October 14, 2004


The new fault line (Neil Brown, October 12, 2004, The Australian)

TWO television images from the federal election campaign will live with me for a long time. They also promise to become part of the Australian political legend, like the result itself.

The first was the sight of those brawny Tasmanian timber workers cheering John Howard as he announced that, although some limits would be imposed on logging regions, the workers' jobs would be protected. It was almost as if they reached out to touch the hem of his garment as he rode into Launceston. [...]

[T]o watch the [Labour] party so blithely sacrifice the jobs of Tasmanian timber workers in the interest of saving trees (trees!) was breathtaking. And for what return? To curry favour with the trendy Left in Sydney and Melbourne and, even then, to get no benefit from doing so.

There is nothing wrong, politically, in currying favour with pressure groups if it wins support. Machiavelli always recommended it. But to sacrifice your own supporters in the process and in such a transparent and cavalier way, was political lunacy, completely immoral and seen to be both.

Moreover, the policy was obsequious and grovelling and probably alienated a lot of voters for that reason alone. When Latham so fulsomely praised Bob Brown's invitation to inspect "the mighty Tasmanian forests", I felt as many others must have felt: this was not just a sell-out of the workers, it was idolising their opponents as well. [...]

Moreover, it is not only those bread-and-butter issues that workers regard as reflecting their interests. Many blue-collar workers, who used to vote Labor in droves, now support the conservative social agenda that Howard promotes.

So the election result is not just a great endorsement of Howard and his stewardship; it is also a tribute to the way he has come to personify the family and the middle-class virtues and principles that go with it. And on the wider issues of defence and security, for all of its posturing and protestations in Senate committees, rallies and deferential interviews on the ABC, a clear message came through about the modern Labor Party.

Its real preoccupation is with the interests of illegal immigrants and their rights. Its real cause is denigrating the US alliance. Its real intellectual work is invested in finding excuses for not toughening our anti-terrorist laws. Its real passion is finding more excuses for why we should not have gone into Iraq and why we should now get out. Its real tactic in the face of terrorism is to wait for an attack and have a regional conference before we respond.

All of this thrills the "doctors wives" of my second image just no end. And it thrills all of the other feel-good groups and concerned celebrities. But none of it thrills the plain and ordinary citizens who look to the government to protect them from an all too apparent enemy.

Hardly surprising that anti-humanism doesn't appeal to people, is it?

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 14, 2004 12:05 PM

It's especially unappealing to those people which anti-humanism considers to not be fully human, like timberworkers and religious believers

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at October 14, 2004 6:06 PM

Trenchant analysis that can be applied to the Democrats in the US. There is no party anymore that responds to the needs of the working and middle classes.

Posted by: Chris Durnell at October 14, 2004 7:15 PM


That's the Left's conceit--the Ownership Society is quite specifically designed to empower the middle and lower classes.

Posted by: oj at October 14, 2004 7:53 PM

Druidic? But wait. I thought leftists were "progressive." Weren't the Druids a superstitious cult from ages in the distant past? Is it "progressive" to revert to pre-civilized animisn, worshipping spirits in trees and rocks? Just thought I'd ask?

Posted by: Lou Gots at October 15, 2004 3:43 PM