22 January 2005

in the Ruddy light of a new day

At first, i was attracted to the idea of Beazley leading the ALP again. I think Latham fell without being pushed, and obviously his illness exacerbated his tendency to go it alone. Bringing the old warhorse back for a last run, and perhaps even a Howard-style resurrection, would be a great story. Sadly, events have destroyed that idea.

Beazley has vetoed the idea of Julia Gillard as deputy leader. jenny Macklin refuses to stand aside and Beazley has said he is very happy with her as deputy leader. Beazley is looking to the NSW machine for support. Crean refuses to go away and is up to his armpits in the campaign for the leadership. The reason we keep getting nothing campaigns and nothing platforms is the dominance of the party by its factions. The Democratic Audit of Australia has just released a detailed analysis of the way Australian parties operate. They find:

The Labor Party can claim that its formal structures and processes include powerful representative and responsible components. The Platform is written and amended by a Conference of delegates from the grass-roots organisation. The caucus, the cabinet and the leader are bound by the Conference and the Platform. Each level of the party is formally responsible to a wider sector of the party. In practice, however, three features question the efficacy of this. First, the union base has, for over a century, been able to dominate the numbers at the Conferences. Second, there has been some ‘seepage of authority’ to the top levels of the party. Third, the factions have become allpowerful.

That has to change and, despite Beazley's avowal that he's learnt his lessons, there's no sign he actually has. keeping Macklin and swanning around with the NSW Right and is not going to challenge factional dominance or get the ALP open to the force of ideas again. Rudd would be a better choice. And at least he can utter a sentence without 14 subclauses.

Meanwhile, the ALP rank and file, let alone the ALP's wider supporters in the electorate, are sick of the insider game. As we heard on the 7:30 report:

DR PETER BOTSMAN: No-one doubts Kim's abilities, but this is an insider fallacy, that all we need to do is have a one-horse race and everything's gonna be okay. The truth is that the rank and file are very angry when they hear people on the radio saying that it's just a matter of being, again, loyal to a leader. That's not what people want. People want to be able to participate in the Labor Party and know that their voices count. They want to be able to actually elect a leader themselves, and really, this should be the last time that Labor allows a caucus to simply elect a leader. It really should be a rank-and-file vote for a leader, and the new leader needs to be about advocating those kinds of changes in the party.

MAXINE McKEW: But as Kim Beazley said the other day, it's not a US-style primary system. In the meantime, we're stuck with the caucus system as it is; they elect the leader. Who is the most viable alternative, then, do you think, to Kim Beazley?

There's a better question then if this is a caucus election or a primary election. The question is what kind of eleciton should it be. Most progressive parties elect their leader by direct ballot, or by a wider electoral college. The caucus system has not produced a successful leader since Keating. That's getting to be a long time.

19 January 2005

Labor needs a new deputy

We will probably never know why Latham chose not to issue a tsunami statement. Clearly the guy is gravely ill and perhaps that effected his judgement. Deputy Opposition Leader Jenny Macklin does not have the pancreatitis defence. US Vice-president Charles Dawes said his job was 'to look at newspapers every morning to see how the president's health is.'

A competent deputy would have been banging on Latham's door 24 hours or so after Latham looked like staying silent on the tsunami. Macklin didn't and the ALP should find a new deputy leader who will. The Beazley unity ticket looks inevitable. That does not mean Labor cannot or should not find a more energetic deputy. It would also be a fine chance to signal that the faction system is on the way out.

Andrew Bartlett's comments are worth reading.

PS Somehow I resisted the temptation to call this 'For the congaline is over...'

18 January 2005

This is Tuesday, it must be Iran

The Coming Wars
George W. Bush's re-election was not his only victory last fall. The President and his national-security advisers have consolidated control over the military and intelligence communities' strategic analyses and covert operations to a degree unmatched since the rise of the post-Second World War national-security state. Bush has an aggressive and ambitious agenda for using that control - against the mullahs in Iran and against targets in the ongoing war on terrorism - during his second term. The C.I.A. will continue to be downgraded, and the agency will increasingly serve, as one government consultant with close ties to the Pentagon put it, as "facilitators" of policy emanating from President Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney. This process is well under way.

Despite the deteriorating security situation in Iraq, the Bush Administration has not reconsidered its basic long-range policy goal in the Middle East: the establishment of democracy throughout the region. Bush's re-ection is regarded within the Administration as evidence of America's support for his decision to go to war. It has reaffirmed the position of the neoconservatives in the Pentagon's civilian leadership who advocated the invasion, including Paul Wolfowitz, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, and Douglas Feith, the Under-secretary for Policy. According to a former high-level intelligence official, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld met with the Joint Chiefs of Staff shortly after the election and told them, in essence, that the naysayers had been heard and the American people did not accept their message. Rumsfeld added that America was committed to staying in Iraq and that there would be no second-guessing.

"This is a war against terrorism, and Iraq is just one campaign. The Bush Administration is looking at this as a huge war zone," the former high-level intelligence official told me. "Next, we're going to have the Iranian campaign. We've declared war and the bad guys, wherever they are, are the enemy. This is the last hurrah - we've got four years, and want to come out of this saying we won the war on terrorism."

Bush is on record as claiming the election ratified his Iraq policy:

"We had an accountability moment and that's called the 2004 elections," he told the Washington Post.

"The American people listened to different assessments made about what was taking place in Iraq and they looked at the two candidates and chose me."

Meanwhile, This is Rumor Control scores 5 out of 10 for the rumour that:

Speechwriters for George Bush are aghast at the President's insistence that his inaugural address contain an explicit military pledge to strike Iran militarily unless they announce an end to their nuclear program.

Iran has around 3 times Iraq's population, and over 4 times Iraq's area. The terrain is more varied, including some of the highest mountain ranges in the region. Broadly the population is better educated and national unity is much greater. Iraq, while nowhere near a democracy, is not an eccentric personal dictatorship wrecked by 12 years of economic sanctions. The US cannot sustain its occupation of Iraq. How the hell can they think about taking on a nation at least 4 times stronger?

The inaugural should make interesting listening. So should the Man of Steel's reaction.