June 14, 2004 | Unknown

Latham Says (Sort of) Howard’s Hoity Toity

Mark Latham spent part of the weekend addressing delegates, observers and others at the Australian Labor Party’s (ALP’s) State Conference.
While it’s arguable that Conference is less dull and painful than watching lawn bowls and having your bikini line waxed, Latham’s speech was an interesting, and relatively painless, example of how the language conservatives have been using to discredit Labor is now being employed against them.
About a decade ago the dominant meaning of “elite”, which in Australia described a bloody good sportsman (sic), was superseded by the derogatory denotation of being a lefty that subsisted on government grants and had a crush on Paul Keating (the object of affection for the “elite” for recognising indigenous disadvantage and giving Don Watson a job so he could later write a tome that makes you look really clever when carrying it on public transport).
Although the latter meaning is dodgy due to the way it delegitimises the entrance of groups like women into institutions of power, in a media-soaked age the ability to ridicule opponents with a word or short phrase is a handy talent to have. This use of “elite” has been so successful that every person besides rich, white, heterosexual males and rich or white or heterosexual males is one.
For this reason, it’s noteworthy that Latham accused the Government of “New Elitism”. That is, Howard and Co were charged with having a disinterest and derisory attitude towards “commonsense” concerns like encouraging literacy amongst littlies.
“This is the new elitism of our time”, said Latham, “where Tory politicians look down their nose at one of the basics of life: reading books to our children”.
You might, unfortunately, be able to kick welfare-recipients in this country, but everybody would think only a right bunch of uppity mongrels would mock anything to do with tiny tots.
With the word “new” Latham inferred that the “elitism” conservatives go on about is passé and so are they for still focussing on it. He didn’t offer his support for it though; the statement that “(the Howard Government’s) joined the elites and moved beyond the everyday concerns of the Australian people…” allowed him to distance today’s Labor from “elitism” in general.
The reference to the “Opportunity Express”, a bus Latham travelled on during his last Queensland visit, was hokey, but useful because, metaphorically speaking, everyone’s invited on board, especially those dubbed “Howard’s Battlers”; the “us” in “for all of us”.
They can now, however, be identified as those who didn’t benefit from recent tax cuts.
“The Government’s forgotten about the hard workers on less than $52 000 year; the sales reps, the technicians, the shop assistants, the teachers, the office workers – the backbone of the Australian economy…”, Latham lamented (since Latham was speaking at an ALP Conference he should have added political staffers and union heavies to the list).
Of course, no politician’s image is going to suffer from catching the bus to work like regular folk.
For the benefit of Messrs Costello and Abbott, a bus is like a big car that sometimes arrives on time and often does not.
Although those of us who think issues like gender are marginalised in this differently pitched line to ‘ordinary voters’, there is much pleasure to be had from seeing the Government copping what they have so expediently inflicted on others for years, and with only them being given a hard time in the process.

Posted by Unknown at 3:51 pm | Comments Off on Latham Says (Sort of) Howard’s Hoity Toity |
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