It’s unwise in the extreme to criticise a book you haven’t read, based on press reports alone. But if a lack of wisdom hasn’t stopped Lindsay Tanner from writing it, it won’t stop us from offering a view.
When old lefty Lindsay Tanner ventures a sweeping denunciation of the “cynicism” of the Labor party these days, it did strike us as a remarkable chutzpah given the one-time lefty firebrand unionist turned “Hard Left” MP and (in his own mind) leadership contender is now a merchant banker at Lazard, the principally US corporate advisory and asset management firm that took over Carnegie Wylie pre-GFC. His salary is reputedly just slightly less than the Principal at MLC.
The reports quote him saying the ALP will live to regret removing Rudd and claiming that the reports of Rudd’s dysfunction in office to be “exaggerations.”
We have come to agree that ripping into Rudd endlessly is like scratching at a wound, occasionally enticing and compelling, it inevitably only leads to further damage. He’s yesterday’s news and maybe Labor’s biggest mistake since the dark days it solicited funds from Saddam Hussein in Iraq. A Kim Beazley Prime Ministership would have been calmer, nicer and got more done with much less drama. But, just before the wheels fell off the formidable John Howard’s show, some in the caucus blinked and boned him. Hindsight is perfect vision, of course.
LEFTY FINDS HIS HAVEN
Tanner’s choice of career in merchant banking doesn’t disqualify him from having views. Even if it is that Lazard’s global HQ is in Bermuda:
Clarendon House, 2 Church Street
Can’t imagine why they’d set up there.
But the sincerity of Tanner’s views ought be subjected to proof. His continued expression of idealism and enthusiasm for lights on hills and ALP policy processes does seem at odds with the reality of his merchant banker existence. He’s even moved away from Melbourne’s mean streets to an impressive rural pile, insiders tell VEXNEWS.
His predecessor in the federal seat of Melbourne, Gerry Hand, spent decades denouncing Indonesia for the unpleasantness perpetrated against East Timor. Shortly after he left ministerial service, he was involved in creating a casino with an Indonesian billionaire with very close ties to Indonesian generals and the Presidential family. Lefty websites claim he was also involved in – shock, horror – coal mining.
It’s enough to make us wonder these Members for Melbourne ever meant anything they said. Their dodginess is only exceeded by the current incumbent, Dr Adam Bandt PhD (Marx) whose embarrassing doctorate he did everything possible to suppress. Bandt – a bad boss who has attempted to re-instate slavery in his own office – will be gone soon enough, if his predecessors are any guide, to the employ of an arms manufacturer with interests in tobacco, pokies and conflict diamonds.
Of course, the reason Tanner departed federal Parliament was that he couldn’t abide serving under former rival/nemesis Julia Gillard. At least that’s what he told plenty of people at the time. He had been a successful Finance Minister. Some wondered how the government would go replacing him. Another supposed hard lefty Penny Wong stepped up and is generally seen as doing a good job at carrying out the dry desires of the Finance department, even planning on bumping off single mums off benefits when their kids turn eight, requiring them, if they’re not working, to go on Newstart.
TANNER BITTER & TWISTED IN THE WIND
Tanner even criticises two big – yet important – federal spending schemes, the National Broadband Network and the National Disability Insurance Scheme which one might have reasonably expected to have warmed the cockles of a good lefty’s heart.
The NBN has been enough to attract as an Australian citizenship applicant Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and will – if the Coalition don’t knock it off – provide ubiquity of world-best internet access to all of Australia, even near Tanner’s magnificent country estate.
It was a 2007 election campaign promise that has been over-delivered and is probably the strongest evidence that Australia is investing some of the proceeds of a massive and temporary boom in commodities prices into something of long-term lasting value that will positively effect national productivity in a massive way. There was – and remains – clear evidence of market failure in the provision of world-best internet in Australia, where even close to the city one’s ADSL internet quality would vary depending on Third World style factors like distance from an exchange. Those in regional areas didn’t even get that lucky. One of the richest countries in the world has one of the poorest internet infrastructures. Allowing that to continue would have been highly irresponsible and dangerous for Australia’s long-term competitiveness.
The NDIS was the result of appointing one of Australian politics’ most talented advocates, Bill Shorten, into an area crying out for government action, disabilities. Tanner slams the involvement of the Productivity Commission and yet, as we recall, a reference to that body was seen as a a vital step to establishing a credible economic case for what will undoubtedly be a big-spending programme. Big-spending because the need is so great.
There are many things to criticise about this government. Some of them would struggle to sell frosty VBs on a hot Boxing Day in Bay 13 at the G. But these two programmes will probably be looked back on with the same sense of accomplishment as Gough Whitlam’s Medibank, which continues to the present day, supported by both sides of Australia politics. Not all government spending, even big spending, is a bad thing. It can be easily characterised as wasteful, and certainly Canberra bureaucrats occasionally help fulfil public fears of this, but when addressing market failure or remedying injustice like the cruel lottery of disability, there’s nothing like a well-led, activist government to put things right, at least to some extent.
That’s what we think anyway. The purpose of politics is to influence what kind of collective decisions we make about the place we live in.
GRATITUDE FACTION CONTINUES TO BE A MICRO-ORGANISATION
Most would have imagined that’s what former Lefty unionist and supposedly hard-left MP Lindsay Tanner might have thought too, while counting the cash from a career well-spent in the labour movement where he started out a pot-smoking student newspaper editor and ended up a multi-millionaire superannuation recipient and merchant banker. You’d think he’d be grateful.
We wonder what the 1980s self-righteous Lindsay Tanner would make of Lindsay Tanner today?
Like Gerry Hand before him, something strange happened along the way.
To thine own self be true is maybe the best advice the old bard, via Polonius, ever gave. Is Lindsay Tanner being true to himself and the party that he used so gamely by writing the same old kind of whiny lefty essay he would have or could have written when he might have had a bit more lefty cred? Is it a bit of nostalgia for a time when he might have been broke but a bit more contented?
A millionaire banker typing up essays on his shiny new Mac laptop from his lovely rural dacha about how Labor has lost its way to the cynical bean-counters, criticising their undoubtedly well-intentioned, nation-building, big-spending programmes as not being properly generated through ALP policy committees or whatever is more than the chutzpah we wrote earlier, it’s a political Hustle of the kind we occasionally watching on the ABC by a grifter whose only redeeming feature is a passion for the team whose heroic captain this week won the Brownlow.
We really do wonder why he bothered.
What was once annoying, when used as a tool for duping his way into inner-city ALP preselections and applause at Writers’ Festivals is now a very tired, sad, irrelevant, preachy old act.
In a manner once reserved for dud stage acts and ALP state conferences, rotten tomatoes ought be thrown his way.