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Australia There are zero reasons for not blasting Labor from the left

06:01  05 october  2022
06:01  05 october  2022 Source:   crikey.com.au

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Producer one: “You’re lying to me! You’re lying to me!”

  There are zero reasons for not blasting Labor from the left © Provided by Crikey

Producer two: “Yes! But hear me out!”

What Just Happened? by Art Linson

Whenever it’s announced that the target for something is zero, you know you’re being lied to — or sold a fantasy.

Scott Morrison announced a campaign on youth suicide, and said his government was aiming “towards zero”. There was no moral seriousness in the claim. Suicide rates respond unpredictably to government programs; a lasting reduction of 5% would be a great achievement. ScoMo’s desire may have been heartfelt, but only as an expression of his Christian beliefs that all can seek salvation in Jesus. But its unreality in the face of tragedy gave it an air of sleazy self-satisfaction. That is redolent of much recent conservatism, and accounts for many people’s dissatisfaction and even disgust with the right.

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But now Labor is doing it too. And yet it is gaining somewhat less opprobrium; merely a mild childing, an air of disappointment. Yesterday Environment Minster Tanya Plibersek announced a new approach to environmental protection after years of torpor. This was welcome. Plibersek’s follow-up, claiming that the target was zero extinctions, was not welcome.

  There are zero reasons for not blasting Labor from the left © Provided by Crikey

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A noble aim that would be more inspiring if the Andrews Labor government was not busy allowing the Mountain Ash forest system of central Victoria to be torn apart because it won’t stand up to the Forestry division of the CFMMEU about how rapid the transition out of old growth logging should be, and the effect it might have on a few regional state seats.

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The Andrews government and the union division defend such logging on the grounds that the trees are rapid growth, and rotation over decades means there is no loss. But that doesn’t take account of the devastating effect the process is having on species habitats — that of Leadbeater’s possum being the best known — or on the whole web across the central highlands, still damaged from Black Saturday.

This isn’t proper forest management, nor is it sustainable, nor is it “towards zero” extinctions. It’s a mix of cynicism and buck-passing. Plibersek already had form on this, tweeting heartfelt support for the recent Iranian protesters, to be gently and not-so-gently reminded that state Labor governments were bringing in two-year prison terms for the sort of civil disobedience that young Iranian women were committing.

This wasn’t as gauche as Morrison telling women protesters in Canberra they were lucky no one was shooting at them. But the uncomfortable fact is that Morrison wasn’t jacking up anti-protest laws, and Labor is. And this raises the hard-to-deny fact that Albanese Labor is getting a substantially free pass on a lot of stuff that is different in intensity, but not in type, from Morrison-era antics.

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This is disturbing because Labor is getting away with substantial continuity on a range of issues –mandatory detention, First Nations incarceration, now the environment — with qualitatively less outrage than was applied to the Coalition. That leaves those on the sharp end of these policies in some ways in a worse position than they are under an explicitly hostile government. The smooth, efficient and compliant process that Labor is bedding down can completely obscure some of the horrors going on.

This is hardly new. When Tony Blair was elected in the midst of Cool Britannia, many thousands of exhausted activists slumped in deep relief, believing that some sort of British social democratic government was on the way, despite all the things Blair had “had” to say in the election. Ditto Bill Clinton in 1993.

But there is something more to it than being taken by surprise or running out of puff. Whereas attacking “the other” — and ScoMo’s about as “other” as most of us get — can be a source of energy and renewal, fully recognising the modified perfidy of Labor is a draining process of self-mutilation. The melancholy realisation for some is that they hated things ScoMo was doing simply because ScoMo was doing them — and they really hated him.

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Now that our team’s doing it, the moral loathing drains away a little, or a lot. That’s not a great thing to realise about yourself. So it gets buried even deeper, and a silence descends. Or, faced with the double bind, in pure RD Laing fashion, of trying to get recognition from an alienated love object, you come apart yourself. This is clearly happening to many progressives, importuning Labor to come on, stop kidding around, be what you said you be. Party and pundits are caught in a bad romance.

So in those circumstances, the most assertive political act one can do is a bit of work on oneself to break the affective link, and challenge the party openly and based on the issues. Not something that can be done as a single act of thought. But not lacking in raw material as Sister Julie Colli-, sorry, Housing Minister Julie Collins’ enraging interview on Four Corners episode on homelessness on Monday night.

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Collins was ever ready to talk of the national disgrace etc, etc of the extreme rental shortages and ghastly things it was doing to people’s lives. But when confronted with the Albanese government’s projected inadequate response — 30,000 new units over several years — she could only waffle on about “absolute priorities” and “firm commitment of government”.

There are zero reasons for not blasting Labor from the left

  There are zero reasons for not blasting Labor from the left Don't go easy on Labor when it makes promises that are well-intentioned but easily broken, or when it fails to make a genuine effort.Producer two: “Yes! But hear me out!”

One’s first reaction to this is to say, for God’s sake, no one expects Labor to have an answer to the housing crisis in four months or one term. Why not be honest and say that governments of all stripes — state, federal, Labor, Coalition — have let this issue drift for decades? Because of course the Albanese government is one of capital and national security first, and social welfare a poor second. And national security means blowing tens of billions, if politically necessary, on nonsense hardware commitments so as not to be outflanked on the issue by the right, or earn the ire of the armament manufacturers and their mouthpiece ASPI, to whose advisory boards old Labor hacks go to die.

The uncomfortable fact is that a lot of people hated Morrison, really hated him, because of his beliefs and because he appears to be, personally, a jerk — but also because of a certain manner and comportment of his, more common to the outer suburbs than the inner city. With DJ Albo in da house, and Tanya P on the cover of The Monthly, it becomes hard to maintain the rage.

But that’s when it must be redoubled and redirected. Labor has a cushion against a Coalition return in 2025, and is dominant in several states. There’s no political excuse for not blasting it full-force from the left when these ridiculous non-promises are aired. Just demand it makes a real effort to slow species extinctions rather than promising none, while allowing Queensland farmers to plane the state flat.

Just have state governments build some public housing in substantial numbers, not a dozen new apartments added by a private developer/party donor. Above all, no acquiescence to spin, simply because it’s our spin. Solidarity is one thing; a political suicide pact is quite another.

Are we cutting Labor too much slack? Let us know your thoughts by writing to letters@crikey.com.au. Please include your full name to be considered for publication. We reserve the right to edit for length and clarity.

The post There are zero reasons for not blasting Labor from the left appeared first on Crikey.

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This is interesting!