An insider's view of Labor's sea change


An insider's view of Labor's sea changeThe election of Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard as the new Labor leadership team represents a sea change in Australian politics. It is a bold move by the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party as it steps up its efforts to pitch to Australian voters in the 2007 election.

Prime Minister Howard will not be able to take any comfort from the change. Kim Beazley, who served the Labor Party with honour, departed with grace and dignity, having lost two loves in his life—his younger brother David, and the Labor leadership. Opinion polls and psephologists alike have been sounding an insistent drumbeat: Kim Beazley’s legacy is a party that is within striking distance of government.

The vote for a leadership change reflected the pressure that Labor members are getting in their electorates from an increasingly embittered constituency. It is clear in the groundswell of opinion in communities across the country that the Coalition government is not on the side of working Australians.

Kevin Rudd’s leadership needs to be sophisticated and incisive. He needs to identify the weaknesses that can be used to defeat the Howard government. He is not afraid to articulate his vision for Australia, a vision that recognises how life in this country has changed, and one that gives back to people the hope that this government has dashed.

The Report of the Iraq Study Group, released in the US this week, has revealed that current strategies in Iraq are failing and the situation is deteriorating. Tony Blair is big enough to acknowledge this and has put in place a withdrawal strategy. John Howard stubbornly refuses to accept the validity of the report, or to act on its findings.

Australians are also disturbed by the government’s abandonment of David Hicks, left to languish for five years in Guantanamo Bay. The Immigration Ombudsman this week revealed that ten Australian citizens have been locked up illegally in Australia , some of them traumatised children. As Kevin has stated, "compassion is not a dirty word … not a sign of weakness." It’s part and parcel of the Australian belief in a 'fair go', and without it we’re in a bad way.

An insider's view of Labor's sea changeFor working families, two interest rate rises in close succession have had a crippling effect on their struggle to maintain their mortgage payments. The dream of owning the family home is becoming less and less achievable. For many Australian workers, since the Workchoices legislation was passed, day to day has become tougher. They have lost conditions, penalty rates, shift allowances and are coming to understand that the only ‘choice’ is for employers.

We as a nation don’t want a one-way choice or a one-way society. Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard know at first hand how aspiring to a better life involves hard work and commitment, and they are firm in their conviction that success should be open to everyone, not the privileged few. They will aim to bring a new urgency and new energy to the task of defeating the Howard government.

In the next year the new leadership team will build up from Labor’s core vote. Kevin Rudd says that the present government is contemptuous of dissenting voices, arrogant in its abuse of parliamentary processes and grossly negligent in its refusal to accept responsibility for the consequences of its actions. The new Labor team will set out to make these allegations stick, and in so doing, show Australians what a Labor government could offer as an alternative.

The Rudd Labor team will respond to the electoral lack of engagement. The electoral process has been bogged down in a kind of ennui that needs fierce combatting. The long years of opposition have taken their toll. Labor has only been able to 'say'—now they will attempt to 'do'.

In the coming months, I anticipate a growing commitment from Australians. They will listen to Kevin Rudd as he seeks to realise his ambition to defeat the Coalition government. To achieve that, both Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard will be focusing not just on winning power, but on how to use it wisely to create a more compassionate and inclusive Australia.



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Existing comments

I am happy to read about Ursula Stephen's views on the Labor leadership change.
I think reprinting the full article gave her a few free kicks againgst the Federal Government-perhaps you intended to do so.
Keep up the social justice push.
With thanks, Michael Beech.

Michael Beech | 12 December 2006  

Senator Stephens' view of the future of an ALP led by Rudd and Gillard will attract 'amens' from many of us who had almost given up on the ALP federally. Kim lost all credibilty when he acquiesced in the Tampa incident, and he has be 'me-tooing' ever since. Kevin and Julia are impressive, not only for their obvious intelligence and their ability to formulate and articulate an alternative Australia to Howard's mean and self serving version, but also for their apparent committment to social justice and high principles.

But what about the soul-less apparatchicks that actually run the machine through their factional power bases? What does the Senator have to say about them?

Warwick | 12 December 2006  

My feelings about the Labour party moved from despair to hope when the 'dream team' was elected. Ursula Stephens speaks of my hopes. I pray that they will unfold and benefit all human beings and not just a few.

When Kevin Rudd's election to leader of the opposition was annouced, I raced out onto my Fremantle street and screeched with joy. Loud relief.

Best wishes

Jo Dallimore

Jo Dallimore | 13 December 2006  

I have great confidence in Rudd to haul this great country out of its misery. And to Have Julia there is a win for the women of this country

Theo Dopheide | 13 December 2006  

The article disappointed me - I was hoping to hear something new and insightful, but received another spiel which is no more than an election warm-up

M. Kerby | 16 December 2006  

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