I am no expert on Mark Latham’s work. I skipped through a little bit of it early this year, and I did not even write any notes. So please double check anything that I claim in this post before you bust it out during your next dinner party conversation (JOKES!- about the dinner party of course, not the accuracy). I remember the Quarterly Essay by Margaret Simons as being rather interesting.

Anyway, I have a poorly backed up theory that all this stuff the ALP is rolling out at the moment is stolen out of Mark Latham’s mind. Fund things federally, be very restrictive as to what the funds can be spent on and what outcomes the programs are going to be evaluated on, devolve management to the local level and run it with a committee is the model behind some of the Social Inclusion Agenda items, the hospitals policy and the more recent announcements of their proposal to hand over more power to schools. So I have been thinking about Latham quite a lot this campaign before he started being the subject of media coverage (Insiders last weekend had a bit of coverage []). I wonder if Latham feels like ‘his’ policies are being stolen?

I found this article on The Drum website interesting because Dr Mark Bahnisch takes us for a bit of a stroll down memory lane for some of the less media-soundbite aspects of Latham. His concluding paragraphs seem to link in some way with Bowman’s talk on Thursday and to back up my claims that there is a strong connection between Latham’s books and what the ALP’s current policies.

There’s a thread running between his thought and that of Kevin Rudd – a rather thin string of social democratic continuity, a recognition that global capital posed a problem and not just the opportunity it’s normally represented as for Australia.

But Latham, as an electoral politician, could not work out how to sell this vision, except by analogy from his own story. Just like Kevin Rudd, really.

Contemporary Australian political debate reduces everything to the personal and ‘character’, and simultaneously sows the seeds of personal destruction, even self-destruction, for those who want to step outside the narrow margins of its script.

That may be the real tragedy for both Mark Latham and ourselves – to think seriously about how we might want to live otherwise is to risk being portrayed as mad, and certainly to risk becoming maddened. Think, too, of Kevin Rudd’s “anger” in David Marr’s portrait.

It’s a waste, and a pity.

Is this something that can be better understood through field theory? Does it even matter anyway?

All I can say is that I hope the ALP never takes the contents of Wayne Swan’s book as seriously.




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