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True believers can only despair

24 March 2012 5,020 views 4 Comments

THE celebrated psychoanalyst Carl Jung once said: “Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darknesses of other people.”

In many respects, former federal Labor leader Mark Latham is the self-appointed psychoanalyst of the Labor Party and he most certainly understands the darkness within the ALP.

A devoted student of the Labor Party and a talented writer, Latham reserves his harshest criticisms for those he describes as the “machine” men and women, who can be broadly defined as career politicians with little or no experience outside politics.

These so-called “machine” men and women typically start their working lives as staff for state or federal MPs, with perhaps a short stint as a union organiser to ensure factional backing, before pre-selection as a candidate and eventually election to parliament or at least a senior role within the union movement.

During an ABC radio interview in 2003, Latham said: “The new divide is between the true believers, those who want modern Labor to stand up and fight for our policy beliefs, fight for our convictions, get them out there and fight for them at every opportunity and within the party. Within the party, the divide is against the machine men with their over-reliance on polls, spin doctors and the daily media cycle and a command and control style of politics.”

A hallmark of the modus operandi of the machine operative is to target opponents at a personal level and to the point where the long-term interests of the state or the nation seem an almost non-existent consideration.

Its most brutal practitioners are almost entirely interested in the attainment and exercise of power to reward supporters and punish opponents.

Many within the Labor movement have watched with dismay as the party established to represent the interests of the working class has been hijacked by the machine operatives.

The past few months in particular have marked a disturbing tipping point in the internal culture of the Australian Labor Party and the union movement.

The campaign of vilification against Kevin Rudd is easily the most brutal public character assassination of a serving cabinet minister by his colleagues in living political memory.

The attacks were focused on Rudd’s personality, management style and values, all designed to undermine his popularity with the Australian public. Hence senior members of the federal caucus viciously attacked the character and personality not only of a colleague but also a former Labor leader and prime minister.

The campaign against Rudd must have been orchestrated or at very least approved by Julia Gillard. It is inconceivable that such a campaign could take place otherwise, and tellingly the Prime Minister did not rebuke her ministers for the concentrated verbal assault on Rudd.

What was extraordinary about the recent Labor leadership battle was the absence of arguments about policy. There were no major rifts over the management of the budget, for example.

It is apparent that the decision that most undermined Rudd’s authority with the public was his decision to delay introduction of an emissions trading scheme.

Yet his decision was only taken after vigorous lobbying by then deputy prime minister Gillard.

When the public fallout occurred she was nowhere to be found and Rudd found himself isolated.

Gillard is busily rewriting history with her claim that Rudd was removed as prime minister in 2010 over policy differences. The truth is that the machine operatives were spooked.

First, Rudd’s popularity was in free fall and there was a view that he was on track to lose the election. Second, there was a fear among the factional warlords that Rudd would support reforms to the party structure that would greatly reduce their control over the factions.

Some observers believe it is the second factor that most contributed to Rudd’s downfall.

While many were shocked at the ruthless way in which Rudd was removed, the more recent attacks on his character reveal a darkness at the heart of the party.

The parallels between the Rudd character assassination and the Queensland Premier Anna Bligh’s concentrated smear campaign against LNP leader Campbell Newman, his wife and her family, are apparent.

Bligh’s attacks on the financial links between Lisa Newman and her father’s business interests represent a new low in Australian politics.

Campbell Newman’s father-in-law, Frank Monsour, is a highly respected oral and maxillo-facial surgeon and a director of that surgical unit at Royal Brisbane Hospital.

While his work in itself does not absolve the entire family of any wrongdoing, the fact that Bligh and Labor did not hesitate to pursue a respected member of the community so ruthlessly calls into question their moral compass.

Similarly, in recent weeks the Gillard government has sought to personally attack and denigrate Clive Palmer, Gina Rinehart and Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest.

The crime of all of three high-profile individuals is that they have been prepared to stand up to the federal government.

This was a surprising tactic, as Forrest in particular was once something of a darling of the progressive Left, with his Generation One indigenous employment initiative.

Gillard Labor did not bother to enter into a debate about the rights of individuals to take issue with government policy. Instead, senior members of the federal government launched a personal attack designed to demonise three highly successful Australians.

While our billionaires are more than capable of looking after themselves, a pattern is emerging where Labor’s default response to any challenge is to personally denigrate anyone perceived to be an opponent.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has been forewarned, and is presumably forearmed, for the inevitable relentless Labor assault on his character, which will no doubt gather momentum as the federal election draws near.

That may be all well and good if one assumes that the end justifies the means.

But there is a very real danger that the Australian public is becoming tired and cynical about such tactics and is no longer listening to anything incumbent governments have to say.

Currently this seems to be strongly the case in Queensland, and perhaps even more so with regard to our federal government.

The latter, in particular, could be a much bigger threat to our democracy than anything Rinehart, Palmer or Forrest might do with all their billions.

Ross Fitzgerald’s latest book is the co-authored satire Fools’ Paradise, set in a fictitious Mangoland during a state election.

The Weekend Australian March 24-25, 2012


  • TheTruth said:

    “Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please”

    – Mark Twain

  • Anthony Collins said:

    “I thought your article in the weekend Australia was right on the money.
    You wrote a book on Fred Paterson and as I understand it he once said something like “In public life you should never call a man a bastard, just the the people what he has done line and verse and they will sit back and say ‘what a bastard'”. While there is a place in politics for highlighting wrong, it is another thing to smear as happened in th present election.”
    Anthony Collins

  • Peter Smith said:

    Peter Smith said:

    ROSS Fitzgerald (“True believers can only despair as Labor rolls out the machinery of personal smear”, 24-25/3) is right but it is not the highlighting of vested interests that is the cause of despair. It is, as evidenced by the loss of Ipswich and Moranbah to the LNP, a despair that Labor has lost touch with the rank and file of the labour movement. Wayne Swan’s highlighting of the influence of a small number of extremely rich Australians is a step in the right direction. It needs to be matched by policy and action that places the interests of Australian families in towns like Ipswich and Moranbah at the core of government.

    Peter Smith, Mount Archer, Qld
    The Australian, March 26 2012

  • Greg Carey etc (author) said:

    Cary discusses the PM, Greg Combet, Bill Shorten and Chris B…
    4BC, Brisbane hosted by Greg Cary 04 Apr 2012 10:19 AM
    Greg Cary Morning Show – 9 mins 30 secs – ID: W00048167762

    Cary discusses the PM, Greg Combet, Bill Shorten and Chris Bowen saying the Government has to work a lot harder to sell the virtues of the carbon tax, as ‘it is complex and the people don’t understand.’ Cary says this reinforces the arrogance of the Federal Government, and says that if the public is indeed ignorant of the tax’s benefits, then the Federal Government ‘are also lousy communicators.’ He reads an email from a listener alleging the PM has insulted his intelligence, and accuses her of ‘getting into bed with the Greens, Independents and Peter Slipper,’ and says Gillard’s actions led to him voting for the LNP in the last Federal Election. Professor Ross Fitzgerald, Columnist, The Australian, says most of the public do understand the tax, but says the Gillard Government are poor communicators and decision makers. He says the only way the Government can change tack is if Bill Shorten took over from Gillard. He says he cannot see her leading the Labor Party at the next election. Cary says Stephen Smith has stayed quiet about it, and Fitzgerald agrees. He says Shorten is too inexperienced to be PM, and that Combet, while appearing honest, has little charisma, which would disadvantage him against Tony Abbott. Fitzgerald talks about a court case about compulsory voting, which comes down to whether voting is a right or a duty. He says the problem about changing voting systems from compulsory to optional is that it opens up the system to corruption. Cary says Premier Newman has axed the Qld Literary Awards. Fitzgerald says there is no reason why the arts should be exempt from across the board cuts, but says at the same time it is helpful to encourage writers, especially young ones.

    Professor Ross Fitzgerald, Columnist, The Australian

    2GB, Sydney hosted by Alan Jones 29 Mar 2012 7:15 AM
    Breakfast – 14 mins 56 secs – ID: S00048081999

    Jones says there is an inability in large sections of the media to understand what actually happened in the Qld election. He says it wasn’t just because the electorate wanted change or Anna Bligh, Fmr Queensland Premier sold railway lines and ports, or because she told lies about Campbell Newman, Queensland Premier. He says Julia Gillard, Australian Prime Minister isn’t quarantined from this. He says ‘the baseball bats are waiting for her’. He says Australia doesn’t believe in a carbon tax, and won’t cop a mining tax. He says small businesses will have to pay more superannuation. He says the Labor Party brand has been trashed. He says Rodney Cavalier and Prof Ross Fitzgerald, Labor Historians say a recovery will take a long time. He says Mark Arbib, Former Federal Labor MP retired and Bob Carr, Minister for Foreign Affairs was grabbed with no pre-selection. He says there is a feverish attempt to get a Qld Senator to resign so Peter Beattie, Fmr Qld Premier can get into the Senate. He says Bligh resigned. He says Andrew Fraser, Fmr Qld Treasurer was hopeless. He quotes Janet Albrechtsen, The Australian about ‘political careerists’ who’ve never run a business or been in the working class. He is joined by Albrechtsen who says Labor politicians’ CVs are almost mirror images. She says it’s a joke. She says [Annastacia Palaszczuk,] Queensland Opposition Leader is a party hack who inherited her seat from her father. She says they have no real life experience. She says every Labor minister and backbencher must be worried. She says it was different in the ministries of Neville Wran, Fmr NSW Premier and Bob Hawke, Fmr Prime Minister. She says in Gillard’s ministry only Peter Garrett, Federal Minister for Schools has run a business. Jones quotes Nicola Roxon, Federal Attorney General on Kevin Rudd, Fmr Prime Minister and the health system. Albrechtsen says Stephen Conroy, Federal Minister for Communications’ NBN policy had no cost-benefit analysis. She says Wayne Swan, Federal Treasurer dreamed up the minerals tax without consulting industry or the states. She says it’s amateur hour. Jones says they cancelled a whole industry after the ABC program on live cattle exports. Albrechtsen says overseas investors are nervous about Australia. Jones says Campbell Newman, Queensland Premier sacked the heads of the Premier’s Dept and Treasury. He says the public service lacked independence. He says the NSW Liberal Party is riddled with factions. He says even John Howard, Former Prime Minister lamented the political class. Albrechtsen says it’s on both sides. Jones says Gillard has over 50 staff. Albrechtsen says they all want to get into Parliament. She says they mean well but they are clueless.

    Interview with Prof Ross Fitzgerald, Griffith University to …
    2UE, Sydney hosted by Murray Olds and Murray Wilton 26 Mar 2012 12:45 PM
    Afternoons – 6 mins 42 secs – ID: S00048036139

    Interview with Prof Ross Fitzgerald, Griffith University to discuss the QLD election result. Fitzgerald says he didn’t think the Labor Party would be reduced to seven seats. Fitzgerald says it will be interesting to see if Campbell Newman, Queensland Premier-elect lets QLD Labor have rooms and support staff. Fitzgerald says when people stopped listening to Julia Gillard, Australian Prime Minister they stopped listening to Anna Bligh. Fitzgerald says in the first week of the campaign there was a vicious attack on Kevin Rudd, Federal Labor MP. Fitzgerald says when Newman was Lord Mayor of Brisbane he was effective during the floods. Fitzgerald says Anna Bligh said many times if she lost the election she would stay on as an MP and a day later announced she was resigning from the seat of South Brisbane. Olds says on this day a year ago Barry O’Farrell, NSW Premier swept to power. Fitzgerald thinks the Greens and Labor are in the one camp. Olds says Bob Katter, Independent MP said he was going to form govt and only got two seats. Fitzgerald says Katter takes on Woolworths and Coles. Fitzgerald says Anna Bligh lost QLD’s AAA credit rating and the QLD Health Dept is in chaos. Olds says Julia Gillard has a lot of questions to answer.

    Greg Cary Morning Show – 1 min 42 secs – ID: W00048010158
    Cary speaks with Professor Ross Fitzgerald who has seen many Qld elections. He thinks Qld has been sick of the Bligh Government for some time. She thinks her attacks on Campbell Newman, Queensland LNP Leader and his family were vicious and actually similar to the way in which Kevin Rudd, MP was rolled. Fitzgerald is looking forward to Campbell Newman, Queensland LNP Leader leading and implores him to take the advice of experienced politicians such as Lawrence Springborg, Former Queensland Opposition Deputy Leader.
    Professor Ross Fitzgerald

    ABC 666 Canberra, Canberra hosted by Elizabeth Jackson 03 Mar 2012 8:07 AM

    Jackson says the decision of Julia Gillard, Australian Prime Minister to appoint Bob Carr, Former NSW Premier as Australia’s next Foreign Minister has been described as a master stroke and either a game changer. Those who know Carr well on both sides of politics say he will make a good representative for Australia on the international stage. She plays a clip featuring Professor Ross Fitzgerald, who has written extensively about the Labor Party. According to Fitzgerald, choosing Carr was inspired but he is unsure it will help Julia Gillard, Australian Prime Minister in the long run. Fitzgerald talks about Carr who he thinks will be an excellent Foreign Minister. He adds that he is a great friend of Gore Vidal. He says he is a strong supporter of China in some ways and understands the region. He says his warm relationship with America is surely to Australia’s advantage. He says Gillard’s manner of appointing Rudd is very dubious and will further undermine her credibility in the eyes of the Australian electorate.

    Professor Ross Fitzgerald
    SKY News Australia, Sydney hosted by Compere 24 Mar 2012 12:00 PM
    12:00 News Day (Weekend) – 8 mins 46 secs – ID: S00048019496

    Both Anna Bligh and Campbell Newman have cast their votes in a state election that is set to end 14 years of Labor Govt in Qld. Anna Bligh voted at the West End Primary School in South Brisbane and Campbell Newman has voted at the Newmarket State School in the seat of Stafford. Tom Connell, Sky reporter, says Newman is trying to win the seat of Ashgrove but had to vote on the seat of Brisbane Central, so he voted for his colleague Robert Cavallucci. Newman has spoken about the support for his campaign this morning. Meanwhile, Anna Bligh has also cast her vote. The polling shows the Labor Party will be left with just 12 seats. Bligh is asking Queenslanders to show her some mercy and says today will be a tough day for the Labor Party. Professor Ross Fitzgerald, columnist with the Weekend Australian, talks about where it went wrong for Labor. Fitzgerald says the Bligh Govt has been a shambles and departments like health are in trouble, and people have stopped listening to Bligh. Fitzgerald talks about the ‘vicious’ campaign against Newman and his wife and family, which he says has turned on Bligh. Fitzgerald said Bligh looked foolish when three of the complaints were turned down by the Crime and Misconduct Commission. Fitzgerald talks about the LNP party which wasn’t united when Peter Beatty was Premier and the implications of this with Greens preferences. Fitzgerald talks about the campaign against Kevin Rudd and says Bligh would have done better if Rudd was PM because of the discontent with the Gillard Govt. Fitzgerald talks about Katter’s Australia Party and says he will be surprised if they win three seats.

    Anna Bligh, Labor leader
    Campbell Newman, LNP leader
    Professor Ross Fitzgerald, columnist with the Weekend Australian

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