28/08/2014 - 05:46

Political persuasion a line ball call

28/08/2014 - 05:46


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Despite all the huffing and puffing, little really separates Australia’s two main political parties.

COME TOGETHER: A lot of argy bargy goes on inside Australia’s federal parliament, but only a cigarette paper separates the Labor and Liberal parties on some major issues.

For several years I've suspected today's Liberal Party is what I sometimes call 'belated Labor'.To explain myself, here are some examples I believe back such a claim.

Back in the 1990s, Sydney multi-millionaire investment banker, Malcolm Turnbull, began ardently advocating the republican cause.

And while he proselytised nationwide, there were rumours Mr Turnbull, who was gravitating ever closer to Labor celebrities such as prime ministers Bob Hawke and Paul Keating, was seeking a safe Labor seat.

As things transpired, he didn't get one.

So he ousted sitting Wentworth Liberal MP, Peter King, in a bitter pre-selection contest and briefly led federal Liberal Party.

But while Mr Turnbull ascended Liberal ranks, several from the other side of politics revealed that he, in fact, had sought to team-up with Labor.

Is Mr Turnbull Liberal or belated Labor?

Readers may recall some throwaway words by (now) Labor Senator Joe Bullock during Western Australia's most recent Senate campaign, which included the disclosure that he'd been a campus pal of Prime Minister Tony Abbott's and urged him to join the Liberals, not the Labor Party.

Seems that may have been a line-ball decision.

Mr Abbott was also close, as a student activist, to the late Bob Santamaria, who hailed from the very heart of the Labor movement and was a key figure in Labor's 1950s split, during which the spin-off Democratic Labor Party was created.

So is Mr Abbott Liberal or belated Labor?

But it's not only the past two Liberal leaders over whom question marks hover.

Even Treasurer Joe Hockey sits in the suspect zone.

Here's the introductory paragraphs of an August 11 article by The Australiancolumnist Troy Bramston (a one-time Kevin Rudd staffer), that focused upon Mr Hockey.

"In 1996, as Joe Hockey was door knocking his North Sydney electorate drumming up votes for his first bid for parliament, he came across Bob Hawke's house," he wrote.

"Nobody was home.

"He called Hawke later and they immediately hit it off.

"They now regularly play golf and socialise together.

"Hawke told Madonna King for her biography, Hockey: Not Your Average Joe, 'While he's on the opposite side of the fence to me I often joke with him that I think he's really right-wing Labor'."

Is Mr Hockey Liberal or belated Labor?

It's not unusual to encounter such throwaway lines that bolster suspicions.

Take Mr Hockey's cigar smoking colleague, Finance Minister Mathias Cormann.

A few weeks ago, when asked about his work, he said he aspired to being in the mould of the Hawke government finance minister Peter Walsh.

Why did he ignore two successful Liberal treasurers, and later prime ministers – Harold Holt and Billy McMahon?

Is Senator Cormann Liberal or belated Labor?

You'd have thought a Liberal MP would have looked back to successful Liberal economic managers, not one from Labor's ranks.

My last example involves virtually the entire federal Liberal parliamentary contingent, since nearly all backed a policy Labor so avidly embraced just after WWI.

Thankfully several Liberals, including WA Senator Dean Smith, rejected such myopia.

Readers may recall that, soon after the 2010 federal election, leftist Labor leader Julia Gillard signed an agreement with the leftist Greens leader, Bob Brown.

A key item in that agreement was to insert, via referendum, into Australia's Constitution so-called 'recognition of local governing councils'.

Not realised across Liberal ranks was that this innocuous-sounding notion originated from the early 1920s, when hard-left Laborite Maurice Blackburn began targeting local councils.

He'd contemporaneously paved the way for Labor's notorious socialisation clause and years later was expelled from the party for supporting the Australia-Soviet Friendship League.

But he was also infatuated over the post-WWI years with his dream to fully centralise Australia.

Blackburn consequently proposed, and Labor adopted, a plank for abolition of Australia's six traditional states and their displacement by 31 Canberra-controlled provinces that were made-up of combinations of local councils.

The leftist Gillard-Brown proposal was thus step one towards a full centralist mode by extending Canberra control over local councils via a range of tied or conditional grants.

And who was amongst the most ardent backers of such recognition?

None other than current Liberal Attorney-General George Brandis, and backed by Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce.

Is Senator Brandis Liberal or belated Labor?

What about Mr Joyce and the Nationals?

The only reason the resurrected Gillard-Greens 1920s idea never got to referendum was because recycled Labor leader Kevin Rudd and Mr Abbott negotiated it out of the election campaign.

Clearly it's time Liberals reconsidered their principles.

Is there a difference between today's federal Liberalism and belated Laborism?

Yes, between big and far bigger spending.

But at state level it's the opposite, with Barnett-style Liberalism meaning far bigger spending via massive borrowings along Rudd lines.


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