I wasn’t alive in the 70’s, so that means I missed out on the Whitlam government years, the dismissal and the recovery of left-wing politics in Australia afterwards.
I was only very young growing up in the 80’s so I didn’t fully appreciate Bob Hawke’s Labor taking victory in 1983 (although I did meet before the election as a 1 year old, I believe there’s even a photo of it that my parents have somewhere)
I was still in primary school when Keating took power from Hawke and then won another election for the ALP against John Hewson’s Coalition. I was only just finding my political feet, even if they were last place to my Nintendo and NBA trading card feet at the time.
I was 14 when, after 13 years in power, the ALP crumbled to a coalition headed by Howard, Fischer, Downer and Costello. On the back of Howard’s decision not to refute a far-right and dangerous Pauline Hanson after her maiden parliamentary speech, my anger and dislike towards Howard and his coalition was something I carried around for 11 years.
It was issues such as the mistreatment of asylum seekers, privatisation of industry after industry, the backflip over the promise of not introducing a GST, Work Choices, sending troops to Afghanistan and then Iraq that made me question why this government was continually voted in by the people.
Then I remembered another question; who were they up against?
Beazley never came close. Disconnected from the public, uncharismatic and unfortunately, unpopular.
Simon Creane – well, he never actually contested a federal election as leader but he definitely makes Kevin Rudd look like a Hollywood star.
Mark Latham. Now, we had a man here. A man who could have done the job.
I respected and admired Latham from the moment he took on the leadership of the ALP. A straight-talker, no nonsense about him and very strong in personality. However, it was this strength that would also be his downfall. Unfortunately, Latham wasn’t listening to his PR people as his relationship with the media crumbled.
This was all after a source close to me in Canberra told me one afternoon that the word coming out from our nation’s capital was that Latham would win in 2004.
Hope was there. I’m usually not a hoper. I either think something will happen or it won’t. Sometimes I’m surprised but that doesn’t give me hope other times. This time, however, I was as happy as you could get around election time. Latham was going to become our PM, the ALP was back in, no more Howard, no more Costello, no more Abbot!
The weeks leading up to the election left me bitter and extremely disappointed. Was this the last roll of the dice for the political left? Had Labor now, so cynically, abandoned their grassroots support and original ideologies for what was going on in the polls? They had turned into a marketing corporation shortly before Latham’s slide in popularity began. Disillusionment was just around the corner.
Since then and before 2007, the ALP were a compromising party. Lacking in vision and the ideals that brought them to power in the 70’s and 80’s. They were now basing their actions on the polls, the absolute worst thing a political party can ever do. To lose your ideals and sense of purpose is far worse than losing an election.
Where are we headed now?
The ALP is going to ballot. They are voting, as I type this right now, on the future of this country. Rudd or Gillard?
Does it make a difference? One is an old school socialist (yes!) and the other an obsessed bureaucrat. However, with Gillard’s surprising endorsement by the right-wing faction of the party which includes the AWU and a number of other power brokers, does this spell the end to a party that, in it’s very constitution, describes itself as a socialist party? Does Gillard have a price to pay if ALP members, including members within parliament as well as outside, tick her name?
Is this a slide to the right?
Is this the end of the opposition we organised against Howard’s regime and his quasi-fascist policies?
Let’s hope not, otherwise Australia is headed into a dark area and it will be hard to get out of it.