The Politics    Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Serendipity strikes

By Sean Kelly

Photo: Ken Douglas
Expediency and integrity may for once push Labor in the same direction

A poll today had some interesting results that will feed into the long campaign ahead of the next election.

Today’s Essential Report found that 56% of voters think the Coalition favours the rich, while 57% believe that Labor favours either average Australians or the poor. As Crikey reports, more voters now believe these things than they did a year ago (just before the last, notorious budget).

Political parties have a symbiotic – or perhaps parasitic – relationship to polls, trying to influence the results with their language and behaviour and then curbing their language and behaviour in response to the results.

It can sometimes be difficult to distinguish between a party’s genuine beliefs and what a party believes its beliefs should be. But sometimes, of course, serendipity strikes, and a party chooses to do something which is both in keeping with the wisdom of the polls and with its own genuinely held philosophy.

I suspect this is the case with former Treasurer Wayne Swan’s launch today of a new “Inclusive Prosperity Commission”, with Labor’s think tank, the Chifley Research Centre. The Commission will be headed by Swan and Chifley chief Michael Cooney.

Swan was praised and attacked from predictable quarters for his 2012 attacks on Gina Rinehart, Clive Palmer and Andrew Forrest for using their wealth to further inequality. Today he stayed consistent, saying equality should be at the heart of any economic debate.

“Producing wealth in the first place requires equitable growth; otherwise the economy will not grow because demand will be deficient,” he said.

Given voters’ opinions of the last budget, and their views of the major parties in the Essential Report, there is a real opportunity for Labor here.

If Swan and his fellow commissioners can come up with effective, exciting policy, that succeeds in making equality the driving force behind genuine economic reform, then they just might manage to unite political expediency with philosophical integrity.

Of course, Labor would actually have to adopt those policies, too.

I suppose we’ll see.


Commenting on the hundreds of migrants who have drowned in recent days making the trip to Italy across the Mediterranean, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said: “I suppose we must grieve for the lost, but at the same time we must resolve to stop this terrible problem and the only way you can stop the deaths is to stop the people smuggling trade. The only way you can stop the deaths is in fact to stop the boats. That’s why it is so urgent that the countries of Europe adopt very strong policies that will end the people smuggling trade across the Mediterranean.”

A third man has been charged with terrorism-related offences after the alleged Anzac Day plot was revealed.

The world is eating itself. A book that Oliver Stone is about to turn into a movie about Edward Snowden is reviewed by Julian Assange. We also happen to know that the movie rights were bought for $700,000 – and the reason we know this is because it was revealed by Sony emails that were leaked, probably by North Korea.

The Atlantic has a piece arguing that a “great deal of political writing these days is indistinguishable from theater criticism: Its chief concerns are storyline, costumes, and the quality of public performances.” 

A report has found over a million Australians live in poverty despite decades of continuous economic growth.

Wayne Swan has said he has no ambitions to return to the frontbench, but that he intends to stay on in parliament as a mentor to younger MPs. In recent days some Labor figures have called on the former Treasurer to resign for the sake of generational change.

Political comedy is often boring but I liked this: Malcolm Turnbull Downs A Glass Of 1998 Bordeaux In Under 26 Minutes.

A good long piece from Cass R Sunstein on when it’s better to choose not to make a choice.

Google has a record of everything you’ve ever searched for.

A Washington Post reporter has been charged with espionage in Iran

Sean Kelly

Sean Kelly is a columnist for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, and was an adviser to Labor prime ministers Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd.


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