Australian Labor Party, is there light at the end of the tunnel?!

Posted by in Politics

ALP logo with a question mark in the middle of itIf you have been living in Australia for the last few years and unless you spend them under a rock, you would have noticed a lot of stuff in the news about the Labor party and their shenanigans. The political scene at the moment is a bit chaotic with policies, allegiances and even leaders up in the air with changes happening at the drop of a hat.

In the 2007 federal elections Labor came into power on the back of Kevin 07 fever, this came after eleven and a half years of the Liberals running Australia under the guise of John Howard, who managed to win them four consecutive federal elections and even managed in the 2004 elections to achieve a majority in both the lower and upper houses of parliament, enabling them to ram through all the legislation they wanted.

2007 elections came around and Labor tried again and this time, their fifth try, succeeded with their fourth leader, Kevin Rudd, to secure themselves a good majority in the lower house, but not just that, the incumbent Prime Minister, John Howard, wasn’t even able to secure his own seat, let alone win the election. Things looked up for the Labor party, the sky was the limit, there was nothing they could not do.

Sadly that didn’t eventuate. From day one, Kevin got a reputation; he was harsh, he didn’t consult with anyone, he assumed anything he says would go, regardless of procedures, policies or convention. Employees in our nation’s parliament public service in Canberra described how they didn’t appreciate his style of leadership and the way he didn’t put much thought into consulting with the experts available to him when he wanted something to happen. Kevin also tried to micromanage everything from the big issues down to the irrelevant! After two years of Kevin’s leadership style and after Kevin’s government looked like it is ditching/delaying the ETS, his popularity in the polls slipped sharply. The ETS was until then an answer to climate change and what Kevin Rudd called until that moment “The greatest moral challenge of our time”. Later on, as the government was trying to introduce a Super profit mining tax, followed coincidentally by heavy lobbying by the big wigs in the mining industry, the Labor party did an internal coup d’état and ousted him from his position, replacing him with Julia Gillard.

Speculation in the media was rife on why they switched and why at that particular moment in time. Sadly, I’m not privy to the inner working circle of the Labor party and what goes in their collective mind, but as an onlooker, it seemed like a combination of focusing too much on polls, the mining moguls outmanoeuvring them and they might simply hated Kevin Rudd. Whatever the reasons were, it simply did not look good for Labor.

Julia’s government started with watering down the mining super tax to the point it became irrelevant, thinking maybe that this would appease the mining giants and get them off Labor’s back. It did, though this wouldn’t help the actual country in the long run at all. The country now is perceived as a nation that under tax mining in all its forms, as such, we are feeling the effects of the influx of investment from around the world to dig as much out as possible before the nation wakes up and realises that all of our natural finite resource are being taken out by multinational corporations without us being able to show our future generations anything for it, but higher inflation and destroyed natural habitats, but… all that is another story.

The second round of elections came around and Labor managed to keep themselves in power, just barely and with the help of two independent members and one member of the Greens. From the start everyone could tell that it was going to be a tough three-year ride for Labor.

One of the first things they started to tackle was trying to patch up everything that happened in their first three years in power, now prime minister Gillard proceeded to talk up health reforms, immigration and surprisingly climate change. The first problem in the last point is that she, during the elections, clearly ruled-out introducing a carbon tax if Labor won! Labor seemed to be very quick at announcing or setting targets that they should never have announced or set. The promise of no carbon tax is one, to get back into the black with the budget in 2012-13 is another. When you look a bit harder you can see something there. It is not that hard really, Labor these days seem to set their agenda or policies as a reaction to what the opposition says and not based on what really needs to happen. Liberals started saying that Labor are fiscally irresponsible, so Labor instead of focusing on being responsible and just explain their policies and go ahead and implement them, they overreact and announce that they will return to surplus by 2012-13 regardless of what is happening in the rest of the world!

To make it worse, our political elites these days think that admitting that they are wrong or changing their mind is a sign of weakness, as such, even if a decision they made will lead the country astray, they would rarely if ever change their mind. Unless, of course, if changing your mind makes no sense like Kevin dropping the climate issue completely when he was the PM!

So now, we end up with a watered down mining tax that would benefit no one but the mining giants (not even all mining companies), a carbon tax that is better than nothing, but will not achieve our aimed targets of reduction or result in major reinvestments in renewable and position Australia at the forefront of renewable technologies. A failed attempt to amend immigration legislation for offshore processing, even if this one failure actually make us a bit closer to align us with what we signed in the UN refugee convention and later accompanied protocols. An education revolution that did nothing and improved nothing, even worse, it gave people the impression that the way NAPLAN results are published, MySchools site, league tables and revolving the education system around them is an improvement, when most countries using such a system are abandoning it for the devastating overall effect on children’s education. Our taxes are still propping private schools. Our health system has not improved and we, as taxpayers, still subsidise private business health insurance instead of using the money in public health.

The only light in the sea of darkness is the NBN, a long term infrastructure project to help the nation for years to come. Though, there are a few possible flies in that ointment too,  the one we know is that the government is trying to cramp through a Nanny State “Who will think of the children” firewall blocking by ISPs policy using secret black lists set by the government themselves! In other words, Internet censorship. Will this pass? who knows, but it is a scary slippery slope precedent, or a nightmarish China dictatorship look-alike contest!

The second, is the saying, the devil is in the details, how will the NBN run and the laws around it. Will we be looking at another telecommunication monopoly ten or twenty years down the line? This one is an unknown, however, Australian successive governments have so far showed abysmal performance when dealing with such situations; I’m thinking Telstra, Supermarkets, Banking, Water, etc etc.

Things do happen every once and a while, the government just managed to pass their Carbon Tax to start in July 2012 and the NBN is being rolled out right now, though would take a few years to finish and their Mineral Rent Resource Tax looks like it might pass the Senate.

At the moment, Julia Gillard and her party have the lowest polls ratings ever. If elections happen now they would, in all likely hood, lose so many seats they might become an endangered species. However, the next scheduled election is in 2013, the party might have a chance if they managed to achieve a few more things and get some positive results from their two biggest projects that already passed.

Do you know who you will vote for in the  next elections? You’ve got until 2013 to sort it out …..