Of Labor, its heroes, and its legacies

Earlier this week the federal Member for Fraser, Andrew Leigh, wrote an opinion piece for The Australian newspaper making the case for the Australian Labor Party to present itself as a political party in the ‘small‑l liberal’ mould of Victorian colonial‑era Solicitor‑General and Federation‑era Prime Minister Alfred Deakin.

Mr Leigh’s argument that modern Labor can find much intellectual, and perhaps even inspirational, affinity in Deakin sparked a discussion on Twitter, in which I participated, concerning the merits of Deakin as a political inspiration. I had this to say on Twitter:

if Andrew Leigh wants Deakin’s racist, protectionist legacy, he can keep it!!!

In all fairness, Leigh said in his opinion piece that ‘surprising as this may sound, there is much in modern Labor that draws on small‑L liberalism (Deakin minus the racism and protectionism).’

So, Leigh understandably doesn’t want to keep Deakin’s racist and protectionist legacy. However his refusal to purchase the full Deakin legacy, lock, stock and barrel, cannot change the fact that Deakin did play an influential role in erecting White Australia and extensive tariff barriers which unquestionably held Australia back for many years.

In addition, picking‑and‑choosing which aspects of a past political legacy a modern politician wishes to assume as a prospective role model runs the risk of tying oneself in the knots of arbitrariness, at least should one not be careful. In an important respect, this comes about because political careers are wrought by severe policy inconsistencies as the limitations of political capabilities are routinely disrespected, where they eschew the principle of conducting very strictly limited, and rule‑guided, interventions into economic and social affairs in favour of worshipping, and carrying out the deeds of, the false policy idol of discretion.

To this end, I would guess that Leigh holds a similar aversion against Arthur Caldwell’s racial attitudes, as one example, or Paul Keating’s attitudes towards homosexuality during his political career, as another, but where exactly does one draw a non‑arbitrary line when it comes to embracing aspects of political legacies?

Leigh praises Deakin’s role as a state politician in supporting ‘the rights of trade unions to organise, and campaigned for better factory conditions,’ but it is well known that the later ‘New Protection’ plan of the Deakin federal government was little more than a sop to the union movement. Here is a short, rather matter‑of‑fact summary of what I said about Deakin’s federal policy in my PhD thesis:

as part of a ‘New Protection’ policy plan, the Deakin government introduced an Excise Tariff (Agricultural Machinery) Act 1906 under which an excise upon Australian manufactured agricultural machinery at half the rate of the customs tariff was to be imposed. The Act outlined that the excise would not be imposed upon manufacturers paying ‘fair and reasonable’ wages.

I grant that Leigh is on the public record of opposing protectionism, but what does he think of the inextricable tying of wage conditions with protectionism under Deakin’s plan?

In fact, what does he really make of the whole labour market regulatory edifice erected during the late nineteenth, and early twentieth, centuries, which contributed to the unemployment of some workers (as mentioned in studies, for example, by economic historian Colin Forster)?

When answering such questions, I trust that Mr Leigh might also be mindful of the fact that modern labour market regulations, descended from the likes of Deakin’s Victorian Factories and Shops Act and subsequent wages boards imposing industry‑award minimum wages, continue to economically imprison the relatively unskilled in the long term unemployment trap.

Deakin did not perceive himself as a Labor Party politician, and nor was he a member of the ALP. That much is abundantly clear. However, in my view Deakin was an early exemplar of the many spineless non‑Labor affiliated politicians, existing then and now, who accept and, in some cases, implement faithfully, the socialistic, expansionary government agenda of the Labor Party.

That a rabid self‑interest group, in the guise of trade unions, had crafted the Australian Labor Party to infiltrate legislatures, and subvert democratic principles in carrying out the unionists’ bidding, is of great historical shame and discredit to Australia, in my personal view.

That elected members of purportedly liberal‑conservative parties refuse to follow their philosophical principles to the letter, expanding the size and scope of government out of fear of offending growing armies of immoral tax‑consumers and rent‑seekers, and continue to ignore their more genuinely principled historical figures such as Bruce Smith, is quite another concerning matter altogether.

I say to Mr Leigh and other Labor politicians who wish to embrace Alfred Deakin as a role model, as far as I’m concerned you can have him all to yourselves!

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

56 Responses to Of Labor, its heroes, and its legacies

  1. Token

    Well said.

    That is exactly what I thought when I read the article from Leigh. He was indulging in the grand Labor tradition of cherry-picking from history.

  2. C.L.

    Deakin was also a Spiritualist. He loved nothing more than a good seance.

    Maybe Andrew Leigh should hold a seance and directly communicate with his hero.

  3. ilibcc

    Labor is doing a lot of this nostalgia stuff at the moment. I wonder why.

  4. .

    Deakin was also a Spiritualist. He loved nothing more than a good seance.

    Maybe Andrew Leigh should hold a seance and directly communicate with his hero.

    Haha.

    Cue attacks on ‘crazy Catholics’.

  5. Grey

    The past is another country as the saying goes. It is foolish to make a big deal about early Federation politicians who believed in White Australia, since the people who didn’t believe in White Australia were far more likely to be interested in practices like “blackbirding” (as it was then known) than the Rights of Man.

    You might as well make a fuss about Thomas Jefferson owning slaves, definitely something to remember but not the defining feature of his contribution to history. In fairness to Thomas Jefferson he appears to have been very fond of his slaves, too fond some have suggested.

  6. Andrew

    Many ignore the fact that Robert Menzies’ United Australia Party, the main party that formed the Liberal Party, was a socially Conservative party. Menzies also was not economically liberal with use of tariffs on for example, wool. Correct me if I’m wrong, but Malcolm Fraser hardly would have been described as economically liberal considering his protectionist policies and opposition to deregulation of the financial market.
    Leigh is deliberately being misleading or does not know the history of the Liberal party.

  7. Token

    So Grey, seeing your rehabilitating people who have made appalling statements on the record, does your amnesty include Pauline Hanson?

  8. candy

    perhaps they just regret not sticking to kevni.

  9. m0nty

    Labor is doing a lot of this nostalgia stuff at the moment. I wonder why.

    You mean like Josh Frydenberg’s nostalgia for Work Choices?

  10. Sinclair Davidson

    m0nty – if you knew anything about politics you would know that Frydenberg was in the Liberal Party.

  11. Grey

    So Grey, seeing your rehabilitating people who have made appalling statements on the record, does your amnesty include Pauline Hanson?

    Why not? She always seemed pretty genuine to me. I don’t have a problem with people saying what they think provided they are genuine and aren’t acting from self-interest.

  12. m0nty

    Yes Sinclair, I was pointing out that both sides are indulging in nostalgia at the moment.

  13. Sinclair Davidson

    No – I think you’re just being dumb. Why do you always reach for the moral equivalence argument as opposed to making a proper contribution? Why do you think we care about Frydenberg or what he might think when the post is about Alfred Deakin?

  14. .

    I don’t have a problem with people saying what they think provided they are genuine and aren’t acting from self-interest.

    Hahaha.

    The irony and stupid, it burns.

  15. thefrollickingmole

    Labour is in the business of myth.

    Australia would be paradise if only Whitlam had done his full term…

    If only Keating had got another term all the Aboriginal problems would have been solved…

    They are doing it with julia already. The NDS, NBN and Gonski are all just foundations of a new myth. Any stuffups or problems will be the evvvil Abbots fault… If only Julia had another term…

    The right needs to spend some capital wrecking these self anointed Saviors.

  16. Grey

    The irony and stupid, it burns.

    Dot, I don’t even mind when you grossly misunderstand graphs. Why? Because you were genuine. I do get a little tetchy when, you having understood your mistake, refuse to acknowledge it. Why? Because you aren’t being genuine.

    errare humanum est, sed perseverare diabolicum
    Thank you, Mr Seneca, on the button is usual.

  17. Token

    I don’t have a problem with people saying what they think provided they are genuine and aren’t acting from self-interest.

    So on that standard Grey you agree that Bolt v Eatock, etc case was a travesty of justice and stand agains the ruling by Judge Mordy.

    Good on you!

  18. m0nty

    No – I think you’re just being dumb. Why do you always reach for the moral equivalence argument as opposed to making a proper contribution? Why do you think we care about Frydenberg or what he might think when the post is about Alfred Deakin?

    I make a lot of proper contributions on this site, Sinc. Why, just yesterday I was complimented by two posters for the quality of my arguments. :)

    In this case, I was responding to a short thought bubble by ilibcc with one of my own addressing his point. No need to get aggro.

  19. Gab

    Can we not make this thread about Frydenberg or monty? Ta.

  20. candy

    We all act in self interest one way or another, otherwise we’d die.

  21. Infidel Tiger

    I make a lot of proper contributions on this site, Sinc. Why, just yesterday I was complimented by two posters for the quality of my arguments.

    Only because they stood out like a bulldog with elephantiasis of the testes compared to your other comments.

  22. .

    Dot, I don’t even mind when you grossly misunderstand graphs. Why? Because you were genuine. I do get a little tetchy when, you having understood your mistake, refuse to acknowledge it. Why? Because you aren’t being genuine.

    I didn’t make a mistake. Initially you dishonestly referred to another table that had no numerical relation to the graph in question.

    You are too dishonest (and stupid) to discuss the context of tax revenue only falling equal to the fall in unemployment, despite a near halving of the tax rate. You also ignored the next seven years of tax cuts.

    Again the syupidity and irony of Grey’s comments is so funny it burns.

  23. Grey

    So on that standard Grey you agree that Bolt v Eatock, etc case was a travesty of justice and stand agains the ruling by Judge Mordy.

    Good on you!

    No worries. I will defend to the death** Bolt’s right to make an idiot of himself.

    Actually I thought Bolt was a touching on an issue well worth discussing. It didn’t get discussed properly, partly but not entirely that might be due to the way Bolt raised it.

    ** OK, not to the death, but I will post on the comments section of a blog to defend it.

  24. Grey

    I didn’t make a mistake. Initially you dishonestly referred to another table that had no numerical relation to the graph in question.

    errare humanum est, sed perseverare diabolicum

  25. .

    Actually I thought Bolt was a touching on an issue well worth discussing. It didn’t get discussed properly, partly but not entirely that might be due to the way Bolt raised it.

    BULLSHIT

    You really think Bolt should be allowed to say as he pleases if he just says “I got someone’s maternal and paternal grandparents mixed up, now can I call Pat Eatock a fucking parasite”?

    Maybe you can cast a spell to make it all better.

    Don’t bother pointing out typos, although it appeals to your puerile mind – you excel at this but have given wholly wrong missives of ill informed advice on economics and law.

  26. Infidel Tiger

    The fact is that Australia has never had a very good PM. We’ve had a few we can give pass marks to, but that’s about it.

    Perhaps that sums us up as a nation. Fair to middling good ordinary dullards with aspirations of average.

  27. Grey

    You really think Bolt should be allowed to say as he pleases if he just says “I got someone’s maternal and paternal grandparents mixed up, now can I call Pat Eatock a fucking parasite”?

    Subject to the law of libel and the desire of the media owner to continue printing it. Why not?

  28. .

    I didn’t make a mistake. Initially you dishonestly referred to another table that had no numerical relation to the graph in question.

    I didn’t.

    Fuck I’m sick of your crap, Grey.

    Figure four shows that Reagan cut taxes and increased revenue.

    Shut up you clown.

    The whole time I was referring to the WHOLE period (hence my reference to dynamic effects, and multiple estimates you illiterate fuckbrain), and had to explain to you later that claiming 1981 as “failure” is dishonest given the employment parameters that however saw a linear relationship with tax receipts to GDP even with a the top rate almost halving from 50% down to 28%.

    Whereas in toto, you simply referred to “any” tax cuts after 1980 being “ineffective”, before I brought up the Tax Office study.

    You dishonest fuckbrained idiot, you then changed your dissembling argument in the light of evidence zeroed in on tax cuts legislated in two years, and ignored the totals.

    Only if you didn’t know what a plural was, didn’t understand the employment parameters from 1982-1984 (when the tax law came into effect) and that I disputed the estimates as forgone revenue (all along), could you possibly think I misinterpreted a graph. You were so dishonest you referred to a table that had no numerical relationship to the graph anyway.

    I understand that someone not paying attention, not of the age of reason, economically illiterate, functionally illiterate, stupid, or even dishonest could actually have thought I misread the graph – you are of course of the last category and perhaps more.

    What do you get out of this? Being able to deceive stupid passers by with cheap rhetorical tricks? Is this how you get your jollies, fuckwit?

    You think coming in with sweeping, erroneous bullshit and making snide, dishonest summaries of other people’s arguments will stand around here?

    You’re a fuckwit Grey. “Genuine and no self interest”

    Fuck off.

  29. .

    You’re a dishonest sack of shit Grey, fuck off.

  30. Grey

    This Dot, is why I have a higher opinion of Pauline Hanson than you.

  31. Judith Sloan

    Dare I say it, Deakin also suffered bouts of serious mental illness.

    But let’s be serious, Leigh’s piece was a complete joke. Yes, we are really like Deakin apart from his racism and protectionism. Oh and by the way, the trade union movement was also attached to racism and protectionism – still is, really – but let’s forget that too. It just doesn’t work like that – picking and choosing.

    Leigh must surely have private moments when he thinks: FFS, what have I done?

  32. C.L.

    So now the Australian left are lionising a Spiritualist ghost buster.

  33. Grey

    Oh and by the way, the trade union movement was also attached to racism and protectionism

    So, and let me see if I can get this straight, were the plantation owners who were kidnapping people from Papua New Guinea and Melanesia really driven by a desire to build a multi-cultural Australia and encourage ethnic diversity?

  34. Grey

    Winston Churchill was racist – particularly towards Indians – and this probably had disastrous consequences in the Bengal famine. If someone says they see Winston Churchill as their political hero, do we say they must share his racist attitudes?

  35. candy

    “Winston Churchill was racist”

    In those days racism was more sheer ignorance, i think, Grey. You said something before about the past before being “another country” which I thought sounded good.

  36. .

    You are so blindingly full of crap Grey. Keep in mind we are discussing INCOME TAX CUTS.

    You have fooled yourself on three false premises: 1. I agreed with the analysis of the tax office after 1984, which I openly said I didn’t, 2. You are conflating tax to GDP with real level variables. 3. You are blaming excessive spending on a small fall in tax to GDP, whereas tax grew, merely at a lower rate than GDP – and GDP was accelerated by such cuts.

    The US participation rate was steady in Jan 1981-Dec 1984 at about 64%.

    After that, it rose steadily to 66.5% to Jan 1989.

    In 1982-1984 (the period that graph measures for 1981) unemployment increased by 2% and revenue to GDP fell by 2%).

    Yet the tax rate almost halved.

    The revenue being almost linear with employment and almost halving the tax rate actually shows an increase in taxes raised per worker.

    After 1984, the Tax Office’s methodology is flawed (which I have said all along). They are not including the increased participation rate, largely due to tax cuts and in part to normalised inflation and monetary policy, for increasing the participation rate, or the unemployment rate which fell at the same time, from 7.3% to 5.4%.

    From June 1983 to Jan 1989, Reagan created 16 million new jobs and had cut inflation from 12% in 1981 to 4.5% from 1984 until the end of his term.

    Yet tax to GDP remained stable over that entire eight year time period, it fell by 1.2% over eight years. (Total) Receipts grew by 2.25% per annum.

    GDP grew by around 4% on average.

  37. .

    This Dot, is why I have a higher opinion of Pauline Hanson than you.

    Fuck off Grey. If it is your game to misrepresent what I said, and to take things out of context, go ahead and look like a pillock.

    Shit, even wiki says it better than me. Contrasting with Grey’s full of crap throwaway dishonesty about tax reform after 1980 leading to deficit spending:

    The economic growth and increase in GDP outpaced the increase in tax receipt revenue, resulting in a slightly reduced tax burden as a percentage of GDP for the economy.

    Yet you completely ignore inflation falling to a third of what it was or the creation of 16 million new jobs vis a vis because of tax cuts that halved marginal rates.

  38. .

    This Dot, is why I have a higher opinion of Pauline Hanson than you.

    You were trying to tell us that Slipper was going to stay in Parliament even if he was found guilty, because of a non-custodial sentence.

    You’re just a mindless tribal idiot.

  39. .

    Grey’s responses are just sickeningly slimy.

    I made my argument, from the outset, with a lot of qualifiers and I have been consistent.

    Grey said all tax legislation changes under Reagan lost revenue.

    That’s demonstrably false, even from the graph he accuses of me falsely misinterpreting (for one year of legislation).

  40. Token

    LOL.

    Really Dot, is a lefty trolling this site with emotive statements and misrepresentations?

  41. John H.

    Winston Churchill was racist – particularly towards Indians –

    He was racist towards us to the bastard. He was happy to use the colonies as Jap bait and abandoned us.

    Labour is in the business of myth.

    Politics is the business of myth. People, sadly, respond to mythopoetic motifs. Labour does know how to take advantage of that propensity. Not a good thing.

  42. johninoxley

    Judith, “what have I done”, having had the misfortune to hear Andrew Leigh on local canberra radio I came to the conclusion he is delusional at best. Then again, that suits the liarsparty. Liarbor doesnt have any heroes and its legasies are all failures. The closest they came was Super but couldnt keep the stickies of it.

  43. Grey

    Grey said all tax legislation changes under Reagan lost revenue.

    No I didn’t, I just looked at the graph you said showed Reagan cut taxes and increased revenue and pointed out you had misread it. Here, see for yourselves
    http://img543.imageshack.us/img543/3779/tempnk.jpg

  44. .

    I’m sorry but this is the final nail in Grey’s coffin in his bizzare, braindead and dishionest vendetta against me.

    Reagan cut taxes, so revenue went down and not up

    No. This is false.

    (Furthermore, every year (including net 1983) of tax cuts, besides 1981, which was affected by the 1982 global recession, and showed more taxes paid per worker, was shown, by the graph in dispute, to have increased tax receipts as a share of GDP.)

    However, Grey tried to prove his statement by using tax or spending to GDP ratios, with this graph.

    http://www.econbrowser.com/archives/2011/07/pipedream.gif

    (Also note that Reagan cut spending by more than he cut expenditures – however over time the debt accumulated as the cuts weren’t enough).

    As to the statement…Reagan cut taxes, so revenue went down and not up

    No.

    From before:

    (Total) Tax Receipts grew by 2.25% per annum.

    What you said about Reagan was demonstrably false.

  45. .

    Grey said all tax legislation changes under Reagan lost revenue.

    Yes you did. To wit:

    Reagan cut taxes, so revenue went down and not up

    No.

    (Total) Tax Receipts grew by 2.25% per annum.

    What you said about Reagan was demonstrably false.

  46. Grey

    Reagan cut taxes, so revenue went down and not up

    Well according to your graph that is what happened. And this is what I was pointing out. I am to blame that US Treasury officials are a bunch of clowns and produce dishonest graphs?

  47. .

    No. Admit that you were wrong about Reagan.

    Cutting taxes after 1980 quite clearly did not lead to increased revenue.

    Reagan cut taxes, so revenue went down and not up

    (Total) Tax Receipts grew by 2.25% per annum.

  48. Grey

    Cutting taxes after 1980 quite clearly did not lead to increased revenue.

    Reagan cut taxes, so revenue went down and not up

    Well, according to your graph prepared by Treasury officials

    Here, take a look for yourself
    http://img543.imageshack.us/img543/3779/tempnk.jpg

  49. .

    Cutting taxes after 1980 quite clearly did not lead to increased revenue.

    Reagan cut taxes, so revenue went down and not up

    (Total) Tax Receipts grew by 2.25% per annum.

  50. Grey

    So why did you point to figure 4, when now you appear to be saying it is wrong?

    Just curious.

    Since inflation started at 10% and reduced to 4% over the Reagan period, I am not sure an increase of total tax receipts of 2.25% is much of poster child for voodoo economics.

  51. .

    You won’t even admit you were wrong, but continue lying – tax receipts GREW at 2.25% per annum from 1981 to 1989.

    I am not sure an increase of total tax receipts of 2.25%

    Gibberish. 2.25% WHAT?

  52. Grey

    Dare I say it, Deakin also suffered bouts of serious mental illness.

    Not something that is confined to protectionists by the sound of it.

  53. .

    Cutting taxes after 1980 quite clearly did not lead to increased revenue.

    Reagan cut taxes, so revenue went down and not up

    (Total) Tax Receipts grew by 2.25% per annum.

    You are out of touch with reality, Grey.

  54. You are out of touch with reality, Grey.

    Yes just like a drunken sailor on shore leave (Ron).

  55. Rabz

    Leigh must surely have private moments when he thinks: FFS, what have I done?

    Somehow, Judith, I doubt it.

    BTW, this indescribable imbecile is my local ‘membah’.

    I can’t decide if he’s better or worse than this idiot (my previous local ‘membah’).

Comments are closed.