Delusional to the end, Labor stays the course

Emotions, to paraphrase Clive James, are a tricky thing. In the midst of defeat a sense of hopelessness can often prevail, when hope is the quality required in such a situation. Conversely, during times of triumph it is humility, or at least clear-headedness, that serves us better than haughtiness. This particular reflection, admittedly, occurred to me as television pundits began calling the September 7, 2013, election for Abbott – and I sipped a celebratory glass of a 1996 Barossa shiraz.

The fantasist character of modern-day Labor was on full display right through Kevin Rudd’s bizarre concession speech. The sweaty euphoria as he pressed the flesh of an (incongruously) elated crowd on his way towards the stage had me wondering if (a) he might be on the cusp of a meltdown or (b) some form of medication was coursing through his blood. It was, as I should have guessed, option (c ) – a heavy dose of self-delusion at work. In fact, one could be forgiven for thinking his wacky acceptance-of-defeat discourse was a victory speech. Better, as Clive James noted, to put on a brave face than sink into the mire, and yet a fleeting acknowledgement that Kevin13 won almost thirty seats fewer than Kevin’07 in the 150-seat House of Representatives might have added gravitas – not to mention a touch of reality – to the occasion.

Reality, alas, is no longer the strong suit of the Australian Labor Party. Shortly after Kevin’s (protracted) performance, Julia Gillard tweeted to an awaiting world: “a tough night for Labor” and “my thoughts are with you”. Thanks, Julia. From her new $1.8 million home in beachside Adelaide, Gillard also tweeted her election-night solidarity with “the proud community of Lalor”, which happens to be a largely working-class electorate. The ex-PM congratulated Joanne Ryan, Gillard’s successor as the ALP member for Lalor. The Party’s original candidate had been Labor apparatchik Lisa Clutterham, but an admission on radio that her only connection with the electorate was having visits the area as a child threw a spanner in the works. This had not been the case back in 1998 when Party HQ parachuted Julia Gillard into Lalor.

The ALP is a good hater, but what it hates has turned out to be something of a moveable feast. The Party still bangs on about the “Light on the Hill”, as Rudd did in his concession/victory speech, and yet a more apt description of Labor’s real constituency is not the working class but the “Folks on the Hill”. Labor is driven by malice, just as it has always been driven by malice, only now its tribal ideology is directed not at the well-to-do per se – the party leadership, after all, has been co-opted by the well-to-do – but at anyone with the impertinence to question their progressive politics.

On Saturday night, Rudd claimed “the things that unite are more powerful than the things that divide us”, but this platitude seemed hollow given that the giant ALP “If Abbott Wins, You Lose” billboards still had pride of place in all the major cities of Australia. Gillard’s final tweet for the evening – “Congrats to Mr Abbott and Mr Truss for leading their parties to victory” – also appeared somewhat disingenuous coming from someone who, over the past three years, so thoroughly and determinedly demonised Tony Abbott as a misogynist.

Labor’s disconnect is exemplified by its contempt for the Coalition’s mandated intention to do away with the tax on carbon dioxide emissions. The ALP foisted this tax on Australians despite never seeking a mandate at the 2010 election. Nevertheless, on the morning after its 2013 election debacle, Anthony Albanese intimated that his party would use the Senate to block any attempt by the Coalition to fulfil their explicit election promise to repeal the tax. Mysteriously, Albanese claimed “a mandate” to do this – as if Labor’s “legacy” trumped the results of a democratic election.

Bill Shorten took an almost identical tack: “Labor is not going to walk away from the issue of putting a price on carbon pollution”. Chris Bowen, another post-election leadership contender, chimed in with the comment that the tax on carbon dioxide emissions was one of Labor’s “core beliefs” and non-negotiable. Non-negotiable with a legitimately elected government mandated by the Australian people to rescind Labor’s tax? How does that work exactly? Labor, hijacked by its progressive ideology, remains as arrogant and deluded as ever. An interviewer asked Albanese if Tony Abbott’s plan to repeal Labor’s carbon dioxide tax – given an election the day before – might not constitute a publicly sanctioned policy.

The ideologically driven Albanese denied that Abbott’s view on the tax was anything other than “a position he put forward” at the election. What’s more, despite the ALP’s electoral defeat, history will judge the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd years “very favourably”. Labor, as always, is the voice of the people unless the people are mistaken, and then it must answer to a higher truth – history.

Many in the Labor Party, in the days and weeks ahead, will blame Kevin Rudd and political infighting for their election disaster, but they will only be deceiving themselves. Rudd, clearly, is not the only fantasist in a party built on delusions. Today’s “true believers” believe in a whole range of fantastical ideas, including blowing billions of dollars on whatever whimsical notion happens to be in fashion at the time. I am prepared to concede the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) – or, at least, something akin to it – has genuine merit. But after six years of Labor fiascos, what sensible person could deny that only a conservative government is capable of delivering it.

Tanya Plibersek, another possible candidate for Labor’s post-election leadership team, made this remark during the election night coverage: “I think I would give us nine out of ten for governing the country. I’d give us zero out of ten for governing ourselves.” In the Kubler-Ross model of five stages of grieving, Labor sounds pretty well locked into Denial, although Anger is no doubt hovering there somewhere on the horizon.

Daryl McCann has a blog at darylmccann.blogspot.com.au

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