Labor’s highlights from a low decade

kimfinger.jpgWhile we’re paying tribute to John Howard, we mustn’t forget to give credit to the group who did more than anything to give the PM ten years in office – the Labor party. So to go with my list of John Howard’s ten greatest achievements of the last decade, here are the Opposition’s.

  1. Winning the 1998 election. It seems hard to imagine given his more recent performances, but Kim Beazley actually performed very well initially, winning the majority of the votes in the GST poll. But unfortunately they were in the wrong places, leaving the Coalition with the majority of seats.
  2. Affirmative action. Labor has vowed to improve women’s position in Australian politics via a quota system. And their electoral performance has brought more women in politics than ever before – in the Liberal Party, as female candidates like Jackie Kelly won surprise victories in former safe Labor seats.
  3. Kim Beazley’s ‘small target’ strategy. Copied for the 2001 election from Howard’s successful approach in 1996, a man of Beazley’s proportions – not to mention one who uses words that are even bigger – was brave to try this on. But he ultimately succeeded brilliantly, being completely invisible throughout the campaign.
  4. Latham’s ‘troops home by Christmas’ pledge. He didn’t manage to achieve this pledge, made on the run to the great consternation of his party. But he did manage to get himself sent home by New Year.
  5. Stance on refugees. Labor has been heavily criticised for mimicking the Liberals’ hardline mandatory detention policy. But in fairness, they did accept one refugee. Unfortunately, it was Cheryl Kernot.
  6. Crean’s attempt to break union dominance. While he couldn’t break the unions’ influence in the party, he did succeed in destroying the influence of one former ACTU leader – himself. He would have been better off adopting the Howard method, and just breaking the unions.
  7. Barry Jones’ Knowledge Nation diagram. You needed a Ph.D just to be able to understand why it was ridiculous.
  8. Bomber Beazley standing ‘shoulder to shoulder’ with the PM against terrorism. So closely, in fact, that there was no reason whatsoever to vote for him instead.
  9. Latham’s tsunami silence. The greatest catastrophe in living memory hits – no, not his leadership, the Boxing Day tsunami – and Latham can’t be bothered making any kind of comment whatsoever. Even a quick mumbled statement from his sickbed would have sufficed, if necessary. It quickly became clear that his political career would also perish in the disaster.
  10. Reappointing Kim Beazley. After the Latham disaster, they needed a new leader to turn around the party’s losing record. But instead they brought back Kim Beazley, and the only record he has in his sights is equalling Arthur Calwell and Doc Evatt’s achievement of losing three elections. John Howard couldn’t have become a latter-day Menzies without Opposition as lacklustre as the great man had.