I’m reading a website. It’s badly designed, oldfashioned, with a mishmash of fonts and red, white and blue as the main colour choices, with some horrible grey and bright yellow touches. It’s the sort of thing you expect of a rightwing US site of the Lyndon LaRouche / Bill O’Reilly type.
The articles in the main body text are editorials with the writer left unidentified (a committee?). Articles in the sidebar include Peter Saunders of the CIS, Bjorn Lomborg, Daniel Ben-Ami, property developer Hugh Pavletich, Ray Evans (Lavoisier Group), Alan Moran (IPA), Mark Steyn and Imre Saluzinsky, to name a few. The Links section, which is yellower than any links section oughta be, ncludes Quadrant, “Climatechangeissues.org” (lnked to Tech Central Station) and the Lavoisier Group. Cliches abound, with Latte, Latte Left, Tree-hugging, Chattering Classes everywhere.
Out of the many, many links on their front page I could only find three female contributors, pretty well buried, two of whose names were Shanahan and Devine.
So what’s this website? Some tinpot rightwing independent group?
Sadly, it’s a Labor site. Even more sadly (and I say this as a proud union member of many years), it’s a Labor unionist site.
It looks like primarily a Ferguson family project: Mar’n, Andrew and Laurie, with help from other apparatchiks from the Labor Right and the right-leaning unions such as the AWU and CMFEU.
According to the New City, the basis of Labor’s modern malaise is the replacement of “Routine workers” with knowledge and technical workers and the resulting hijacking of Labor by the inner city trendies and Chattering Classes (haven’t seen that one in a while).
Over succeeding decades, however, so-called knowledge workers rose to positions of power across the new services and information economy. Inevitably, their interests diverged from those of routine workers. By the mid-1990s, “Whitlam’s strategy” collapsed under the strain. Contemporary Australian politics are dominated by the consequences of that collapse…
….many knowledge workers seek to enhance their asset by resorting to a predictable type of activism. They will push the envelope on issues like uranium mining, climate change, nuclear energy, civil liberties and asylum seekers beyond the point that reasonable routine workers – a clear majority of the population – will follow. Naturally, these causes may also deliver more immediate benefits to inner suburban professionals, like career opportunities, tax breaks and improved property values…
You get the idea. Routine Worker™ good, tertiary educated “knowledge workers” / “Creative class” bad.
…we argue that if [Labor] is to change its policy spots, it needs first to look hard at its representative structure. “Rank-and-file preselection”, at least in NSW, is widely regarded (especially in the inner city) as a party memberís birthright. We are unconvinced that a few dozen overwhelmingly tertiary-educated social activists should effectively determine who gets what is often an extraordinarily cushy job for life. Itís not just wrong in principle;it tends to select the same types of people in these positions – graduates in the social sciences who move smoothly from university politics, to research jobs in unions or on MPsí staffs, to a safe seat in parliament. Once there, they invariably push for the sorts of policies and programs that create plenty of jobs for others just like them. There must be a better way.
So who are these champions of the routine worker over the tertiary-educated social activists?
Let’s start with the three editors. I couldn’t find much on Google about John Muscat, but he collaborated with Michael Thompson on his book Labor Without Class, which is kind of the New City bible. As John Quiggin points out, the book seeks “to combine cultural conservatism with support for economic rationalism”. Rolly Smallacombe also keeps a low profile, but he was a campaign office staffer for MP Michael Daly, MLA for Maroubra (formerly a lawyer for the motorist advocacy group NRMA). Jeremy Gilling comes up as a research officer into yoof issues for the Macarthur Region organisation of Councils and project manager for Skill Ecosystem, a national project on skill formation, uses of skills, workplace culture and related HR matters.
Nothing wrong with that. All three are also Online Opinion authors. Nothing wrong with that either – unless you’re pushing the line that membership of people with this type of background and skillset disqualifies you to speak for the Labor party.
Moving right along to the article writers and heroes of the New City: Martin Ferguson (University – research officer – union secretary – ACTU president etc); Peter Saunders (Emeritus professor, rightwing academic); Craig Emerson (Sydney University – ANU – economic analyst, advisor, politician); Hugh Pavletich (crusading land developer); Andrew Ferguson (degrees in Economics, Urban Studies and Law, general secretary of the CFMEU (NSW branch); Daniel Ben Ami (financial journalist); Bjorn Lomborg (internationally (in)famous professor of Statistics and global warming
denialist -and look, isn’t he cute/) …You get the picture.
These people are so not “Routine Workers”. In fact, if the New City editorial office, if one exists, had one of those electric eye systems like the ones in the library to detect those terrible knowledge workers and tertiary-educated social activists coming in, it’d be going off its nut continuously.
So what gives these knowledge-workers-and-tertiary-educated-social activists the right to lecture the rest of us, whose opinions on the public good are different from theirs, on our unworthiness to speak on behalf of the Routine Worker™, when they are further from being routine workers than most of the people they criticise? Obviously they must have some special mojo, which not only renders their university degrees and professional white-collar status harmless, but renders their egregious hypocricy invisible. It’s obviously only available to a select few.
Using this special mojo, you can write articles attacking the “types of people…graduates in the social sciences who move smoothly from university politics, to research jobs in unions or on MPs’ staffs, to a safe seat in parliament…push(ing) for the sorts of policies and programs that create plenty of jobs for others just like them…” while being exactly that kind of person, without your brain exploding, or at least registering any shame.
I must endeavour to find out about this special mojo, because it’s obviously pretty good stuff. In the meantime, Paul Norton at Larvatus Prodeo and Tim at Road to Surfdom have been there before me and have written interesting posts on the topic, with lively comment threads. Recommended, especially if you’re contemplating voting Labor in the coming election.