Labor under Mark Latham: 'new politics', old dilemmas

Ashley Lavelle

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The federal leader of the Australian Labor Party (ALP) Mark Latham advocates a “new politics”, where the establishment is “given hell”, and the privileges of the “insiders” of the system cracked down upon. His bold declaration to bring Australian forces serving in Iraq home by Christmas 2004 provoked not just speculation that he was pursuing a more isolationist foreign policy, but also that the party would be moving in a radically different direction under Latham’s leadership. This paper looks at the reality of the direction of the Latham-led ALP in the early part of his leadership as well as likely future directions. It begins by looking at the trajectory of the party in the years since losing office in 1996, and concludes that the economic neo-liberal and socially conservative path taken by former leaders Kim Beazley and Simon Crean is being continued under Latham, with the addition of a populist twist. Latham’s “new politics” and his “democratic reform” proposals are critically assessed. Latham’s grand ambitions for a “new politics” must be considered alongside a number of old dilemmas faced by the ALP. The question of how distinct is Labor’s policy agenda from that of the Coalition will continue to dog Latham just as it did his predecessors. How much can Labor intervene in the market to improve the lot of the majority when it believes that the ability of nation-states to challenge global economic forces is severely limited? The issue of how much it can deliver to its more disadvantaged constituents without alienating business groups has been a perennial thorn in the side of Labor in government, and all the evidence suggests that this dilemma will be even more sharply posed under a Latham administration.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the APSA Conference, University of Adelaide, 29 September - 1 October 2004
Place of PublicationAdelaide
PublisherAustralasian Political Studies Association
Number of pages43
Publication statusPublished - 2004
Externally publishedYes
EventAustralasian Political Studies Association Conference (52nd : 2004) - Adelaide
Duration: 29 Sep 20041 Oct 2004


ConferenceAustralasian Political Studies Association Conference (52nd : 2004)


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