Tuesday, January 18, 2005

The Poor old ALP

Mark Latham's resignation as Australian Labour Party leader today wasn't really surprising. After a post-ascention honeymoon a few months out from last year's federal election, the ALP collapsed in the week leading up to polling day and allowed Howard in for what promises to be an appalling fourth term.

The bets seem to be on Kim Beazley to take over, which is a little surprising given:

a) He has already lost twice against Howard and can arguably be blamed for allowing the Conservatives to manage the terms of political discourse in Australia.

b) The ALP have three years until the next election, and hence time to blood a younger leader such as shadow defence spokesperson Kevin Rudd or Julia Gillard, shadow Health spokesperson.

I came across both at the ALP COnference in Sydney last year, and was extremely impressed by Gillard, who showed an extremely firm grasp of policy, solid political principles, and the crucial ability to make a pragmatic call. She was one of the people charged by the Party with putting together the ALP's election year policy on refugees, probably the most emotionally charged issue within the ALP. It was a no-win situation for her, as any policy she could realistically get accepted by the Party would alienate her own left faction.

Yet with real courage and nerve, she crafted and put in place a policy that largely took the issue off the agenda during the election, and had Labour been re-elected, would have brought about a far more humane system for dealing with refugees.

If not this time, I'm sure we'll see her become the first ALP woman leader at some stage (well over a decade after NZ!!).

And whoever it is, good luck to them. Australia needs a change of direction as badly as New Zealand did in 1999.

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