Time for Labor to bind on marriage equality

Buoyed by growing momentum for marriage equality, Deputy Labor Leader Tanya Plibersek is leading the charge for her party to put its money where its mouth is by making support for this reform binding.

While some in Labor’s right flank might resent being forced to toe the line, ultimately the ALP only stands to gain should it finally show some backbone on this human rights issue.

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Where to now for the Greens?

The 2013 election outcome could only be described as mixed for the Australian Greens. The party achieved something rare among minor parties – having not only won a lower house seat at the previous election, it also successfully defended it this time around. But the jubilation of Adam Bandt’s victory in the seat of Melbourne was offset by the realisation that the party’s nationwide share of the primary vote had declined significantly. In the House of the Representatives, the Greens hemorrhaged more than a quarter of their 2010 vote; in the Senate, around a third of voters opted to move their vote elsewhere.

The outcome sparked the usual speculation about the Greens’ longevity, and grist was added to the mill when six of Christine Milne’s senior members of staff quit within weeks of the election. Importantly, the result raised the question of whether the Greens might go the same way as the now (almost) defunct Australian Democrats.

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Rainbow Revolution: Why Mitt Romney’s Defeat is Bad News for Tony Abbott

While predicted by most pollsters, the defeat of Republican Mitt Romney in last week’s presidential election confounded some of the orthodoxies of modern politics.

In spite of a stalled economy and a poisonous political environment, on election day Romney’s lead among white Americans, evangelical Christians and the elderly was no match for Obama’s’rainbow coalition’ of Hispanic, black, single women, gay and younger voters.

Obama has become the first President since Roosevelt to win re-election with such a high unemployment rate and only the second Democrat since World War II to win a second term. So if it wasn’t the economy then what was it?

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Malcolm in the Middle?

For more than a year the Coalition has held a seemingly unassailable lead in the opinion polls. But after a bruising few months of media gaffes, speculation about his university days and damaging outbursts from some high-profile supporters (Corey Bernadi and Alan Jones), Tony Abbott’s march to the Lodge is looking less like a sprint and more like a hurdle race.

While Abbott has continued his ‘Great Big Campaign Against Everything’, Malcolm Turnbull has been busy carving out an alternative vision for his party and the nation. It may well prove attractive to his colleagues if the tide continues to move Labor’s way in the opinion polls.

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Leadership and the Power of Persuasion

Julia Gillard’s speech on sexism not only made headlines for its explosive content, its electrifying delivery was certainly uncharacteristic of a Prime Minister often accused of being ‘wooden’ and ‘contrived’.

Gillard’s difficulties with political communication are not unique and many other leaders have struggled to strike the right chord in their conversations with the electorate. In fact, in modern politics, the way the message is conveyed can prove just as influential as the message itself, in terms of shaping impressions of a leader and constructing their political persona.

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Great Expectations and the Audacity of Nope

Barack Obama was swept to office on a wave of optimism as America heeded his clarion call for change.

Just four years on, his agenda has been frustrated by a hostile senate and a faltering economy. The president’s bold “yes we can” has been replaced with a more cautious, “maybe we can, if …”.

In casting a much narrower net in his pitch for a second term, the president is seeking to overcome a challenge that has crippled the Australian Labor Government since its election in 2007: balancing the hope and aspiration of opposition with the cold, hard realities of office.

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Dangerous Liaisons?

The decision of the Prime Minister to withdraw from the ACL’s conference has raised questions about the capacity of political leaders to legitimise or challenge the views of particular groups.

Jim Wallace’s most recent diatribe has left no doubt that the ACL is not representative of the Christian community; rather it is the mouthpiece of a hardline minority.

How to manage such groups is vexed in a pluralist democracy like Australia. While some advocate starving them of oxygen, for others confronting discriminatory language is seen as the only way to defeat it.

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Abbott’s Race Against Time

As the damning opinion polls continue to mount, many commentators are already writing the Prime Minister’s political obituary, but if history is anything to go by, the potential for the Leader of the Opposition to face a political execution of his own, should not be discounted.

This claim may seem fanciful when one considers the dominance of the party Mr Abbott leads in the opinion polls, but should he survive as Opposition Leader to the next election, he will be the exception to opposition politics in Australia, rather than the rule.

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Dr Who? The Gillard Puzzle Too Tricky To Solve

Australians are hopelessly torn between an Opposition Leader who opposes everything and a Prime Minister who stands for nothing.

At least that appears to be the brutal assessment of many voters uncomfortable with Tony Abbott’s approach to politics, but struggling to understand the agenda of Gillard Labor.

Part of the problem rests with the Prime Minister herself.  Despite initially promising to move the nation forward, the Gillard prime ministership has been associated more with policy u-turns than forward motion.

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Risky Business – War on the Greens Will Hurt Labor

Moves by leading figures in the ALP to ‘declare war’ on the Australian Greens appear to be part of a strategy of political product differentiation that risks further undermining the former’s electoral appeal.

In recent days Labor politicians have derided the Greens as “extreme” and “immature” and some in the ALP have even advocated directing preferences to the Coalition and Family First ahead of the minor party at the next federal election.

This seems to be based on the belief that by attacking the Greens Labor can return some of its disillusioned base to the fold. While Labor’s Left faction may argue this represents an opportunity to break the minor party’s hold over left-wing politics in Australia, the political antidote they propose is in effect a shift to the right in the form of a Labor/Liberal pact to ‘lock-out’ the Greens.

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Economic ‘White Knights’ Will Come At A Cost

You don’t have to be a conspiracy theorist to see the network of wealth and privilege gathering strength in Australia.

Whether they are rallying against the mining and carbon taxes or seeking to use the media to promote their views, the rich and powerful are muscling-up and the pendulum of our democracy is well and truly swinging in their favour.

The latest play by mining magnate Gina Rinehart to bring Fairfax to heel is another chapter in this protracted battle for our nation’s future.

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Abbott’s Uncertain Legacy

he old refrain that ‘oppositions don’t win elections, governments lose them’ is certainly true of the Abbott ascendancy.

The Opposition has not achieved its position of dominance in the polls by mapping out an alternate vision for the nation; rather, it has sought to tap into a thick vein of community resentment towards the Government.

This ‘small-target strategy’ has been a mainstay of oppositions from both sides of politics for decades, but whether it’s good for voters is another story.

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Unrivalled Blood Sport

It’s hard to think of a time when national politics has been more divisive, venomous and downright nasty. The latest focal point is the scandal engulfing former Labor and now crossbench MP Craig Thomson. This has dominated news coverage for weeks and threatens to derail the Government.

The media interest in the Thomson matter is understandable at one level – after all, in this finely balanced Parliament, the Government is just one seat away from oblivion – but the intensity of this interest and the saturation of coverage is symptomatic of a broader culture that is corroding our politics.

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