining a range of things about so many of them.

For instance, it explains why the Gallop cabinet so ruthlessly raised taxes over the past four years and only on the eve of the coming election decided to slightly trim back those protracted hikes.

It explains why Education Minister Alan Carpenter moved with such haste to introduce compulsory student unionism to WA’s four State universities, thereby adding another educational tax that’s euphemistically called a ‘services and amenities fee’.

He was more interested in ensuring that a tiny coterie of leftist students controlling those unnece-ssary student unions had compul-sorily-collected funds to play around with than defending the principle and practice of voluntary association for the majority.

It explains why those in WA Labor’s caucus room cheered and clapped when told a premium property tax was about to be introduced.

It explains just so much that State Scene is tempted to borrow from that Afrikaner sociologist and describe so many Labor MPs as Austro-Saxons, because, in so many ways, they’re like their Afro-Saxon counterparts across the Indian Ocean.

Little wonder that the Liberals are able to jovially go about using terms like ‘Howard’s battlers’. Labor’s Austro-Saxons have left a big gap for the Liberals to fill.

Now, one would think that having lost on October 9, Labor’s upper echelons would be prompted to get a grip on all this, make fundamental amends, and reconnect with voters.

Far from it.

The latest review of their Howard defeat shows no sign of them heading that way.

One report on that review revealed Labor’s national executive was about to endorse “a shake-up of its campaign strategy, including a new ‘talent spotting’ mission to find star-quality candidates”.

Why do that?

Hasn’t WA Labor ever sat back and wondered how it attracted its easily best post-war Federal politi-cian, former senator, Peter Walsh?

He was from a farming – not a union or university – background.

He hailed from Doodlakine’s bush school of hard knocks, where he intuitively twigged that there was something skew-whiff with the then Country Party’s silly proclivity for compulsory acquisition of rural output and marketing boards.

In him, Laborites gained – through no fault of their own, one must add – one of Australia’s best ever finance ministers.

Another item, according to that report, said: “Labor would reduce its reliance on quantitative data and shift towards more qualitative polling, in an effort to try to understand what drives voters’ attitudes.’’

Now, that’s one heck of a mouthful and it’s difficult to understand precisely what it means.

But whatever it is, it sounds like a nifty and expensive computer-powered way of evading and avoiding meeting and getting to know and reconnecting with ordinary Aussie battlers so as not to represent their interests and aspiration honestly and faithfully.

Both examples appear to indicate that Labor is set to embrace approaches to so-called reform that will ensure they can continue being Austro-Saxons.


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