Posts Tagged ‘Australian Labor Party’

Gough Whitlam: Australia’s Attlee

23/10/2014, 09:51:32 AM

by David Ward

Australia mourns the passing of one of its Prime Ministers this week, with the death of Gough Whitlam. Chiefly remembered in Britain for the 1975 constitutional crisis, he was an iconic figure not just for the Australian Labor Party but for the nation itself. A radical proponent of change, passionate about culture, and with a ready wit in parliament. One old right winger chided him “I am a Country member”, “I remember” Whitlam shot back.

The wartime Labor administration of John Curtice had perhaps proved the ALP capable of governing, but with 23 unbroken years of rule by the centre right Liberal-Country coalition Gough’s election was a defining moment in Australian left wing politics. He was in many ways Australia’s Attlee: elected with a nationwide sense of optimism and of the possible. In three years he changed the face of a nation and his achievements stand on their own merit.

In foreign affairs the end of conscription for Vietnam and release of prisoners who had refused to fight was a huge contemporary issue, which formed part of his 1969 campaign. He also opened relations with China, a step towards an independent foreign policy and away from one of Empire and Commonwealth. Made, of course, against the backdrop of UK entry to the EEC in 1973.

But it was in domestic politics he effected most change. Free higher education opened a new future for many. Medicare took the first steps towards comprehensive free healthcare in Australia. Motorways were built between state capitals for the first time and rail links vastly improved.

Whitlam understood the power of culture to forge a nation and its identity. An Australian version of Britain’s Arts Council, the Australia Council, was made a statutory body with great reserves of funding to end the migration of talented creatives to the UK or US. It allowed an artistic renaissance for Australia, complemented by his commissioning of the country’s national anthem, Advance Australia Fair. The playing of which he attached as a condition to being the first PM to attend an Australian ‘soccer’ match.


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Opposition has a lure like crack cocaine to some Labour activists, writes Helen Liddell

24/07/2010, 02:30:36 PM

I turn my back for five minutes – well, four and a half years – and meerkats rule the advertising world and the Lib Dems show their true colours. Enough to  make me turn around and head back to Australia.

Those halcyon days with Labour Governments in Australia and Britain did help us leverage a progressive agenda together on the world stage. Who can forget Kevin Rudd, within days of his election as Aussie PM, signing the Kyoto protocol, neutralising the last alliance the Bush administration had on denying climate change.

 The financial crisis saw Brown and Rudd redefine world economic geography by creating a more meaningful G20 with the world’s emerging nations instead of the Rich Man’s Club of the G 8.

Labor chose the first ever woman Governor General, a human rights lawyer at that – and she took her oath of office wearing the purple of the suffragettes. Some Sheila.


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Julia Gillard has got what it takes to win, writes Sue Regan

19/07/2010, 05:40:40 PM

The Australian federal election campaign is already proving to be a hard fought contest. Australian elections tend to be volatile and unpredictable and it is far from certain who will come out on top on 21st August. But it does look increasingly promising that the current Labor government could be returned to power – a prospect highly unlikely less than a month ago. So what’s changed? Two bold moves have pushed Labor’s poll ratings from the doldrums to an election winning (just) lead.

The first move was a change of leader. On 24th June, Kevin Rudd, the then Prime Minister resigned in the knowledge that he had fatally lost the support of the parliamentary Labor party, the Labor caucus. Julia Gillard, the then deputy prime minister, stepped up and became Australia’s first female prime minister. It was the first time the Labor caucus had removed a leader in their first term as prime minister. The move was rapid, certainly ruthless and many would say premature. Polling released the day after the coup suggest Rudd could have won the coming election. But most commentators agree that the poll lead now enjoyed by Labor is the result of the Gillard-factor.

Julia Gillard (born in Wales and citing Nye Bevan as one of her political heroes) commands wide public support. Tony Abbot (most famously known for his choice of swimwear) is the leader of the opposition (a coalition between the Liberals and the smaller National Party) and consistently lags in double figures behind Gillard in ‘preferred prime minister’ polling. 


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Ignore the bookies, the Australian election will be a close run thing says Tom Cameron

19/07/2010, 05:36:36 PM

For the first time ever an Australian Prime Minister who’s not a bloke has taken the charming five minute drive from Parliament House to the Canberra residence of the Governor General and advised the Queen’s representative of a Federal election date.  That in itself is a terrific thing. 

Interestingly, for the first time since 1993 neither of the two main party leaders – Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott – have previously faced the people in their bid to become the nation’s leader.  It’s also unprecedented that a Prime Minister has challenged and successfully deposed their first term colleague as party leader and sought their own mandate from the people only a few weeks after such a coup. 

And this coming contest will be only the second August election in Australia’s history, the last being back in the 1940s.  So there are quite a few rarities on offer in this 2010 Federal election, but not nearly so many predictabilities. 

If there is one tried and tested way to smartly pick Australian election results at the start of the campaign, it would be to check the bookies odds.  Rarely if ever do the punters end up getting it wrong.  So it is some surprise to concentrate one’s attention Down Under now and find not just a swiftly changed political landscape of the post-Rudd type, but an election scene that the book makers believe Labour will dominate. 


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As Australia goes to the polls, Labor hope for a narrow win

19/07/2010, 05:26:53 PM

On Saturday, after just three weeks in office, Labor Prime Minister Julia Gillard has called a General Election. She has moved rapidly since deposing Kevin Rudd. Neutralising negatives on climate change, immigration and on the mining tax she has seen a turn-around in Labour’s fortunes in the polls. The most recent poll gives Labor a 10 point lead over the opposition – 55-45, with votes coming almost equally from the Tories and from the Greens.

This is a high-stakes election, there hasn’t been a one-term government in Australia since the Depression. The (extraordinarily short) three year term gives a virtually automatic re-election to governments. And Labor should be riding high – Australia hasn’t had a recession, the minerals boom continues and the government have done well on issues from health care reform through to the Apology to the ‘stolen generation’ of Aboriginal children. But, as Gillard has admitted, the government lost its way. Rudd called climate change the ‘greatest moral challenge of our time’, and the voters responded strongly to this. Unfortunately, the legislation stalled and rather than attack the Greens and the Liberals who would have blocked it in the Senate, Rudd took all the blame on himself.  The Labor Party fell in the polls and looked unelectable. That’s when the ruthless unsentimentality of Australian Labor kicked in.

And it’s a important election for British Labour. The sister party relationship with the ALP is the closest we have – it’s not just the shared language and the historic links. There’s a living, vital connection. The modernising of Australia led by Hawke and Keating in the 80s an early 90s gave a policy inspiration to New Labour and a friendly home for visitors. In turn when we were in office over the last 13 years many Australians have visited. In 2007 I was able to work on the Australian election and afterwards helped to facilitate links between Australian and British ministers.

To kick off coverage we’ve go two voices. Tom Cameron is an Australian special adviser who worked in Victoria Street before and during the General Election. Sue Regan was until recently Chief Executive of the Resolution Foundation.

John McTernan is guest editing Labour Uncut for the next ten days. He writes for The Scotsman and The Daily Telegraph.

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