29/02/2012 - 11:14

Labor slow to learn lessons in leadership

29/02/2012 - 11:14


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The Labor Party has a lot of work to do after this week’s leadership stoush.

The Labor Party has a lot of work to do after this week’s leadership stoush.

I’VE just returned from a fortnight-long visit to Melbourne and Sydney, catching up with some of this now 12-year old column’s indispensible contacts and advisers.

It began in Melbourne on what’s best described as a high intellectual note; a lecture by outstanding Cantonese and Mandarin-speaking Steven Mosher, president of the Virginia-based Population Research Institute.

I’ll return, in a future column, to Mosher.

All that needs highlighting now is that he’s written several outstanding and iconoclastic books, including Broken Earth: The Rural Chinese, on Beijing’s forcibly implemented one child policy.

Mosher was expelled from Stanford University’s doctoral program in the 1970s for publishing an article on his fieldwork findings in southern China about this program, which has powerful backers in the West.

Although Broken Earth angered Beijing’s supporters and some Stanford administrators, he’s now the world’s leading demographic expert, saying things contemporary neo-Malthusians who dominate United Nations agencies dislike hearing.

The Population Research Institute is “an international non-profit [agency], which works to end coercive population control, and fight the myth of overpopulation which fuels it”.

The remaining 18 days in Australia’s two largest and presently wettest cities focused primarily upon Australian affairs – including especially the increasingly bizarre goings-on inside the Labor Party.

And I’m not only referring to the Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard imbroglio.

There’s also the matter of Gillard-appointed Climate Change Commissioner Tim Flannery’s annual $300,000, despite the tough time he’s having convincing Australians a future of eternal drought and climatic heating is imminent and inevitable.

I certainly enjoyed two marvellous rainstorms in each of the capitals – so much lovely clean water falling from above.

Moreover, while in Melbourne, reports were reaching Australia from Europe about the death toll of people freezing.

The last figure I read when there was that 430 people had frozen to death, a truly scandalous state of affairs when one recalls that it’s primarily Europe’s governments that have promoted the notion that mother earth is heating and we must tax CO2 via a global emissions trading scheme.

When I read that a 100-kilometre stretch of the mighty Danube River, somewhere below Vienna, had frozen to the point where icebreakers were called in to ensure it continued flowing, it was difficult not to feel like Cassandra since this column has never believed or promoted the global heating hoax.

Day two involved attending more lectures, including two on Australia’s job-killing Greens.

The first was by National Civic Council vice-president, Pat Byrne, Australia’s leading expert on backward looking ‘greenism’.

The Greens seek to transform Australia, via local councils as well as state and federal parliament, Byrne stressed.

They’re promoting radical economic/environmentalist policies, which mean introduction of the CO2 and mining taxes, no new dams, no new coal-fired power stations, and radical social policies including abortion decriminalisation, same sex marriages, euthanasia, and the funding of contraception.

“For the Greens the transformation of society requires both a ‘greening’ of education with the aim of decreasing society’s materialistic outlook, and legislation to reduce human interference in the ‘natural order’,” Byrne added.

He was followed by theologian, Colin Patterson, of Melbourne’s John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family, whose address was titled ‘Digging for the Philosophical Roots of the Australian Greens’.

Dr Patterson contended that the Greens were best understood as the heirs of Swiss-born writer, Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-78), not Karl Marx, even though they’ve attracted into their ranks several long-time Marxists, including NSW Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon, daughter of leading pro-Stalinist Sydney couple, Bill and Freda Brown.

But as my visit unfolded the name Rudd increasingly dominated every media outlet.

So, here are a few general observations on the background to the reporting of his leadership challenge.

Two writers I briefly met in Sydney’s News Ltd headquarters were Troy Bramston and Chris Kenny.

Both work as feature and leader writers with The Australian.

Before taking up this job, Bramston was a Rudd prime ministerial media staffer while Kenny held similar posts with Howard government foreign affairs minister Alexander Downer, and later ousted opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull.

Those who may have wondered why The Australian’s editorials are so insightful on Rudd’s moves need only be aware of this fact. 

There are very few skeletons on Labor’s and non-Labor’s side of politics and Canberra that these two are not fully unaware of. 

Whatever else one may say of Australian global media proprietor, Rupert Murdoch, currently undergoing tough times in London over phone hacking by some within his tabloids, his Sydney lieutenants certainly know whom to hire.

And there was a meeting with two other ALP experts, Michael Thompson and John Muscat, both now lawyers, whom I’d arranged to see for an in-depth discussion.

Both are outstanding political analysts, out there in a class of their own.

Thompson is a one-time Sydney builder’s labourer but now holds degrees in law and economics and was adviser to WA Labor minister, the late senator Peter Cook.

As well as practicing law, he’s author of the important book, Labor Without Class: The Gentrification of the ALP.

Anyone wishing to understand how Labor reached its present state will battle to find a better text to begin finding out.   

Muscat regularly contributes to Australia’s leading learned monthly, Quadrant, and has his own blog site –www.thenewcityjournal.net – where his farsighted writings, among other things, analyse the impact of greenism upon housing, land tenure and urban planning policies.

Both admire retired WA Labor senator Peter Walsh, whom they regard as an authentic Labor representative, unlike inner-city elitists types like Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard, whose thinking now so dominates Labor’s rapidly vanishing branches.

During our conversation Muscat said: “All these books coming out seeking to help understand where the ALP is at and why it’s there, entirely miss the point.

“Labor today only really represents public sector employees and those who are dependent on the public sector, no longer working Australians.”

He was too kind to say the party he’d once associated with should drop the word ‘Labor’ from its name.

But overshadowing the fortnight was the intensifying lead-up to this week’s Rudd-Gillard caucus room clash.

Let’s not forget that the two now bitter enemies in 2006 jointly conspired against and toppled Kim Beazley, Australia’s present ambassador to the US.

Their falling-out, as this column has persistently contended, came about because of Mr Rudd’s personality, which has been confirmed by none other than one of his high school colleagues, Treasurer Wayne Swan.

“The party has given Kevin Rudd all the opportunities in the world and he wasted them with his dysfunctional decision-making and his deeply demeaning attitude towards other people including our caucus colleagues,” Mr Swan said last week.

That’s close to what Peter Walsh said way back in November 2009; that Rudd was “an economic illiterate and an egomaniac”.

What’s amazing is that it took Labor’s caucus two years to work this out, with many within its ranks still seemingly oblivious to the fact.


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