October 31, 2004 | Graham

Green Left Weekly vows to keep Howard in power

Might seem an absurd proposition, but that would be the effect of Sarah Stephen’s call to “make our opposition [to Howard] felt through better organised and more determined protest movements.”
Stephen’s diatribe, under the healine “Howard has no mandate” is an exercise in the sort of logically attenuated reasoning that contributed to Labor’s defeat. Mandate theory is a fairly difficult concept, and lends itself to odd-ball interpretations, but Stephen’s is more oddball than most. She argues that because Howard didn’t “campaign”, whatever that means, on the basis of privatising Telstra, anti-union (sic) laws, or media ownership, then he isn’t allowed to implement any legislation in these areas.
Who cares that not only is she factually incorrect – he did mention a number of these things during the election campaign – but that bills to both privatise Telstra and change the IR laws were queued up as double dissolution triggers, so electors were well aware what he stood for? Not Stephen, apparently, and there will be other denizens of the left who will be similarly impaired.
The result? They will man the barricades and most likely help Howard, or Costello, to another victory. The reason? Voters by and large know what they are getting when they vote for someone, and after 8 years of Howard, they know him better than most federal leaders in their lifetime. They know that when you vote for a politician you don’t vote for them on the basis of cherry picking only those of their ideas that you agree with. You vote for them on the basis of a package – some good, some not so good, and some downright bad. But you take that package because it is better than the other package. (Or more probably less worse.)
Voters don’t take kindly to some “revolutionary” smarty pants coming along and telling them they were too stupid to exercise their vote wisely. They also don’t appreciate it when they are told that their neighbours didn’t exercise their vote wisely so that even if they didn’t agree with how they exercised that vote, they will get in behind it if it is challenged.
If GLW and others take to the streets they are setting up the same sort of dynamics in Australia as were set up in Queensland in the Bjelke-Petersen years. Some of us learnt from those years. Probably just as well that some others didn’t.

Posted by Graham at 9:42 pm | Comments (11) |
Filed under: Australian Politics


  1. Graham,
    I Totally agree that “Voters don’t take kindly to some “revolutionary” smarty pants”. They’ve had enough of being talked down to by academics – infact being intelligent seems to have become a bit of a crime lately.
    But to imply voters understand what they vote for isn’t correct either. You and me, and the people that read blogs / politics pages in newspapers are in the minority sir. The vast majority are truley cluess – go and sample some voters at a suburban shopping centre in a morgate belt like strathpine (not toowong). Seriously, i’m still running into people that are saying “but i didn’t know howard was going to sell telstra” or “I’m a member of a union on a minimum wage and i voted for howard”. Truth is that it is as much a failure of the opposition for not reminding these people in 10 second soundbites the reality of the situation as it is the government for keeping a lid on contreversial (and core) policy areas.

    Comment by alphacoward — November 1, 2004 @ 9:12 am

  2. Counterstrike

    Graham, of the Ambit Gambit, condemns the call from the Green Left Weekly to engage in “better organised and more determined protest movements”.

    Comment by The Samwise Polemic — November 1, 2004 @ 12:29 pm

  3. Who’s wearing the smarty pants?
    While I agree that stating that Howard has no mandate is a little naive, I think assuming we have no right to protest at the sweeping changes to be expected with a Coalition majority in the Senate is equally naive, if not more so.
    Do you really expect us – the significant minority that did not vote Howard in – to sit back and watch 100+ years of hard fought for union rights be abolished? That really is naive.
    And the idea that this is going to mean Coalition victory at the next elections? Well, what can I say? Go back to your private school room and learn some real history.
    A democracy is not only about the occasional right to vote. It includes the right to protest, the right to union action, the right to change events and government plans outside of election time.

    Comment by lisa — November 2, 2004 @ 8:22 am

  4. Alpha,
    I’m not suggesting that voters know the fine print of what’s on offer, but they do have broad general expectations that go well beyond headline campaign promises.
    For example, in 1996 the ALP campaigned against Howard because, amongst other things, he wanted to sell Telstra. The response from most voters was, “Well, Labor would probably sell Telstra too.” This was not based on Labor’s policies, but was an expectation caused by Labor having privatised things like the Commonwealth Bank and QANTAS, neither of which had been in any policies.
    Not that I think most voters remembered those specific things, but they had retained conclusions based on them.
    It would certainly be naive to think that the public votes exclusively on what is promised during a campaign. They know that politicians’ promises are not to be trusted, and as a result prudently discount them, and pay little attention to them.

    Comment by Graham Young — November 2, 2004 @ 10:31 pm

  5. Lisa,
    Your comments are a pretty good example of what I was saying. Instead of engaging with the argument you flame me. I didn’t say you didn’t have a right to protest, just that to deny that Howard has a mandate and take to the streets will be counterproductive. There’s no law against being stupid. Go ahead. Be my guest. As a more or less habitual Liberal voter I won’t be getting in your way.

    Comment by Graham Young — November 2, 2004 @ 10:35 pm

  6. Its nice to seed that you are back in form, and also refreshing that you are taking the time to read alternative news sites like the GLW. While you were there, perhaps you also read Arundhati Roy’s argument that we should support non-violent resistance in Iraq. Of cause a visit to GLW needs to be balanced by an equal dose of Andrew Bolt, otherwise one might turn into a lefty and we wouldn’t want that to happen.

    Comment by Evan — November 3, 2004 @ 8:38 am

  7. It’s interesting that writers like Stephens (and Margo for that matter – more about her soon) think that if their side don’t get up, the one that does lacks authority, a “mandate” whatever. They complain about the diminishing of democracy, but don’t seem overly fond of it themselves. As a member of the ALP, I don’t agree with the party all the time, however, that doesn’t mean I don’t concur with its general gist (whatever it is these days). The Democratic Socialists, or whoever Green Left is affiliated with these days – Socialist Alliance, Socialist Alliance of Socialists, Alliance Socialists – who knows?) have public protest as there reason for existing, at any rate. Keeping in mind that I think rallies a mostly – but not always – a big, bloody waste of time, I am still interested in the reference to the Bjelke-Petersen years (an era that was profoundly undemocratic because of the malapportioned electoral system). I hope when Evan said you were “back in form” it wasn’t a reference to the “stupid” line. If so, it’s pretty form on his and your part. Although giving the way Liberals run rough-shod over people, such rude comments are not a surprise.

    Comment by Darlene — November 3, 2004 @ 10:41 am

  8. Mmmm, think I meant to say that it was pretty poor form on his and your part. No one would accuse anyone who writes for a blog of having “pretty form”. As for those who respond, that’s a different story indeed.

    Comment by Darlene — November 3, 2004 @ 11:00 am

  9. Sorry, Darlene I should have used a less emotionally loaded synonym for “stupid”. Not sure who Evan is, but I suspect he is not a member of the Liberal Party.

    Comment by Graham Young — November 3, 2004 @ 12:43 pm

  10. No Graham, please don’t change a thing. We need people who are prepared to call a spade a bloomin shovel. Some people just don’t understand that a contrary opinion is by definition a wrong opinion. And by doing so they are expressing their own lack of intelligence. There’s no place for that in political debate. So just call it what it is: stupid.

    Comment by Evan — November 4, 2004 @ 8:13 am

  11. Evan, I hope your third sentence wasn’t meant to read like that!!!!

    Comment by Graham Young — November 4, 2004 @ 9:24 am

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