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The publication of the thoughts of Mao (sorry, Bob Carr) when he was Foreign Minister (and before)  can only add to the difficulty of Labor persuading the electorate to accept it as a party that should govern. Carr’s all-over-the-place thoughts reveal that he was off-beam on many desirable foreign policy priorities, such as on recognising the important role played by Israel in the Middle East and why Australia shouldn’t modify the US alliance because of the growing importance of China (which is not necessarily to agree with some of US foreign policies under the Obama administration).

But although he doesn’t discuss Carr’s thoughts,  Andrew Bolt rightly argues below that Labor’s problem is summed up in “it’s the policies, stupid” and he concludes that  Shorten’s lurch to the left after being “elected” (sic) leader makes Labor now “even more unelectable”.

Similar thoughts about Labor’s need for policy changes (particularly on carbon tax) are reflected in Niki Saava’s article and The Australian’s editorial below. The apparent success of Abbott’s visit to Japan, South Korea and China, further enhances Labor’s problem.

One hope that this problem will not soften Abbott’s policies. He should use to speed up reforms.



‘US driven by anxiety, paranoia’, says Bob Carr

Article by Des Brad Norington published in The Australian, April 9, 2014

BOB Carr has confided that he was worried about America’s judgment when he was foreign minister in the Gillard ­government.

He was particularly concerned about the US capacity to be “driven by anxiety and paranoia into producing a Cold War with China, studded with incidents at sea”.

He was personally worried about the US record of “walking breezily” into two wars since the attacks of September 11, 2001.

He muses in Diary of a Foreign Minister that he wished Australia was “a little less craven” in relation to the US in order to correct what he regards as a tilt away from China. The former NSW premier writes that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were bankrupting disasters for the US “and both unnecessary”.

“Iran? A third war?” he asks, rhetorically, after hobnobbing with US officials and “drinking the Kool-Aid” on one of his early foreign sojourns, in which he popped sleeping pills to cope with the jet lag and fatigue.

“I like the Americans,” he writes. “But I’m still worried about American judgment.”

Mr Carr describes the US approach to China as a frenzy. “All nations suffer pathologies, the great republic being no exception. Even before September 11, influential Americans were working themselves up into a frenzy about China.

“Bill Clinton said it well when I chatted to him in Sydney a few days before September 11: ‘Some people in my country believe America must always have­ ­enemies’.”

He was aware of his “threadbare credentials” when he first met secretary of state Hillary Clinton as foreign minister. He admitted to having “no obvious or specific or urgent mission”.

He accepted that in his 18 months in the role he had no mandate to change the alliance.

He could not do anything that generated a misunderstanding or put US relations at risk.

All the same, “I would like to make us a little less craven, to correct the recent tilt away from China and the too-desperate embrace of the US, symbolised in last year’s announcement of a rotating marine presence in Darwin and Obama’s criticism of China in our parliament. I would like to capture some of the instincts of this of Paul Keating, Malcolm Fraser and even Alexander Downer; and I value the words of Gareth Evans — that we should not approach the Americans ‘happy to lie on our backs like puppy dogs with four paws waving and pink tummies exposed’,” he wrote in 2012.

He accepted the unequivocal advice of his then head of department, former ambassador to the US Dennis Richardson, that his first overseas trip as foreign minister should not be to China.

He was told by his department that China views Australia as less important than Canada, and only slightly more important than New Zealand.

Labor’s pain is all about policies

Article by Andrew Bolt published in the Herald Sun, April 9, 2014

Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten

Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten. Picture: Marie Nirme Source: News Corp Australia

LABOR’S leaders still can’t admit it’s their own stupidity — not their union mates — that’s killing them.

Instead, there they go again, pretending voters actually care who decides Labor policies, rather than how lunatic their policies actually are.

I can understand their scrabbling for a scapegoat, of course. Labor was buried in last year’s federal election after six years of disastrous government and now is travelling even worse under Opposition Leader Bill Shorten. It somehow went backwards in the by-election for former prime minister Kevin Rudd’s seat and was destroyed in Tasmania’s state election. It lost seats in South Australia’s election and last weekend was reduced to a humiliating 22 per cent of the vote in the rerun Senate election in Western Australia.

But hear Labor talk about everything but the Labor policies voters rejected. Shorten says Labor should just make the party more diverse by no longer demanding party members be union members.

On Wednesday, Labor president Jenny McAllister agreed union bosses should bow out and let “far more people to have a say in who represents Labor in the Senate”.

Are they serious? How many Australians turned off Labor because of its membership policies rather than because Labor let in 50,000 boat people, hit us with a carbon tax, preached hate politics, bungled a home insulation program with deadly results and left us with deficits of $123 billion?

It’s the policies, stupid.

Correction. One Labor MP is indeed blaming Labor policies: retiring senator Mark Bishop, who said this week Labor’s carbon tax and mining tax had been “an ongoing problem for at least five years”.

In fact, no single policy better sums up what sickens modern Labor than does that carbon tax. It puts symbolism above practical good (it won’t actually change the climate), Nature above humans (it kills jobs and hurts the poor), faith above science (the atmosphere hasn’t really warmed for 16 years) and Labor’s bullying elite above the masses (voters insist they do not want it).

It also represents two Labor lies: its 2010 election promise not to bring in the tax and its 2013 election promise to “terminate” it.

But are Labor’s union bosses and party hacks to blame for this catastrophic tax?

No, it’s instead the mad fancy of Labor’s new political class, including then prime ministers Rudd (former Labor staffer) and Julia Gillard (former lawyer), and minister Penny Wong (former lawyer) and Peter Garrett (singer and activist). But Labor refuses to even debate that and still joins the Greens in the Senate to stop the tax from being scrapped.

Labor pretends voters would be impressed if it instead changed its membership and voting rules to cut the influence of unions, whose former officials now make up 48 per cent of all federal Labor MPs.

What a conceit and how easily disproved.

Remember Labor congratulating itself in November for holding its most democratic leadership ballot, giving its members half the say?

“This ballot provides … a very solid platform for the leadership of Labor,” crowed Shorten, who beat Anthony Albanese by a whisker.

Really? To appeal to members Shorten lurched to the Left and stopped any divisive debate on the Leftist policies Labor should have changed.

Result: Labor is now even more unelectable.

And it’s likely to get worse. The royal commission into union corruption opened on Wednesday and I predict it will cause acute embarrassment, at the very least, for Gillard and Shorten.

What did Gillard know about the slush fund she helped create, with her legal advice, two decades ago for her then boyfriend and client, Australian Workers’ Union state secretary Bruce Wilson, who used it to take from big business?

What did Shorten, who later led the AWU, know of that fund, used by Wilson to buy himself a home and allegedly pay for renovations to Gillard’s? Did he try to expose any wrongdoing or hush it up?

Gillard strongly denies knowing what her boyfriend did with the slush fund, insists she did nothing wrong and says she paid for her renovations herself. Shorten denies any cover-up.

But simply having to answer the royal commission’s questions will be mortifying for them both and damaging for Labor.

Add also the union corruption scandals that had both former Labor MP Craig Thomson and former national Labor president Michael Williamson given jail sentences and you have the real reason Labor is distancing itself from unions.

It’s not that the unions have killed Labor’s vote. It’s that the union links may now destroy Shorten’s leadership and cripple the party with him.

But cutting union control will merely help Labor cauterise a future wound. It cannot explain or cure what’s crippled Labor already.

Defining moment for party leaders

Article by Niki Savva published in The Australian, April 10, 2014

AT 7.30pm on Tuesday, May 13, when Joe Hockey stands to deliver his first budget, it will be a defining moment for the Abbott government.

It will be, as one person helping put it together said the other day, probably the most important budget in 20 years. That night will reveal the government’s DNA test results: does it have the tough gene and the smart gene in equal parts in its make-up, or will the recessive, populist, weak-ticker gene, prove to be dominant?

There is a lot riding on it for the government, but it will also be a defining moment for Labor. As if life was not already cruel enough with the death of his mother (although work can often provide a refuge from grief), Bill Shorten now only has a matter of weeks to begin a dramatic redefinition of the party and his leadership.

From July 1, Shorten will no longer be Opposition Leader. Clive Palmer will be, heaven help all of us, including the Palmer United Party senators he has to keep on their gold-plated, barbed-wire leashes.

By the time the Treasurer unveils the budget, Shorten should have begun the unveiling of New Labor, a project which must involve change from top to bottom, inside and out, macro and micro. Anything less will be foreplay.

Think about it. Car manufacturers are closing plants in this country because consumers stopped buying their product. There is nothing to say that can’t happen to Australia’s oldest political party and it will, absent urgent action.

Preselection and membership rules have to be overhauled, the party’s national conference has to be restructured. Policies have to be thrown overboard. Economic credibility has to be built. Cosmetic tweaks here and there, such as allowing non-union members to join, might have sounded like reform a few years ago. Not now.

Bold measures will have to come with the implicit recognition that the next election is lost, because there will be a lot of pain and loud bellowing from those whose interests are challenged or threatened. The goal has to be to give Labor a fighting chance in 2019.

Trade Minister Andrew Robb’s success in negotiating the trade deal with Japan shows what this government is capable of when it concentrates on the job at hand. Robb, one of the government’s star achievers, did the hard legwork after Tony Abbott set the direction by declaring Australia open for business.

So this is literally Labor’s last best chance to fix itself. Rodney Cavalier warned on these pages on Tuesday that, unless union influence was materially reduced, Labor could only look forward to governing in minority.

There will come a time, if Labor’s leaders do nothing, when that will fall into the realm of wishful thinking.

John Faulkner, who also has campaigned long and hard for reform, has suggested sweeping changes to preselection rules for NSW, which would restore some integrity to a decrepit organisation. The party’s state conference in July will be the first opportunity for others to show their spine and support him. Labor’s national president, Jenny McAllister, already has.

Here is another suggestion that could make the party more attractive to people put off by Labor’s rigidity and factional bullying: give MPs the right to cross the floor on issues they or their electorates feel strongly about, without fearing expulsion. There are good people around who would help Shorten with the monumental tasks he confronts. He should use them, not let them swing.

Previous predictions of Labor’s imminent demise have been dismissed as premature or self- serving. Too often critics are cast as vengeful or partisan, so let us allow the facts to speak for themselves. In Western Australia at the weekend, the vote for the Greens and the PUP was more than half that of Labor’s. In some booths in the electorate of Curtin, Labor’s vote fell to single digits while the Greens rose to double digits. Once upon a time, such low Labor votes were seen only in far-flung places such as Esperance, in Western Australia’s southeast, during state elections where it reached 8 per cent.

It is the first time veterans can recall such dismal votes in metropolitan Perth in a federal poll. It is the worst it has ever been, and there is nothing to say it will not get worse still.

It is too easy to blame Labor’s senator-elect Joe Bullock, although he was a factor. And before the party falls into the trap of granting Louise Pratt heroine or martyr status, it should seriously consider how much she would have added to the Labor vote if she had been No 1 on the ticket and exposed to the same kind of scrutiny as Bullock.

Pratt came off that other Labor-candidate assembly line, the one that keeps producing the same models for decades. Pratt was heavily involved in student politics, worked for politicians, ran for parliament when she was 24 and was elected to state parliament at 26 before she went federal. Labor looks like it treats parliament as either a retirement village for ageing unionists or as a political baby incubator.

Key to Labor’s rebuilding has to be economic credibility. This is why May 13 is as important to the opposition as it is to the government. That does not mean Labor has to produce an alternative budget.

It does mean it has to recog­nise the difference between good policies and bad ones, which ones it needs to support, which ones it needs to ditch and which spending cuts to allow through.

Barry Jones put it succinctly when he said recently Labor needed five things, “vision, courage, judgment, capacity to argue a case and leadership”.

Labor cannot afford to do as Jason Clare suggested on Monday, when he said the party would decide its course on the mining tax after Palmer decided its fate, thereby ceding power and responsibility to him. That is way too passive an approach for a party in such a perilous position.

Labor looks inward while voters now look elsewhere

Editorial published in The Australian, April 10, 2014

IT is no wonder that a tax specifically designed to shed so-called dirty jobs — in the energy sector and energy-intensive manufacturing — should run headlong into the ALP’s core constituency. “The Australian Labor Party was formed 120 years ago,” says its platform, “to help build this nation and improve the lives of ordinary workers and their families, giving them fair shares in a growing economy and supporting the vulnerable.” Yet the carbon tax works to undermine traditional and highly unionised jobs. In 2011, breaking a key promise by introducing the tax, Julia Gillard was aware of the jobs factor, arguing that clean, green jobs would replace those that disappeared. “We will protect Australian jobs at the same time as we create new ones,” Ms Gillard said.

One of her core supporters on the ALP national executive, AWU boss Paul Howes, famously warned that his union would drop its support for the tax if it cost a “single job”. Since that time thousands of jobs have gone from steel, aluminium, car making, coal mining and soda ash plants, and Mr Howes has resigned from his union.

It is as obvious as a coal-fired power station in your backyard — the Labor Party has some major policy dilemmas that are crippling it at the ballot box. In the federal election the ALP won a paltry 33 per cent of the primary vote, in the Tasmanian election 27 per cent, South Australia 35 per cent and in the WA senate re-election it attracted just 21 per cent. Yet when searching for lessons, those at the helm seem drawn to introspective discussions about party rules and processes. This self-fascination simply accentuates the disconnect. Just for once the vast swathes of suburban and regional Australia that make up the vital mainstream might want to see Labor Party members acknowledge that it is not all about them. Another rule change, another tell-all book from a high-flying minister and another attempt to blame personalities are all grist for the political mill but delay the inevitable reckoning. The ALP has to confront the fact that voters don’t like its policies.

At the heart of Labor’s delusion is a patronising attitude to the electorate. Instead of accepting that voters have got it right and Labor needs to change, the nation’s oldest political party insists it is right and wonders how to explain itself to the electorate. If only it explained its brilliant polices better those silly voters might understand. Well, no. The voters might actually believe those ideals about building this nation and improving the lives of “ordinary workers”. Perhaps they, like Mr Howes, believe the infinitesimal benefits of a carbon tax are not worth destroying a single job.

The carbon tax is the most obvious but not the only policy barnacle Labor needs to confront. Its mining tax has been a disaster since its inception and yet (as with the carbon tax) it ignores the election verdict and stubbornly blocks efforts to repeal it. On border protection Labor has played both ends against the other and ended up embracing every conceivable position at one time or another. Now, with the new government seemingly on top of the problem the opposition ought to be offering support along with careful scrutiny while hoping this divisive issue never re-emerges to again become a political lightning rod. And the ALP must find a way to defend its record of avoiding recession during the GFC without vandalising every prospective and necessary budget cut — including those, incredibly, that it proposed itself when in government.

Internal reform, especially if it reduces the dictatorial power of the unions, could be useful. But giving more power to the branches could see the party become a plaything of the green left clique who voted for the left faction’s Anthony Albanese to lead the party. Labor risks chasing Sarah Hanson-Young and Scott Ludlam along a Twitter thread to the juvenile and extreme left. From there, it can never govern. The upwardly mobile enterprise class of suburban workers that Bob Hawke and Paul Keating so deliberately liberated and cultivated needs to be embraced. They tend no longer to be union members. They speak a language of work, opportunity and choice that Tony Abbott understands. And it is a world away from the domain of social media activism and public sector entitlement that now dominates the upper echelons of the ALP.

Working families see the jobs the carbon tax has helped destroy but can’t see the green jobs replacing them. They see the mining boom ending and think it’s too late to levy a tithe on the golden goose. They see the boats stopping and don’t want to risk that trauma starting all over again. They know the budget is in deep deficit and that tough decisions might be needed to fix it. They aren’t losing sleep over gay marriage. And they can see Labor has learned nothing from its election defeat and is still talking about itself.

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