I am a fan of the Gillard government. I disagree strongly with Julia Gillard about gay marriage and also treatment of refugees, however almost everything else her government has done excites me. Carbon tax, love it. Mining tax, love it. The latest budget where money was taken from defence, big business and the well off and given to health, education and the poor; love it. She’s been a nation building and reforming Prime Minister, in the tradition of great Labor PMs. National Broadband Network, National Disability Insurance Scheme, amazing. And all of this with a minority government and hung parliament, a star performance. Following on from the Rudd government, the federal ALPs economic management – keeping Australia not only afloat during extremely tough global economic conditions but growing – has been outstanding. She’s doing everything possible to ensure that the economy is growing stronger and fairer by the quarter, exactly the aim of any left of centre party.
Despite all this, and in some cases because of it, the federal Australian Labor Party, and Julia Gillard in particular, are very unpopular and indeed are frequently the object of what can only be called hatred. But I have a message for Julia Gillard, in the form of some poetry. You will probably lose the next election, but do not go gentle into that good night.
Yes that’s right, haha, I heard this Dylan Thomas poem recently and thought of Ms. Gillard. Losing, or knowing you will lose, is not so bad. Sometimes it gives you clarity about what you have to do and what you’re mission is. Go down with the ship O Captain! My Captain; you want to be able to look back and smile, as the water swills around your ankles, knowing you have done everything you could. Not to win, but to make the country a better place. You hope that the two, winning and making the country a better place, are linked, but often they are not. You want to be able to know that you never gave up the fight against the reactionaries and champions of privilege. You want to be able to smile, knowing you went out with a bang and not a whine or a whimper. So, do not go gentle into that good night.
As Kris Kristofferson wrote, freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose. When you’re at rock bottom, and have nothing left to lose, you are freed from the bonds of expectation and everything else, and you can truly prosper.
And besides, it’s not the ALPs job to be popular. Its job is to make this country a better place. It’s job is to drag this country forward, kicking and screaming if need be. As Ben Chifley famously put it, its job is not to make somebody Prime Minister or Premier, but as a movement bring something better to the people, better standards of living, greater happiness to the mass of the people. That’s the great objective – the light on the hill – which we aim to reach by working for the betterment of mankind not only here but anywhere we may give a helping hand. If it were not for that, the Labor movement would not be worth fighting for.
Because this is never an easy thing to do, and there are so many powerful people who have a vested interest in opposing it tooth and nail, no Labor Minister or leader ever has an easy job. As Ben Chifley continued in his famous speech, The urgency that rests behind the Labor movement, pushing it on to do things, to create new conditions, to reorganise the economy of the country, always means that the people who work within the Labor movement, people who lead, can never have an easy job. The job of the evangelist is never easy. I hope Julia Gillard remembers this. And I hope it comforts her, as it should all ALP supporters.
If the movement can make someone more comfortable, give to some father or mother a greater feeling of security for their children, a feeling that if a depression comes there will be work, that the government is striving its hardest to do its best, then the Labor movement will be completely justified. Don’t worry about staying in power forever; election cycles are short term, and the Labour movement is a long term force.
When the great American/English/French revolutionary Thomas Paine died he was eulogised by Robert Green Ingersoll thus: Maligned on every side, execrated, shunned and abhorred – his virtues denounced as vices – his services forgotten – his character blackened, he preserved the poise and balance of his soul. He was a victim of the people, but his convictions remained unshaken. He was still a soldier in the army of freedom, and still tried to enlighten and civilize those who were impatiently waiting for his death. Embrace the hatred thrown at you Prime Minister, and wear it like a badge of honour. Because if the Alan Jones’ and Gina Rhineharts of the world are denouncing you, you know you’re doing something right. If Tony Abbott thinks you’re the worst Prime Minister Australia has ever had, you know you’re pretty good. Besides, as Thomas Paine said, the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. And I don’t mean electoral triumph, I mean legislative and economic.
So while you are in government, and can make real change, continue to do good. As much good as possible. In fact this realisation is an invitation to cast off all pretense to populism, especially in the cases of same sex marriage and refugee treatment. Don’t get caught up in opinion polls, keep your eyes focused steadily ahead, challenge those that oppose you, tell people that your right and be confident in your rightness, even if all those biased shock jocks and mining magnates tell you you’re wrong. Don’t take a backwards step. Don’t lie down. Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.