Polswatch

Outlining a Progressive Future

Fighting for Paid Parental Leave

In developing news in Australia, the Greens are to introduce legislation into the Senate to set up a Government funded paid parental leave. In an e-mail to supporters, Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young wrote:

Women in United Kingdom and Japan have it. Women in Estonia, Sweden, Canada and France have it. But women in Australia still don’t have access to a government-funded paid parental leave scheme. 

We’re closer than ever to getting a paid parental leave scheme. Eighty-two percent of Australians support it. The Productivity Commission says it will be good for women, good for babies and good for the economy. Even Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says it’s time to ‘bite the bullet’ on paid parental leave, but he still hasn’t made a commitment. 

Today I announced that the Greens are taking action on this important issue. I will be introducing a Bill for a government-funded, 26-week paid parental leave scheme – and we need your support to make it law. 

This announcement comes after a long campaign from the union and women’s’ movement to have paid parental leave written into law and is important as it will force the Government to show its hand on whether or not it supports a Government funded paid parental leave. After the election the Rudd Government seemed almost certain that it would adopt a paid parental leave scheme, but after it was not put into the May budget in 2008 and with statements that have seen the Government wavering in its support (apparently due to the Global Financial Crisis), it is now unclear as to whether we will see paid parental leave introduced in 2009.

Why should we be fighting for paid parental leave?

Paid parental leave is an essential component to any industrial relations scheme that has any desire to see the gap between the earnings and opportunities between women and men be bridged. Reports now show that women in Australia potentially earn 1 million dollars less over their lifetime than men. Whilst these figures are due to a mix of reasons (including the continued sexism within the workforce) the issue of childbearing and the sexism that continues to result from this issue is still a major problem. By introducing a paid parental scheme the Government goes someway to reducing this problem. It gives women better opportunities within the workforce and ensures that having a child does not stop women from being able to continue along their desired career path.

The Importance of it being Paid Parental Leave

One of the most important factors of this legislation (and the proposals that I suspect will eventually come from Labor) is that it moves away from paid maternity leave and discusses paid parental leave. Whilst we are never going to change the fact that women will be the ones who are required to be the child bearers, society is now finally questioning the idea that women should be sole person who is responsible for raising a child. By discussing this as paid parental leave rather than paid maternity leave and by giving men the opportunity to access this service to raise children we ensure that we do not revert back wholly to a situation where women are seen as the only ones who should be responsible for raising a child. This creates a fairer system where the parents have the opportunity to discuss and decide on their own how responsibilities should be split, rather than being told that it is the woman’s job to raise the child.

Second to this, introducing paid paternal leave over paid maternal leave creates a fair system for those who don’t fit into the heteronormative ideals of how families should work. By introducing paid paternal leave over paid maternal leave we ensure that those LGBTI couples who have children and those who adopt children are all given the opportunity to ensure that they can be at home to look after their children in their early stages, whilst not being punished in the workforce. 

It is great to see that we are now seeing more and more action on this issue in Australia and I look forward to this legislation or something similar becoming law in the near future. I call on the Government to adopt this legislation in the next budget and take the next step in ensuring that discrimination within the workforce for women and parents is finally put to an end. 

 

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April 29, 2009 Posted by | Human Rights, Options for a Progressive Future | , , | Leave a comment

Major Development for 2010 – Arlen Spector Switches Sides

It a major coup for the Democrats in the United States, Republican Senator Arlen Specter has today announced that he will be switching parties and will now become a member of and run in the 2010 primary for the Democratic Party. Specter has recently fallen under immense pressure from within the Republican Party as primary challenger Pat Toomey looked certain to beat him in the 2010 primary vote. Toomey launched his bid against Specter just weeks ago and looked certain to gain victory in a state that’s Republican Party has recently taken a sharp turn to the right as hoards of moderates have fled to join the Democrats. This left the moderate, but popular (state wide), Specter extremely vulnerable to his conservative challenger and almost certain to lose. Specter stated this shift to the right as his main reason for switching parties.

The move, with the almost certain victory in Minnesota for Al Franken will give the Democrats the magic 60 Senators, a number that ensures that they can now overcome a Republican filibuster and pass any required legislation. This means that Democrats now will technically not have to deal with the Republican Party in any way in the Senate and will be able to pass a large number of the sweeping changes that they desire. Although the Democrats must be careful with this increase in power, this provides a great opportunity for them to continue to push their more left wing agenda in the next two years.

This must be a big wake up call for the Republicans in the US. With the continued rightward shift of the party it looks almost certain that these sorts of shifts from moderates will continue to occur. Whilst this isn’t likely to occur in Congress (as there are very few moderates left) it will almost certainly continue to occur with the general voting population. Candidates such as Pat Toomey are popular with conservative voters, but are simply far too decisive and to the right of a population that is taking a left turn. Arlen Specter is just doing what millions of voters around the country have done in the past years in the United States and rejected the far right agenda of the Republican Party. I am almost certain that if the party continues with this far right agenda through supporting candidates such as Pat Toomey that they will face continued destruction in 2010. 

Read more at my previous post on ‘Will the Republicans Continue to Crumble in 2010’ and at the Tally Room and Daily Kos

April 28, 2009 Posted by | Analysing the Right, Monitering the Left | , , , , | 2 Comments

Will the Republicans Continue to Crumble in 2010?

It is said in the United States that the first 100 days of Presidents tenure are the most productive as it is during those days that the President is best able to use their political capital without needing to focus on the mid-term elections. Now, with Barack Obama’s first 100 days coming to a close I thought I would take this opportunity to look at the prospects of the 2010 election and what I predict will be a continued downfall for the Republican Party. In this post I will have a look at the three main areas of competition in 2010 (House of Representatives, Senate and Gubernatorial Races) and discuss the prospects of the Democrats and Republicans in these areas.

House of Representatives

At such an early stage it is extremely difficult to predict how the House of Representatives races will go in 2010. As House of Representative races occur on a much smaller scale than Senate and Gubernatorial races, far less work and fundraising efforts are required. This means that at this point of time potential candidates have still not appeared and races have not really begun, meaning it is difficult to tell what will happen. However, even with that a couple of key indicators are pointing towards another strong Democratic showing in 2010. These are:

  1. The approval rating of the Congress has risen recently. Now, approximately 30-35% of people approve of Congress, compared to the average 20-25% that occurred during the last House of Reps tenure. Given that the Democrats did so well in the last period, one could assume that with increased popularity they would continue to do well at the next election.
  2. The percentage of people who think that the United States are going  in the right direction has risen dramatically. Although this may be due to a change in President, when this occurs it normally points towards status quo elections, which would mean continued Democratic strength.

For a good discussion on the possibilities of a Republican rebound in the House of Representatives read this article

Senate

Although it is difficult to predict the House of Representative at this point of time, indicators of how the Senate will go are becoming much clearer and it looks good for the Democrats. With almost double the amount of Republicans up for election in 2010 than Democrats and a few key retirements the Democrats have a number of things going their way in 2010. Here are some of the key issues:

Retirements: At the current time Senators from 5 states ( Judd Gregg from New Hampshire, George Voinovich from Ohio, Kit Bond from Missouri, Mel Martinez from Florida and Sam Brownback from Kansas) have announced their retirements in 2010, with the possibility that two to three more will announce that they are retiring in the near future (Oklahoma (if Tim Coburn decides to retire as he has indicated he might), Texas (if Kay Hutchison retires to run in the primary for Governor, creating a special election) and Kentucky (if Jim Bunning buckles to pressure to resign from the seat). Although Kansas probably lost its only chance for a Democratic Senator with Kathleen Sebelius being elevated to the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, the Democrats are almost certain to pick up the extremely blue leaning New Hampshire and Ohio and will be extremely competitive in Missouri and Florida depending on candidates. 

Conservative Challenges: With the hardening of the right base in the Republican Party over the past years, there are now a number of possible conservative challengers to more moderate Republican Senators. This is creating a great conundrum for the Republican Party. Whilst conservative candidates are now more likely to win Republican primaries (due to the exodus of moderates from the party) they are far less likely to win in a general election, where in states like Pennsylvania (where conservative Pat Toomey is likely to beat Senator Arlen Spector in the primary race) and Arizona (where conservative Chris Simcox is challenging John McCain) moderate candidates are preferred.

Vulnerable Senators: The Republicans also have two very vulnerable Senators in Jim Bunning representing Kentucky and Richard Burr in North Carolina. Bunning has made a number of gaffs in his time in office (including stating the Ruth Bader Ginsburg will be dead in 9 months after her cancer operation), is growing extremely unpopular and has a dismal fundraising record. However, even with strong pressure from within the party to remove Bunning, he looks unlikely to step down and is yet to face any primary challengers. This leaves the Democrats with a strong chance of picking up the seat. Richard Burr is facing some of the same problems Elizabeth Dole face in 2008. North Caroline is becoming bluer and Burr is suffering due to that. This means that he will likely face a strong challenge for his seat in 2010.

Vulnerable Democrats: It is important to note that there are a few vulnerable Democrats as well (although there are no retirements). The most vulnerable of these is Senator Chris Dodd (Connecticut) who is under a lot of pressure over his dealings with the bank bail outs. Dodd is facing a number of challengers and will have a tough run for re-election. Republicans also like to point towards Roland Burris in Illinois and Harry Reid in Nevada as possible vulnerable candidates. However, with Burris likely to lose a primary challenge and Reid having a huge incumbency advantage and election war chest, it is extremely unlikely that the Republicans will pick up these seats. 

Overall, it seems almost certain the Democrats will pick up seats in New Hampshire, Ohio and Pennsylvania, with strong challenges being played out in Missouri, Florida, Kentucky, North Carolina and Connecticut. This would lead to the Democrats finally picking up the 60 seats required to defeat a filibuster.

Gubernatorial Races

It is the gubernatorial races however that will provide the most hope for the Republicans in 2010. With retirements/term by Democrats occurring in such states conservative states as Kansas, Oklahoma and Wyoming the Republicans seem likely to pick up some new Governorships. However, these states are by no means big prizes and where the Republicans win here they are more than likely to lose elsewhere. The biggest chance for loss for the Republicans will be the state of California, where Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger will be forced out due to term limits. The race will be tight with strong candidates emerging on both sides, but with the inherent blue nature of California one would predict a Democrat win.

The other big race will be in New York. With current Governor David Paterson facing low approval ratings in the state and possible primary challenges, this race could be tight. This is especially true as there is now talk that former New York Mayor and Republican Presidential Candidate Rudolf Giuliani may be considering running in the race, giving the Republicans a strong candidate. However, it is still extremely early to tell at this point of time, although I would predict that Giuliani would win the race if he ran.

Conclusion

Overall, things look good for the Democrats in 2010. With a strengthening conservative base in the United States and a growing rejection of this base, Democrats are looking stronger than ever in the United States and in my opinion will continue to grow in 2010. What this will do to the Republicans and conservative movement in the United States I am not sure about, but it will definitely create even more turmoil than that we are seeing at the moment.   



April 26, 2009 Posted by | Monitering the Left | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Where is the Left At? – United States

After discussing the left in Australia I now turn towards the United States and have a look at where I see the left stands in one of the most influential countries in the world. The left is definitely on the rise in the United States and is growing stronger every year. Both in legislative and issue based politics it is clear that the left is gaining strength and will continue to do so in the future.

Legislative

Unlike Australia where the left is split between two parties in the country, the left in the United States almost solely focuses its efforts into the Democratic Party. This is due to the extremely strong two party nature of the American system and although parties such as the Greens and other minor left parties are growing slightly, they still have very little influence beyond local elections. This is unfortunately likely to continue to occur as it is extremely unlikely that we will see a change in the American political system that would provide more opportunities for third parties. Therefore, in legislative matters one can measure the current success of the left through (a) looking at the success of the Democratic Party and (b) looking at how left the Democrats have become.

The Democratic Party: The Democrats are currently probably stronger than they have been since the 1960s. The party currently holds control over the Presidency, the Senate (by 18 seats), the House of Representatives (by 79 seats), the majority of state legislatures and the majority of governorships (28-22). With many problems with Senate and Gubernatorial races and a growing approval rate of the Congress in the United States it seems unlikely that this trend will change in the 2010 elections and it is even possible that the Democrats will increase their legislative majorities.

However, having the Democrats in power across the United States does not necessarily mean that the US is a ‘left wing’ country. Just like the Labor Party in Australia there are large and continuing battles within the Democrats between the right and left wing factions of the party. Although the right factions of the Democrats are nowhere near as right wing as their conservative counterparts in the Republicans, they are still far to the right of what the left wants in the Party. So, going beyond asking the question of how the Democratic Party is doing in the United States, one must look at how the left is doing in the Democratic Party. This is an issue that is a lot harder to investigate (as one must have a better knowledge of the respective members in the party); however there are definitely encouraging signs:

  1. The party has definitely moved far away from some of its extremely conservative roots (based around the South in early and mid 20th Century) and has pretty much shed the majority of the extreme conservatives from its membership.
  2. Some of the lefter members of the party are now reaching much higher positions than in the past. For example, whilst leadership positions used to be reserved for conservatives from the South, the leadership in the House of Representatives now consists of Nancy Pelosi and Barney Frank; two who are both considered to be in the left ‘faction’ of the party.
  3. Candidates who are further to the right in the party are now finding it more difficult to get a hold within the parties structure and are being shunned somewhat. One only needs to look at the rise of Kirstin Gillibrand to the New York Senate and the many promises that a primary challenge (which would most likely succeed) after it occurred as evidence of this.

However, this does not necessarily mean that US legislators are just as left as their left counterparts around the world as due to the historic right wing nature of American Politics, the left wing in the United States is still not as left as is seen by left wing parties in other parts of the world.

However, it is clear that the US and the Democrats have taken a left turn in the past 5 or so years and the question then must be, do the American people like and accept this lefter turn from the party? One must assume that with the massive victories of the Democrats, which have been created by these ‘lefter’ candidates, over the past two election cycles and the probably victories in 2010 that the answer to this is a yes. With increasing Democratic Registrations, along with decreasing Republican ones and an increasing number of people identifying themselves as ‘liberal’ or ‘extremely liberal’ it is clear that people are becoming more accepting of the left movement. Why and how this has happened is definitely a topic for another post. However, what is certain about this is that it is creating a stronger acceptance of such left shifts as health care reform, gay and women’s rights reform, climate change action etc. Although many of these such reforms have been attempted by Democrats in the past (i.e. Bill Clinton and health care), with the much stronger left wing presence in the house and senate at the moment such reforms are much more likely at the current time.  

Moving Beyond the Legislature

Of course, the left does not just exist within the halls of the legislature and the party room and the different left movements that exist around the country definitely require some mention. Just like the rest of the world, the left pressure movement in the US can be separated into broader umbrella groups and more issue focused groups. On the broader scale one can look at organisations such as MoveOn.org  as probably the strongest and largest growing left wing political pressure group in the country. Regarding information based sites; the numbers of left blog sites in the United States is huge, with site such as The Daily Kos, providing a great example of how these sites can continue to push left thought. It is interesting to note that just like GetUp in Australia, these groups are benefiting greatly through their use of the internet, an issue that continue to plague the right in the United States.

On the issue based politics, one can definitely see major continued growth occurring in the climate, gay rights, women’s, union, immigration and many other left based movements within the United States. Many of these movements are now seeing major victories in the country(for example gay marriage victories in a number of states and the first substantial climate based legislation being introduced into Congress in the past weeks) after what has been some very difficult years for these movements. However, just like the rest of the world there is the continued question of how to bring these movements together to provide a stronger and more united left wing movement. This is not something that I have time to go into on this post however.

I hope this has given a good overview, although very brief, of where the left is positioned in the United States at the moment. I appreciate that I will have left a lot of things out of this post, but will hope to begin filling in these gaps in the future as I continue to discuss the forward movement of the left in the United States.  

April 25, 2009 Posted by | Analysing the Left | , , , | Leave a comment

The Gay Storm is Coming – Let it Rain!

 

When I first saw this video I thought it was so stupid that I wouldn’t bother putting up a post about it. However, with a number of parodies of the video now emerging, I cannot help myself but to write a post about this. The video is an add released by the ‘National Organisation for Marriage’ (NOM), which targets gay marriage in the United States. It uses the analogy of a ‘storm brewing’ (gay marriage), which is threatening to take away the freedoms of non-gay people. You can see the video here.

There are a few things that strike me about this video:

  1. The absolute bigotry of it and the people involved (the use of the ‘storm of gay people making people scared’ is probably the most bigoted part of this ad).
  2. The usage of ‘freedom’. Knowing that there are no logical arguments against gay marriage this add is now trying to shift the issue towards a discussion of gay marriage as ‘taking away peoples’ rights’. There is no real discussion of how same-sex marriage does this, but rather a bunch of statements that make no sense (i.e. the California doctor). The anti gay movement is obviously doing this as they know that in the long run they are going to lose the battle if they just use religion as a reason for objecting to gay marriage. They are therefore using the term ‘freedom’ as a new way to try to hold onto those who are changing their minds about same-sex marriage. However, instead of being an effective campaign tool, using ‘freedom’ makes this campaign look both ridiculous and hypocritical (given that this campaign is trying to refuse people from freely being able to marry who they love).
  3. Describing Same-Sex Marriage Advocates as going beyond same sex marriage: The ad doesn’t in any way describe how same-sex marriage advocates are going beyond advocating same-sex marriage and I still have no idea what they are talking about. What I do know however, is that talking about same-sex marriage advocates’ going beyond same-sex marriage simply adds to the ridiculous nature of this ad.
  4. The use of the doctor, the mother and the churchgoer: These ones are interesting as they make no sense (doctor), argue for the same-sex movement (mother), or again, make no sense (church goer).

Doctor: Call me ignorant but I still can’t see how having same-sex marriage would force a doctor to choose between their job and their faith (unless she is talking about a situation where she was forced to let a member of a same sex couple make decisions about their partners health, in which case it’s none of her business and if she has a problem with that she deserves to lose her job).

Mother: Yes, gay people do want children to be taught that being gay is okay. What is your point?? Teaching children acceptance of all people should be something that we are promoting, not something we are discouraging.

Church Goer: Given that New Jersey doesn’t allow gay marriage, I’m not quite sure how the state could punish a church that doesn’t accept it (although they should).

For some more discussion on these three people, check this video.

Overall, this is a typical bigoted, hypocritical and disgusting anti LGBTI ad. However, through lacking any logical arguments, facts or ideas (just like the anti-gay movement as a whole); this ad is also simply ridiculous and stupid.

But, we have hope.  Through parodying the ad (the one I have provided a link to is my favourite and notably contains the actor who plays Elliot in Scrubs) and pointing out the ridiculous nature of NOMs arguments a group of comedians, actors and activists are joining those already committed people around the world to fight for a better and fairer future for same sex couples and an end to the bigotry of groups like NOM. It is great to see parodies like the one above and to see the gay rights movement continue to grow (to the extent where the anti-gay movement are now becoming scared enough that they are moving towards using such ideas as ‘freedom’ as a reason to be anti-gay) and I look forward to seeing the continued targeting of the anti-gay movement in the future until it falls.

April 23, 2009 Posted by | Analysing the Right, Human Rights | , | 2 Comments

A One Child Policy for Australia?

 

Ex-Democrat MP for South Australia has recently called for the implementation of policies similar to a one-child policy for Australia (through having such things as paid maternity leave and the baby bonus only be available for a woman’s first child). Sandra Kanck, who now heads the group ‘Sustainable Population Australia’ has argued that such a policy is important to reduce the strain on Australia’s resources.

Calls such as this show how dangerous discussion on ‘sustainable populations’ can be when targeted at people’s rights to have children. Having a one child policy in Australia would do no good for the country and would simply create a large amount of social harm. The problems around such a policy are many:

  1. It takes away people’s rights: I strongly believe in the right for one to practice their desired sexual experiences as they wish (as long as consent is provided by all parties) and believe that having children is a part of this experience. I therefore have serious problems with stopping people from having children as I see it as a fundamental removal of one’s sexual rights.
  2. It isn’t needed: Nearly any study in Australia will show you that birth rates are dropping dramatically in the country as young people move away from having a desire to have children. Whilst this isn’t going to create a drop in population at the moment (as death rates are also dropping) in the future it will. This will be an issue for Australia as a smaller young population is required to support the growing older population. No one quite knows how this will work with the current population, but the introduction of a one child policy would only make things worse.
  3. It creates social harm and doesn’t work: If China’s one child policy has done any good, it has been to show us how bad one child policies are. Whilst I cannot predict the sort of problems a child policy or similar in Australia would lead too I can bet that serious problems would begin to occur. Taking away ones right to have children is a huge experiment for a society, which experience has shown will create serious harm. I don’t want this to be an experiment Australia makes.  
  4. It’s not the answer: Most evidence will tell you that if you want to drop population rates all you need to do is create effective family planning measures within a society. Australia has these measures and it is for that reason that we are seeing drops in our birth rates. Adding one child policies on top of these effective methods simply adds a draconian measure that creates a large amount of harm with very little benefit. If we are and ‘Sustainable Population Australia’ are serious are population reduction we should be investing more into effective family planning measures in areas where they are unavailable, which is where we currently see huge growth in populations.

I hope to see Australia and most importantly the environment movement in Australia distance itself from such calls from ‘Sustainable Population Australia’. The solution to the environmental crisis is not to stop people from having children, but rather:

  1.  To invest in family planning for areas where birth rates are growing and
  2.  To invest properly in sustainable policies, such as clean energy and water efficient measures.

‘Sustainable Population Australia’ should be advised that targeting the rights of people to have children is not only draconian but is simply stupid and if they want to create a ‘sustainable population’ it would be much better for them to look at policies that both work and hold onto people’s rights.   

For a more detailed discussion on these issues check out my previous post on ‘The Politics of Population’

April 22, 2009 Posted by | Analysing the Left, Climate Change and the Environment, Human Rights | , , , | 5 Comments

Obama Coming Closer to Going Further into Interrogations

After a long time rejecting the idea, President of the United States, Barack Obama is now opening up to the idea of having a probe into the Bush administration tactics during the war on terror, focused especially around interrogation methods and torture.

It is good to see that Obama is now opening up to this idea. A full investigation, with the possibility of prosecutions to follow (as Obama has now admitted could occur), will ensure that the United States is given a real opportunity to find out about the horrors of the Bush Administration and properly move on from them. As discussed earlier, the US will not be able to properly move on from these past disgraces and ensure that they don’t occur again until adequate recognition and punishment of those who perpetrated them by society occurs. I hope this talk leads to future action and provides a real opportunity for the US to move away from being a nature that accepts torture.

April 21, 2009 Posted by | Options for a Progressive Future, Security, War and Violence | , | 2 Comments

Where is the Left At? – Australia

As part of this blog I am aiming to provide some analysis of the left wing movement and some monitoring on how the left is progressing as a movement. Although I undoubtedly will be unable to cover all aspects of the left around the world, I think this will provide some information as well as topics for debate about the left. In order to start this discussion I will be providing some brief overviews of where the left is situated in different parts of the world (starting with Australia, the US and Europe and then moving to other parts as I read and learn more). I will aim to discuss both the left as legislators as well as the left as ‘movers’ in societies and will discuss what I consider to be the main areas of movement in each place. I will this discussion by looking at Australia.

Legislative

After the election of the Kevin Rudd lead Labor Government in 2007 the left is finding itself in a difficult position. Although the policies of the Labor Party are better than those of the previous government, the party is certainly living up to its standards of being more right wing in government than in opposition and are simply not providing many of the sweeping changes demanded by the left in the country. This is leaving the left movement in a difficult situation where it must decide whether it continues to fight for a left wing agenda within the Labor Party or to turn to a different alternative. At the present time those who are arguing for a shift to a new alternative are pointing to the Greens as the possible answer. The arguments behind these two different movements are relatively simple:

Sticking with Labor: Those who advocate sticking with Labor argue that at the current time we are not likely to see any other party become strong enough to win government in Australia and we therefore must place all out efforts into turning the Labor Party into a true left party. Advocates of this movement argue for left wingers to join the party and fight within it to shift it away from the right.

Shifting to the Greens: Those who advocate for a shift towards the Greens argue that the fight to turn Labor into a real left wing party has been going on for a long time with no results. We therefore, it is argued, must look towards a different alternative. With a growing base the Greens are gaining influence all around the country (sitting in every legislature except QLD and NT) and seem like they will continue to grow in the future. It is argued therefore that the Greens do provide a real alternative for the left that could easily gain much more influence with more support, eliminating the need for the left to deal with the Labor Party.

A Middle Ground?

Although I am a member of the Greens I actually advocate somewhat of a middle ground on this issue at the moment. Although I believe we are never going to see the Labor Party turn into a proper left wing party based around the Labor movement and therefore see the need for an alternative, I also believe we need to continue to fight for more left wing policies within the Labor Party, especially given that it is in Government at the moment. It is here that I see the importance of movements such as GetUp in exercising their ability to influence both public thought and the Government to at least rethink some of their right wing policies. Ensuring this pressure continues also helps the growth of the left in general as well as the Greens as it adds to the general acceptance of the left by the public, who then become more inclined to vote for left candidates.

Outside the Parliament

Of course the left wing movement isn’t just based around parliament house and there is a huge amount of other areas where the left is having an important influence. Whether it be through student politics, unions or local climate groups people on the left are actively participating in the political world to affect the change we need. I think we can see the left do this through two different ways:

1.       Broad Umbrella Groups: The biggest of these is obviously GetUp, who is fighting in my opinion on a broad left wing agenda on a range of different issues. GetUp is doing this mostly and very skilfully through the internet, which is creating great opportunities for the left movement.

2.       Issue Based Groups: Whether it be the environment movement, the union movement, the women’s movement or a large number of other movements around Australia a large percentage of those involved in the left are active in particular issue based groups (this obviously happens on the right as well). Many of these groups are growing in Australia (we are now seeing positive growth in unions, growth in climate movements etc.) and are continuing to greatly influence public debate on particular issues.

Bringing the movements together

As with other left movements around the world I think one of the biggest challenges the left faces in Australia is how to bring everyone together. Whether it be bringing those who argue for the Labor Party or the Greens or those who are focused on one of the many campaigns around the country, the left needs to continue to work to come together to solidify as one movement (obviously with many aims that people can focus on). I think this is occurring in the country (with the growth of such organisations as GetUp), but will continue to argue that more needs to be done. I cannot provide the answers for this at the moment but will rather leave it as a thinking point for future discussion.

This has been a very brief discussion on my perspective of the left wing movement in Australia and one that I hope to add to in future posts. I would be interested to hear what other people think about this and the ideas of where the left sits at the moment. Whilst it is hard to pin down where a movement is at I think it is useful so we can see where it needs to go.

April 19, 2009 Posted by | Analysing the Left, Monitering the Left | , | Leave a comment

Prosecutions Must Follow the Release of the Torture Memos

Yesterday, President of the United States, Barack Obama released the well known ‘torture memos’  of the Bush Administration which outlined the torture methods that were deemed as suitable for use by the CIA in interrogations of suspected terrorists. The memos outlined a number of methods, including water boarding, leaving someone in a dark room with an insect, leaving someone in cramped conditions and sleep deprivation as some of the acceptable methods for interrogation. 

I fully congratulate President Obama for releasing these memos and ensuring no parts of them were blacked out when they were released. However I strongly agree with Keith Olbermann in his discussion over the need for prosecutions to follow the release of these documents (which President Obama has refused to allow). Without prosecuting those who authorised and participated in these actions Obama has taken the easy road out and has left the door open for these sorts of actions to occur in the future; something that must be avoided at all costs. To create a progressive future one not only needs to acknowledge the shameful actions of the past, but also allow for a society to create a form of ‘justice’ for those who suffered in those actions and it is only through initiating prosecutions that at least some form of justice can be attained. 

April 18, 2009 Posted by | Human Rights, Options for a Progressive Future, Security, War and Violence | | 1 Comment

Anyone Up for a Tea Party?

Anyone going to a tea party this week?

For those of you who don’t know, tea parties are being thrown around the United States to protest taxes. The parties are being held this week as it is the anniversary of the Boston Tea Party (a protest held before the American Revolution to protest taxes without representation, amongst other things).

 I don’t think anyone quite knows where these protests have come from (although they are definitely being stirred up by the right wing media, with many stories about them on Fox over the past couple of day) and I don’t think anyone knows what people are actually protesting about. Are they protesting a particular tax? Or taxes in general? Or something else? I don’t think anyone’s quite sure.

What I do know however, is that this definitely is an interesting occurrence happening in the United States and paints an interesting picture of how the right is reacting to the shift in the United States away from them. I still don’t quite understand what the idea behind the parties is and what they think they will achieve, but it will be interesting to watch them over the coming days.

For more comment on this I would suggest that you check out Mark Cooper’s article in the LA Times ‘Anti-Obama Taxpayer Tea Parties steeped in insanity’

April 15, 2009 Posted by | Analysing the Right | | 6 Comments