17/12/2009 - 00:00

Old-school Labor had it right

17/12/2009 - 00:00


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The Labour Party has shifted a long way from its traditional base

ALTHOUGH the late Kim Beazley (Snr) conveyed a sense of composed calm, he could be a fiery and impassioned speaker.

My two close encounters with him included arranging for him to deliver a keynote lecture to a student politics conference I helped organise, followed years later by an interview at his Cottesloe home, during which we canvassed aspects of Australia’s Pacific war effort, something that interested him greatly.

The conference lecture was delivered about a year before Labor’s 1972 It’s Time victory, when Mr Beazley was the opposition’s education spokesman.

Midway during that lecture – he delivered it using a large blackboard – he unexpectedly found himself with just the remnants of a single piece of chalk that suddenly crumbled to dust when he reached a crucial point in his address.

A surprised Mr Beazley looked about for more chalk but none was in sight.

Suddenly, a fluke if ever I’ve seen one, he noticed a solitary headache tablet on a desk just to his right, which he promptly grasped with thumb and index finger and completed the sentence he’d begun before his chalk withered away.

Straight after his impassioned, interesting lecture, I walked over to commend him for his skilful improvisation, at which time it became obvious he hadn’t noticed he’d used a tablet, not chalk.

Mr Beazley was mildly impassioned, and erudite, when I interviewed him on the Pacific theatre policies of Labor hero, John Curtin, who he’d succeeded as Fremantle’s MHR in 1945.

Among other things, both encounters helped me appreciate a later-reported incident in Mr Beazley’s life.

According to a report by Robert Milliken, in The London Independent (September 24 1998): “Kim Beazley [Jnr] comes from a political dynasty in Perth. His father, Kim senior, an MP for 30 years, was very much ‘old Labor’.

“He once famously thundered to a party conference: ‘When I joined the Labor Party, it contained the cream of the working class. But as I look about me now, all I see are the dregs of the middle class’.”

Harsh words, maybe; maybe not.

But ones that may well be an early lead to what we can expect from the upcoming federal election.

Neither major party – Labor or Liberal – can today claim having much “cream” of any class.

Nearly all federal politicians are either former political staffers, or straight from the genteel professions – lawyers, teachers, bankers, public servants, union bosses – never rank-and-file blue collar workers, and the like.

Crucially, they’re invariably tertiary trained which, in so many cases, seems to have disqualified them from making empirical judgements about crucial issues, such as the job-destroying climate-heating hoax.

Thankfully, that hoax is now being objectively investigated because temperatures provided to the United Nations Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change by certain British climate monitoring agencies have been queried following leaked emails written by some of their over-enthusiastic scientists.

No-one, and most certainly not State Scene, is claiming all such genteel tertiary trained occupations can necessarily be described as “the dregs of the middle class”.

But there’s often something unrealistic about so many of our genteel brethren who seem removed from certain crucial realities of life.

It’s as if life has been far too easy for them and their spouses – sometimes dubbed Doctors’ wives – since they graduated, especially those with arts and/or law degrees.

Labor today is led by arts graduate and one-time Brisbane public servant, Kevin Rudd.

His deputy is one-time campus student union activist and former head of the Australia (now National) Union of Students, and a former Melbourne Labor lawyer, Julia Gillard.

Until this month the Liberals were led by Sydney lawyer and Goldman Sachs banker, Malcolm Turnbull, while his deputy was Perth lawyer, Julie Bishop.

Perhaps it’s because of these common backgrounds that Mr Turnbull and Ms Bishop were so at ease playing the role of vice-captain and assistant vice-captain to Mr Rudd.

Climate Change Minister Penny Wong is an arts/law graduate, one-time union leader and, of course, former National Union of Students official.

Australia’s five leading carbon tax proponents therefore all hail from a similar university trained background; BA or law degrees.

And each will qualify for indexed taxpayer-funded pensions on leaving parliament, so they will never truly feel the burden of the carbon tax they so keenly seek.

We taxpayers will be carrying that burden for them, just as we’ll carry it for all retired politicians for the rest of their lives.

But these five aren’t exceptional.

According to former Hawke government environment minister Barry Cohen, the federal parliamentary contingent holds 346 degrees by 180 of the 226 politicians, meaning only 46 aren’t of the tertiary educated set.

Interestingly, of the 346 there are only eight in business studies. Commerce-economics fares a little better, with 32.

But BA and education degrees total a whopping 118, which helps explain many things. And there are a huge 91 law degrees – another omen.

Doesn’t the fact that 209 BA, education and law degrees – out of 346 – help explain why we’re having the climate hoax forced upon us?

Significantly, there are only 11 science degrees, with 75 classified as ‘others’.

Is it a coincidence that the National Party, which opposes the imposition of a carbon tax, has a voter base dominated by down-to-earth farmers and regional voters with occupations that cannot be described as genteel?

Is it a coincidence that so many of the Liberal MPs who rebelled against the Turnbull-Bishop Rudd vice-captaincy represent rural and partially blue-collar electorates?

Even more depressing is the fact that no politician in Rudd-led Labor’s ranks has as much as revealed a hint of doubt about the proposed carbon tax Labor’s leadership is so avidly seeking to impose, with ongoing backing from a worldwide propaganda campaign emanating from UN and other taxpayer-funded agencies.

Let’s also not forget that in Liberal ranks new leader Tony Abbott displaced climate-warming crusader Mr Turnbull by just one vote, 42 to 41.

Significantly, Ms Bishop backed Mr Turnbull ahead of Mr Abbott in that narrow leadership turnaround.

Then, when the party room held a secret ballot over whether the Liberals should postpone – not, please note, reject outright – the Rudd/Turnbull-driven carbon tax, the vote was 54 to a stunningly large 29.

In other words, they were firstly just one vote off continuing down the Rudd-Turnbull carbon-taxing path, and when that option was narrowly averted their decision to delay by two months, not reject outright, the Rudd-Turnbull carbon tax was secured by only 13 votes.

Notwithstanding this perhaps token stand-back from proceeding with a carbon tax, just three days later the Liberals retained two safe seats – Bradfield in Sydney and Higgins in Melbourne – with far bigger swings to their candidates in predominantly blue collar booths than at strongly Liberal booths.

What election 2010 may be shaping up to becoming is not simply a clash in outlook and aspirations of those living in regional and urban seats, but is also likely to show the differing aspirations of voter majorities within predominantly middle class versus blue collar-dominated ones.

Unfortunately virtually all Labor and Liberal candidates contesting both middle class and blue collar lower house seats are university trained practitioners of the genteel occupations who are so desperately seeking the most genteel occupation of all – a career in politics.

Give me the sentiments and inclinations of Mr Beazley’s old Laborites any time.



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