Why Combet is right (and Labor is wrong)

By | 2013/05/13

In Combet Blasts ALP whingers, The Age outlines a recent speech by Greg Combet, Minister for Climate Change which was apparently quite fiery.

Mr Combet used four-letter words to rebuke those who claimed Labor didn’t know what it stood for any more and that it had lost its values.

Combet Blasts ALP whingers, Chris Johnson, The Age, May 12, 2013

The sad thing is – Greg Combet is right.

Labor does know what it stands for. It also still has values. That’s not necessarily a good thing, however.

Consider some of the things Labor stands for:

  • National Broadband Network – great idea.
  • National Disability Insurance Scheme – great idea.
  • Improving Primary and Secondary school funding – great idea.
  • Improving that funding by siphoning funding from Tertiary education – not so great an idea.
  • Imprisoning asylum seekers who have arrived by boat in harsh, dehumanising conditions, often for years.
  • Placing some asylum seekers in the community, with strict requirements not to work and below-minimum funding, leaving them in crippling poverty.
  • Being unwilling to sufficiently lift unemployment benefits, leaving people without a job in critically poor circumstances.

Sure, Labor knows what it stands for. Sure, Labor still has values.

But to suggest all those tenets it stands for are beyond reproach, and to suggest all its values are beyond reproach, is to stand on the edge of insanity and scream out for your winged monkeys.

Combet is right – Labor knows what it stands for, Labor still has values.

But a demand that we stop criticising, that we stop agitating for change, is, whether Combet would care to admit it or not, is at the core of what’s wrong with politics in Australia. Politics is about agitation. A long-held opinion of many commentators and historians in Australia is that by and opposition parties aren’t voted in, incumbents are voted out.

Maybe one of the reasons they’re voted out is because they become intransigent. Combet – and others like him – would do well to stop using four letter words and start using a six letter word: listen.