Yesterday Paul Howes had an essay in the Fin Review. It began with this:
The job of Labor is always much harder than the job of those we oppose. The deal we strike with the Australian people is a more demanding one because they expect us to move the country forward – to reform.
That’s not to say the Coalition does not reform at all; examples can be cited. But reform is not their sole purpose for existing.
The Coalition can always fall back on the easy position of treading water. When the electorate gets spooked, the Coalition can offer themselves as the party of not much. This will always be their natural ground. Labor can never outflank them on that.
Our deal is different. We are not there to rule, we are expected to take things forward. Labor is there to be the party of the big picture. We don’t have a choice in this.
This sort of thing immediately reminds me of Michael Oakeshott’s great essay, On being conservative:
Their dreams are no different from those of anyone else; and if it is boring to have to listen to dreams of others being recounted, it is insufferable to be forced to re-enact them. We tolerate monomaniacs, it is our habit to do so; but why should we be ruled by them?
That is at the end of some important sentences – read the whole thing, but it boils down to this: “that we are not children … but adults”.
They contend that there is absolute value in the free play of human choice, that private property (the emblem of choice) is a natural right, that it is only in the enjoyment of diversity of opinion and activity that true belief and good conduct can be expected to disclose themselves. But I do not think that this disposition requires these or any similar beliefs in order to make it intelligible. Something much smaller and less pretentious will do: the observation that this condition of human circumstances is, in fact, current, and that we have learned to enjoy it and how to manage it; that we are not children in statu pupillari but adults who do not consider themselves under any obligation to justify their preferences for making their own choices; and that it is beyond human experience to suppose that those who rule are endowed with a superior wisdom which discloses to them a better range of beliefs and activities which gives them authority to impose upon their subjects a quite different manner of life.