Essential Report

The fight for the kitchen table

Nov 9, 2010

First Published on The Drum 09/11/2010

Nations may rise and fall by the sweep of history but governments are decided at the kitchen table, where all politics becomes not just local, but personal.

This is the place where bills and mortgage payments are pored over, family budgets are scrutinised, jobs and school are discussed. It is the space in family life where things have to add up.

Anyone trying to dig Labor out of its current hole could start by turning their attention to the kitchen table, because if this week’s Essential Report is anything to go by, Labor is in the middle of an increasingly messy food-fight.
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Regulation is the new black

Nov 2, 2010

First Published on The Drum 02/11/2010

Joe Hockey is swanning around the airwaves like the coolest kid at school, convinced he’s discovered a new fad that’s sure to catch on. It’s called regulation and it rocks.

Of course many old hands may wonder whether all Joe has done is stumble upon a bit of retro, like some early Midnight Oil recordings, but right now Joe is stoked, he’s got a new tattoo and everyone is checking him out. Even the Greens want to play with him.

Still, if the old post-election cliche that the ‘people always get it right’ has any sort of credibility, Joe’s biggest risk is he’ll soon be overtaken by a bunch of converts who want to take the trend way more seriously than a wide-boy with a beat-box can.

As the latest Essential Report shows, there are votes to be won in regulating the bastard banks, especially in a week when Westpac is tipped to tip the Big Four’s profits over the $20 billion mark.

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So where is the Left?

Oct 26, 2010

First Published on The Drum 26/10/2010

If political progressives want to stop the ALP from drifting to the Right, energetically backing the decision to move women and children out of immigration detention looks like a good place to start.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Immigration minister Chris Bowen took the new minority government’s first truly brave decision last week, yet all they got was a sullen acceptance from a Left still acting like jilted lovers after the disappointments of the election campaign.

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Labor should tread (water) warily

Oct 19, 2010

First Published on The Drum 19/10/2010

As the Federal Government attempts to quell the backlash to its plans to save the Murray Darling by slowing the process to a crawl, it would do well to consider the lessons of the recently aborted Emissions Trading Scheme.

If there were a structured training program for politicians (and maybe there should be) the former Rudd government’s failure to deliver on its commitment to address climate change would be a required text.

It is a story of how tortured process can kill off reform, confuse would-be supporters, drain the public of confidence in their government and ultimately leave leaders in a no-win situation.

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Holding centre ground can be war

Oct 12, 2010

First Published on The Drum 12/10/2010

Attempting to manage public confidence in the war in Afghanistan, the Labor Party is exposing its left flank in a way that calls into question three decades of political centrism.

These are challenging times for the ALP, with minority control in Canberra, hand-wringing election post mortems and flagging state administrations around the nation. A key theme appears to be ‘Labor has lost its way’.

But what is the ALP way? Since at least the Whitlam era, Labor orthodoxy has been that the occupation of the centre ground was a precondition for electoral success. Careers were built on the tough work of shifting Labor from ideological dogma to more pragmatic policies.

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The Bride (and Bridesmaid) stripped bare

Oct 5, 2010

First Published on The Drum 05/10/2010

New paradigms notwithstanding, the first week of the 43rd Parliament of Australia has confirmed a continuation of the gladiatorial contests that have characterised Australia’s model of presidential politics.

And that means a confronting truth for both Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott: the public’s perceptions of their personal strengths and weakness are central to the success of their respective political projects.

There was a time when character research was a dark art, the province of party focus groups, only dusted of at election time when attacks would be constructed around a candidate’s lack of ticker (read weight) or stubbornness (read age). The modern opinion polling means today it’s all out in the open.

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