That the pundits are even idly speculating down in Hobart that the Greens might end up with more seats than Labor at the forthcoming Tasmanian state election tells us something about the changing nature of left of centre politics. Labor has devoted so much effort chasing Liberals to the right that the only real opposition to conservative thought these days comes from the Greens.
Down south it might be environmental issues where Labor most noticeably has deserted its progressive principles but federally it is asylum seeker policy. How pathetic it is to observe the embarrassing silence with which Labor reacts to the horrors of Manus island. Having been the architect of this inhumane offshore detention policy the party is incapable of being a critic. What a depressing legacy Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard left behind them in their searches to survive as Prime Ministers.
Dennis Altman, a long ago fellow student at the University of Tasmania and now Professorial Fellow in Human Security at La Trobe University, has written at Inside Story on how “Labor seeks to be a progressive party while running away from any policies that might actually challenge the orthodoxy of the conservative press.”
Labor has yet to find a convincing definition of progressive politics that is more than a wishlist of discrete policies. Any serious questioning of the mantra of growth and consumption is regarded as electoral suicide. The party is trapped in the legacy of economic rationalism, which leads to the contradictory position of its current leaders, who simultaneously talk about the need to focus on climate change while also increasing economic growth.
That analysis seems spot on to me. As does his assessment that Labor will never again win a majority in its own right. Altman’s analysis is well worth the reading.