7 Nov 2004, Comments (0)


Author: Helen

I’m happy the elections (Australian and US) are over. Some people love party politics and political number crunching; me, I’m happier looking at the politics behind things, and this blog will always be about those things. Just because we have another three years of Bush and Howard doesn’t mean that Halliburton will stop lining its pockets from the Iraq war, or that the religious Right will stop trying to wind back the gains of feminism, or that the IPA and the right wing commentators won’t need watching (and fisking) any more.

After our shocker of an election result, right-wing voices in the press were quick to jump in to declare the death of the left. The Australian, and now the US, election result should show us (they said) that “our” preoccupations — Iraq, the FTA, gender politics, education, medicare, old growth forest — were the preoccupations of a tiny clique of Latte Lefties, not to be taken seriously. Self-interest, money and (by extension) the Economy, as well as the War on Terrorism, are the only issues interesting to the average voter in the Burbs and by daring to go outside those parameters, we stand condemned as ivory-tower elitists who presume to tell the masses what is good for them. These masses have spoken, and we should shut up, go home, and spend the rest of our lives in acqiescent silence.

(Pause as bloody Microsoft puts a red line under acquiescent. Swear softly, and swivel chair to grab the Concise Oxford out of the bookshelf.

This has got to be the definition of an up-herself Latte lefty. Microsoft Word says I’ve made an error and it’s not good enough, I have to check it myself. I was right. Hah.)

Problem is, I’m not satisfied that all of the people who voted Liberal did so with a full deck, since the Murdoch press and the Liberal party was so successful at putting across the message that if Labor won, interest rates would rise. Pity about the fact that interest rates are set to rise anyway, whoever is in power. And I’m not satisfied with Bush’s “mandate”, either, given that over forty percent of Americans believe that Saddam was linked to 9-11.
And I’m plagued by an ongoing conviction that oldgrowth forest matters, and the FTA matters, and the Kyoto protocol and the education and Medicare systems matter, and they matter beyond the next three-year term. And the one after that…

I nearly lost my lunch when I saw the headlines after the Australian election, saying that Mark Latham was to say sorry for the Forests policy. I felt much better when I actually read some of the articles. Latham isn’t rejecting his forests policy. I’ve been reading Margaret Simon’s Quarterly Essay, Latham’s World. I think- and to my shame I haven’t read any of his books yet, so this is at second hand from Simons — he may be a bit neoliberal for my tastes, but he does have a view of politics and the world which goes beyond short-term politics and short-term profit. And this came over in his response to the attacks on him re. the Forests policy.

The headlines might make much of “Sorry”, but he’s not abandoning the policy.

FEDERAL Labor leader Mark Latham has apologised to two Tasmanian MPs felled in protest at the party’s forestry policy, but has not resiled from plans to protect the state’s old-growth forests.

..Felled… Geddit?… (Snork)

Making his first visit to the island state since Labor lost the Tasmanian seats of Bass and Braddon on October 9, Mr Latham shared the stage at the state ALP conference with pro-logging premier Paul Lennon.

Delivering the keynote address, Mr Latham said shadow cabinet had resolved to review the policy, but still intended to protect the state’s high-conservation forests.

“The protest against our forest policy cost us two seats in this state,” Mr Latham said.


“I take responsibility for this result and I have made my apologies and regrets to both Sid and Michelle.

“But my ultimate responsibility is to lead the Labor Party forward, to be true to our values and beliefs but also to listen and learn from the judgment of the Australian people.

“I have no doubt, absolutely no doubt, that our forestry policy was well supported in many parts of Australia, but it wasn’t supported in Bass and Braddon.

“We didn’t have it right.

“The local community wasn’t confident that our plan to upgrade skills, technology and sustainability of the timber industry was in fact itself sustainable.

“Now we need to take the time to get it right.

“We still intend to protect the high conservation value forests, but will offer a more detailed and effective policy for the timber industry.”

Mr Latham said the industry needed value-adding and downstream processing, rather than an over-reliance on woodchip exports.

He said a lift in value-adding would mean a conservation vision was possible without a net loss of jobs.

“As the premier had made clear, value-adding projects like the pulp mill do not rely on access to old wood,” Mr Latham said.

Don’t you just love that word, “resiled”? JH loves it. Don Watson, where are you? but I digress…

The evil twin of the backlash against Labor’s Forests policy was the perception that Labor was in some unholy alliance with the Greens, who of course are wacky and loopy and Watermelons et cetera. Well, that’s surprising considering that it was Labor’s unholy alliance with Family First which really brought it undone.

If the Labor party is really serious in looking for scapegoats in the loss of Tasmanian seats and the election in general, I would point my finger at…

The idiots who engineered the Family First preference deal. (I include the Democrats in that, too.)

Labor politicians, notably Paul Lennon, whose relationship with woodchip companies was too cosy for him to support his own party in the election; and

The CMFEU. I haven’t posted about things Union for a long time, so people might take this as anti-Union. Believe me, I spend a fair bit of time explaining to people why unions are still necessary in these enlightened free-market times. Idiots like the Forestry wing of the CFMEU make that task just that much harder.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: One of the enduring images of the election still haunting Labor was that of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union feting the Prime Minister in Tasmania when he released his forests policy.

REPORTER: Is it acceptable that one of the organisers of that spectacle is actually an executive member of the Labor Party and what are you going to do about it?

MARK LATHAM: Well I can assure you that’s very much part of the review process.

Labor MP for Franklin, Harry Quick, says Premier Paul Lennon’s silence over the coalition’s forestry policy last week amounted to tacit approval of it, thereby fatally damaging the re-election chances of Michelle O’Byrne in Bass and Sid Sidebottom in Braddon.
Mr Quick said: “I’ve said that he’s got blood on his hands: the blood of Michelle and Sid. You can’t refute that.”

So, if anyone’s going to apologise, I don’t think Mark Latham’s necessary the one. Or the only one. And I, as a latte lefty, don’t mean to apologise either.

Latham said before the election that he wanted to save old growth forests because it was the right thing to do. Now, under a chorus of criticism and disapproval, he doesn’t abandon it just because it didn’t fit the zeitgeist of the day — interest rates, money and fear. He says it’s still the right thing to do even if the majority votes against it.

The Libs, on the other hand, talk about “values” in schools with their fingers crossed behind their backs, while Whatever it Takes is their real-life credo. Children in the water, the War on Terror, interest rate hikes.

Hug a tree today. It needs you now.

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