February 01, 2004 | Peter

Latham and Tanner’s New Job.

In his opening speech of the ALP federal convention, Mark Latham announced that he has appointed Lindsay Tanner, Shadow Minister for Telecommunications, as new Shadow Minister for Community Relationships. Tanner is in the ALP left – indeed he spoke strongly against the proposed asylum seeker policy put forward by Latham – and is perhaps Latham’s only real rival as creative intellectual within the ALP. Tanner has written widely on a host of issues and has a definite position on a number of important contemporary problems and possible solutions.
Latham has asked Tanner to turn his ideas into policy. This is a smart move, fully engaging one the best intellects in the party and showing Latham’s sound leadership instincts.
It is doubly shrewd because Tanners’ ideas, well thought out as they are, will resonate more easily within the ALP than some of Latham’s own, as he has presented them in the past. For his part, Latham will be busy as leader dealing with the ‘big picture’, but he will also of course retain the capacity to influence Tanner’s ideas.
Latham sees a re-invigoration of community relationships as an answer to a whole raft of problems, and way to erode the conservative position regarding the family/economy nexus, which is their ideological heartland. To place Tanner in charge demonstrates an intention to tackle the issue properly, and to fight the conservatives on their strengths.
The combination of Tanner’s two portfolios is interesting. Tanner knows that new information and communications technology is a big part of the changing nature of social relations, both positively and negatively. Indeed, many see the accelerating pace of change and capability of new ICT systems as being the key to reformulating social relations.
The basic idea is that ultimately beneficial social relations depend on effective communication. Neo-liberalism tends to privilege communications through market relations over other forms, such as multilateral dialogue, and has increasingly undermined other forms of social relations. The new ICT systems, like mobile phones and the Internet, if used properly open vast new possibilities for enhancing such communication. This is especially true in relation to youth, who, as anyone paying attention can see, are in some kind of real crisis.
Latham and Tanner: a potentially great team, and between them they can boast more brains than the entire Howard government front bench… No, bugger it – the whole of the Liberal parliamentary party.

Posted by Peter at 6:22 pm | Comments Off on Latham and Tanner’s New Job. |
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