Labor and the Greens are now locked in a macabre dance, reminiscent of the film “They Shoot Horses Don’t They?” where contestants have to keep on going even though they know each step is killing them.
Regardless of who leads it, modern Labor is fatally wedged on virtually every decision it faces. Quite simply, no policy can serve both the needs and wants of urban working families and also satisfy the inner-city elitist Green agenda. Their values are mutually incompatible.
The decision by Julia Gillard to “co-invest” in Holden to the tune of $275 million (much of which goes as a payrise to the unions) is just the latest example of the hopeless dilemma Labor has set for itself in its accommodation with Bob Brown. Why “save” a carbon-intensive product and company, and then introduce a tax whose sole purpose is to destroy it? Who’s kidding who? As with the recent job losses in aluminum smelting, the Gillard camp seem determined to convince not only themselves but also their two key – and opposing - constituencies of the biggest furphy of them all – that tackling climate change won’t have an impact on prosperity.
Take any policy issue from border control, to live cattle exports, from pokies reform to mining. The left side of the Labor brain (creating working class jobs and improving blue-collar standards of living) is directly at odds with the right side of the brain (pandering to wildly expensive inner-city fads and anti-growth obsessions.) The schism goes right to the heart of the beast, paralyzing its every move. Over the next 18 months, as our competitiveness, and our economic and employment growth continue to fall, the discrepancy will only become more profound. The great white hope of “renewables industries” and “sustainable jobs” designed to reconcile this rift is nothing but spin. The working classes already know it in their gut.
The Queensland annihilation, as with its NSW precursor, should have ripped the scales from the eyes of those in power in Canberra, yet clearly it hasn’t. So deep-rooted is the self-delusion (perhaps Bob Carr was right about the hypnotist, just wrong about which tent he’s performing in) that federal Labor carries on waltzing towards political oblivion.
The Greens, so long as they hold the balance of power federally, will ensure that Labor continue to be ripped asunder by the two opposing objectives of “saving jobs” and “saving the planet.” Increasingly, the outer suburbs witness manufacturing and other job losses whilst in Surry Hills all the talk is of hosting dinner parties in the dark. Hoping to pull off one of the biggest sleights of hand of all time, Labor are praying that shoving cash into people’s pockets through the “compensation packages” will fool enough voters into ignoring the obvious: that the taxes kill jobs.
To borrow Kim Beazley Snr’s memorable phrase, Labor are torn between representing the cream of the working classes and the dregs of the middle class. In four states now, the cream has curdled.