Labor, heal your hate

A Writer’s appeal to progressives.

I WAS reminded recently about the depth of hatred that courses through the Australian Labor Party, by a friend who admitted she is a ‘hater’ in the Paul Keating tradition. Her special kind of venom is reserved for Kevin Rudd.

She’s not a lonely hater, far from it. Plenty of others rail on Facebook about Bill Shorten’s shortcomings as an opposition leader, with a vitriol bordering on hatred.

Still another camp exists – the Julia Gillard haters – especially those in the Deep North who won’t ever forget what she did to their Kevin.

“Imagine what you’ll do when Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd eventually bury the hatchet.”

In an arc from Whitlam’s sacking, to Keating’s toppling of Hawke and Gillard’s of Rudd, a ripple of Labor-red retribution runs through the left-leaning party and its followers so pervasively I wonder why anyone ever agrees to lead the rabble.

Whenever a Rudd or Gillard hater comes out of the woodwork, a rarely expressed question forms for me: If you hated (insert whichever Labor leader you like) so much, why did you vote for them?

Because that’s the thing, isn’t it? Did all the Rudd haters vote for John Howard in 2007? Did all the Gillard haters vote for Tony Abbott in 2010? Does the hate exist before these people lead the country, or does it develop later?

Maybe with all my questions I’m missing the hate’s purpose. Is Labor’s pulsating hating principle some kind of energy source to help progressives ‘take it up’ to conservatives?

LABORING THE FRIENDSHIP Bob Hawke and Paul Keating, 1991 (Photo: Peter Morris).
LABORING THE FRIENDSHIP Bob Hawke and Paul Keating, 1991 (Photo: Peter Morris).

If so, it’s not working. Since Paul Keating was popularly elected in his own right, all hate seems to have done for the party is truncate ALP leadership regimes. After acrimony borne of fundamental internal divisions, they collapse after about three years in power.

At its best, Labor’s ability to hate moves mountains. It toppled Work Choices, John Howard’s attempt to obliterate the workplace standards delivered to this country by the Trade Union movement.

Labor’s hatred of Malcolm Fraser’s meddling in Medibank ushered-in Medicare, one of the defining ALP social reforms.

And then there is just about everything Gough Whitlam did with his single-handed hatred of conservatism, from fault-free divorce to laws allowing home brewing.

All these were fine, upstanding examples of collective hatred directed at Labor’s common enemies.

Thanks to many in the Australian media we get regular encouragement for our Labor hate. For every David Marr and his revelations about ‘Rudd rage’ there is a Michelle Grattan calling for Julia Gillard to quit.

Some make no secret of their contempt. Chris Uhlmann springs to mind, whose Rudd hatred became patently obvious at the press conference the day KRudd became Prime Minister for the second time.

Someone – perhaps Kevin – had asked the ABC to televise each journalist as they asked their questions, an interesting angle which seemed to keep the media nice.

“Did a whole stack of ALP Rudd haters actually vote for Abbott at the 2013 federal election?”

When it came to Uhlmann, he turned Rudd’s embryonic policy on asylum seekers into war with Indonesia in a heartbeat, long before the Coalition’s Operation Sovereign Borders ever hit the airwaves.

An attempt to shape the news, make the news, or just throw Rudd off? Whatever it was, the Rudd haters must have loved it, but it took a non-hater to see it.

I’ve had my own hate happening, I admit. The night of the 2007 election my husband and I watched the ABC, and once it became clear Howard was out, I said to Richard: “Why can’t we have her as Prime Minister?”

“Who, Julia Gillard?” he said.

“She’s very well spoken, she’s well turned-out and I like what she says; and she’s not religious.”

We shrugged and went to bed, happy the conservatives were defeated.

Apologies to the Stolen Generations, the signing of the Kyoto Protocol and an approaching price on carbon necessarily preceded the wave of legislative changes that impacted very positively on our household, when Kevin Rudd kept his election promise and changed over 100 laws that discriminated against same-sex-attracted de-facto couples in Australia.

Nevertheless, I celebrated on the day Gillard became Prime Minister, not because I hated Rudd, but because I felt Australia had grown up a little. Naively I thought others would see things the same way, but when I saw people upset at the news, genuinely confused and angry, I thought shit, this isn’t good.

So I turned my thoughts to the possibility this new atheist leader in a de-facto relationship would usher in marriage equality, since she seemed to understand the need for choice when it came to relationships, right?

Wrong.

Because she never explained her anti-marriage stance on an issue of equality, I hated Julia Gillard, for a while.

But I still voted for her. I would have voted for her again in 2013. Instead I voted for Rudd, even though it was boring as heck that he got back in, and it did no-one any good, but I wasn’t ever going to vote for the alternative.

Which makes me wonder: Did a whole stack of ALP Rudd haters actually vote for Abbott at the 2013 federal election?

To keep your ideology away from power to spite them … now that is hatred.

IT'S TIME to busy the hatchet, but not in one another's back ...
IT’S TIME to bury the hatchet, but not in one another’s back.

I say it’s time to heal your hate, Labor supporters. That means marrying Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard into one awkward, stumbling, problematic but progressive six-year relationship which saw great social advancements – from the National Disability Insurance Scheme to record numbers of women in cabinet – all of which is being swiftly undone while we keep hating one or the other of the leaders who brought it all into being.

To encourage you in your hate healing, imagine what you’ll do when Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd eventually bury the hatchet. If Gough Whitlam and Malcolm Fraser could find common ground after all that went down between them, it’s entirely possible for Gillard and Rudd to come to terms with the position each put the other in.

And remember, both of them gave you something, and that is not reason to hate, it’s great cause for hope.

© Michael Burge, all rights reserved.

2 thoughts on “Labor, heal your hate”

  1. Very true. I was in my first year of uni and campaining hard for “Kevin07” (an idealistic youngster voting for the very first time) and when Labor won, it honestly was one of the happiest days I remember, but I won’t bore you with an 18-yearolds policy outlook. When Gillard came in, it was like all these hopes I had had were shattered and all the hard work was for nothing.

    These days, rather than being a member of the Labor party I guess I would consider myself a swing voter… though one who has never been inclined to vote Liberal so far. My priorities have changed and indeed my life has changed, and if the Liberals had the right policies and the right leader I would vote or them (but it would be a hard pill to swallow). This being said, I would never vote for them to spite Labor and I don’t know anyone who would, but of course that’s my own circle of acquaintances. When speaking to people in the aftermath of last year’s election, did you hear people actually say they did?

    1. Thanks Amelia. I didn’t hear anyone say they voted for Abbott – which is interesting in itself, because many people I know did, I could tell by their pleased demeanour on election night – but the idea dawned on me while writing this article that there is a strong possibility that many were angry enough at what they perceived as Rudd’s sabotage of Gillard to vote against him, despite being left-wing thinkers. Nobody had denied it, so far.

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