Home > ALP > Despite Julia Gillard’s Support for Neoliberalism, Now is the Time for Progressives to Back Her

Despite Julia Gillard’s Support for Neoliberalism, Now is the Time for Progressives to Back Her

Australia has a new Prime Minister after the bursting of the Rudd asset price bubble. As I stated long ago, when the Rudd bubble was in full flight, his leadership of the ALP was based on little else but his high poll numbers. These numbers were a bubble, I had argued, for Rudd was a leader distinctly lacking in substance.

Mark Latham summed him up very well in his diaries.

I had stated that the Rudd bubble might prove to be a dilemma for the ALP in the future. I had not expected that the bubble would burst so suddenly and with such force. If the property bubble, that the former PM has helped to sustain, bursts like the Rudd bubble then heaven help us.

Julia Gillard has achieved the highest political office in the land by betraying her socialist beliefs and her core working class constituency. If she had not done either of these things during the course of her political career, rather than being PM, she would be organising the next Altona ALP chook raffle. Lindsay Tanner, who has done the same, was right to have characterised her as a “careerist”.

In the Tanner lexicon no pejorative ranks higher.

Although in media commentary much as been made of Gillard’s working class roots, this all should not be taken too seriously. Gillard has announced, loudly and clearly, her whole hearted support for neoliberalism and her dedication towards the further pursuit of neoliberal reforms.

The Age reports newly minted PM Gillard as stating today that

“I give credit to the Labor giants Bob Hawke and Paul Keating as the architects of today’s modern prosperity,” she said.

“I give credit to John Howard and Peter Costello for continuing these reforms,” she said

These remarks are truly amazing. The former socialist Gillard even has gone so far as to praise Howard and Costello for continuing and extending neoliberal reforms!! This is how low the ALP has sunk since Gough Whitlam took away the power of the organisational wing.

If Gillard stays true to these comments then this change over will amount to what Keating would have called “embroidery.” Gillard might change the style and packaging of neoliberal Labor, but the essential commitment to neoliberalism, one of the defining features of the Rudd leadership, will continue to obtain.

The ALP power hierarchy will remain committed to neoliberal policies and programs so long as the current structure of the party endures. The ALP requires root and branch reform if it is to return to being a genuine working class party.

Changing leaders could be a start. However, if so the new leader would need to be dedicated toward the dismantling of the Hawke-Keating legacy. That, Gillard has stated, she won’t do. Quite the opposite. She will continue the neoliberal programs that Hawke and Keating, but also Howard and Costello, did so much to bring into being.

There can be little doubt ,however, that a Gillard government would be better than an Abbott government. It would truly be a disaster for progressive politics in Australia if Abbott should win the next election. He is a rabid right wing extremist. So are the people pushing his cart.

I don’t expect much from Gillard, but in saying this I nonetheless maintain that she should be supported by progressives. Those of a left wing persuasion should not allow their justified scepticism of Gillard to obscure the huge stakes involved in the next election.

I sincerely hope that both she and the ALP win the next election. When she does, we should continue the struggle against neoliberalism. That, judging by these remarks, will mean that the Australian left will end up opposing her.

I submit that now is definitely not the time for all that. I submit that it is possible for progressives to support Gillard but also at the same time to continue to work against neoliberal policy and ideology.

Surely Gillard still has some place inside her that remains true to her old fiery and passionate commitment to social justice. I don’t think there was anything of that in Rudd. If there was, he kept it very well hidden.

Hopefully, some of that old passion will emerge during her leadership. I personally doubt that it will, but we always have “the audacity of hope.”

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