Not Dead Yet: The future of progressive politics in Australia
An evening with Mark Latham
Last night, I attended Mark Latham’s talk/book launch at the University of Melbourne. While he wasn’t quite as outspoken as I’d have liked, he certainly had some interesting things to say, for better or for worse.
The overall theme of the talk, unsurprisingly, was how the ALP needs to unite itself in order to move forward, and remove the influence of the “subfactional warlords” (he used that phrase more times than I could even count, seriously, it really lost its punch after a while). He talked about how the ALP was split into about 25 different factions that couldn’t agree with each other, and that needs to change. Additionally, he expressed confidence in the new ballot system used to elect new leader Bill Shorten, praising the fact that the ALP rank-and-file now had more influence - he suggested that they should have more influence, taking power away from the subfactional warlords and putting it into the hands of party members, which I thought was a pretty interesting idea. He emphasised multiple times that the party needs to find a few key issues and really focus in on them, rather than trying to solve every problem at once, as that’s when things get divisive. I agree in theory - the problem is that everybody thinks their own issue is important.
A few times, though, I found myself nodding along and agreeing with something only to suddenly stop and say “wait, WHAT?” The most memorable of these moments came when he was talking about climate change, which, according to him, is one of the few areas that the ALP and the Greens can agree on. However, he actually criticised people like Tim Flannery and Adam Bandt for focussing on localised weather events, such as the NSW bushfires or the QLD floods a few years ago. Latham said that by focussing on “flukey” (his word, not mine!) weather events, Bandt and Flannery were taking the focus away from the long-term effects of climate change.
This is where I completely disagree. In politics, it’s extremely hard to make people see things in the long term, let alone think of them as important. The point is, these apparently “flukey” weather events are anything but - they’re happening more often and with more severity, emphasising the fact that climate change is indeed occurring! This is the political stance that needs to be taken, backed UP by long term evidence of climate change. People are always going to be impacted more by what’s happening right in front of them, especially if it’s something as dramatic as the NSW fires.
Otherwise, things were fairly predictable. Latham slammed Kim Carr at every opportunity he got, managing to work him in even when he (seemingly) wasn’t related to the topic at hand! However, no true outbursts occurred - alas!
I didn’t get a chance to buy the book as I didn’t have any cash, but I am looking forward to reading it. Latham can be sensible when he wants to be, and his opinions on party unity are pretty solid. He has hope for Labor’s future, as do I, and he was obviously pleased to be past the frustration of the Gillard/Rudd government.
This is probably just a big rambly mess, and I might remember certain things I’ve forgotten, but I really just wanted to bring up the climate change stuff, as his opinion there really baffled me.
It was definitely well worth going to, that’s for sure!