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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Whitlam’s legacy belongs to all progressives

The passing of former prime minister Gough Whitlam yesterday saw the eruption of a rare period of multi-partisanship as figures from across the political spectrum paid tribute to the man who changed the nation.

Among them were the Greens who shared an image online celebrating Whitlam’s abolition of university fees in 1974. The image, accompanied with the text, ‘Whitlam’s legacy for a progressive Australia will be remembered – Vale Gough Whitlam’ and a Greens logo, was met with ire from some Labor MPs who accused the party of “body snatching” and “appropriating a leader’s death” for their own political ends.

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Rudd’s Greatest Moral Challenge

Kevin Rudd has begun his second term as Prime Minister in much the same way as he ended his first, with back-flips and dog-whistles on immigration. Through his latest capitulation to Tony Abbott, Rudd 2.0 is providing more than just neat symmetry. He has left no doubt that win or lose this election, the conservative side of politics will continue to shape Australia’s asylum seeker policy. It’s an error that will have serious consequences for his party and our nation.

While it’s been in office for almost 6 years, many Australians are still unsure about what their Labor Government stands for.  Part of this stems from Labor’s inability to use the authority of incumbency to set the political agenda.

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Primaries Won’t Solve Our Political Problems

As the ALP battles to wrest control from the ‘faceless men’ of its party machine, Labor leaders from Steve Bracks to Mark Latham have argued for the co-option of US-style primaries.

While US elections may appear to be the ultimate festivals of democracy, all that glitters is not gold and we must be wary of embracing an alternative political system that is far from perfect.

In fact, primary-style pre-selections would radically change our democracy.

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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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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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Labor Losing Votes Left, Right and Centre

Under Prime Minister Julia Gillard, support for the ALP is at historically low levels. It is often argued that the hung parliament has precipitated this crisis; that by holding Labor to ransom the Greens have imposed a range of “extreme policies” on the Government and distanced it from “mainstream” Australia.

But rather than being too close to the Greens, it is Labor’s capitulation to the agenda of Opposition Leader Tony Abbott that has alienated its base. In fact, Labor has lost 4 per cent of its primary vote to the Greens since it won office five years ago.

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