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Labor’s cottage industry

by
September 2006, no. 284

Reconnecting Labor by Barry Donovan

Scribe, $30 pb, 213 pp

Book 2 Cover Small (400 x 600)

Coming to the Party: Where to next for Labor? edited by Barry Jones

MUP, $24.95 pb, 237 pp

Labor’s cottage industry

by
September 2006, no. 284

The Liberal Party, in its barren years (1983–96), was consumed in battles over beliefs. The dries took up the cudgels in a war over the nature of liberalism and effectively gained control of the party room. As Paul Kelly has described it, the party torched its Deakinite heritage. John Howard was not central to these battles, but he was the inheritor. His brilliance has been to take the neo-liberal agenda (individualism, choice, markets versus ‘bureaucracy’, the ‘mainstream’ versus ‘élites’), to give it an Australian resonance (by reinterpreting the ‘Australian legend’ as a story of individual battlers) and, relentlessly, to link his profession of beliefs to every policy statement he makes. It is unlikely that most of the punters systematically assess what Howard says in their own voting deliberations, or could complete a test on Howard’s key principles, but impressions have their effects. Recently, when I asked a group whether they thought there was a difference between the parties, a young woman confidently replied: ‘Yes, one party knows what it thinks and gets on with it; the other doesn’t.’

James Walter reviews ‘Reconnecting Labor’ by Barry Donovan and ‘Coming to the Party: Where to next for Labor?’ by Barry Jones

Reconnecting Labor

by Barry Donovan

Scribe, $30 pb, 213 pp

Book 2 Cover Small (400 x 600)

Coming to the Party: Where to next for Labor?

edited by Barry Jones

MUP, $24.95 pb, 237 pp

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