"During the term of the Rudd and Gillard governments, criticism of the Labor Party became a national pastime."
So writes Mark Latham, a one-time leader of the party and still its most perceptive - and fiercest - critic. In Quarterly Essay 49, Latham argues that the time has come to go beyond criticism to solutions. In that spirit, he offers a timely assessment of the future for Labor. He examines the key challenges: the union nexus, the Keating settlement, a real education revolution, a new war on poverty, climate change, and handling the Greens.
With wit and insight, he suggests that Labor's biggest problem is the steady erosion of its traditional working-class base. Across the suburban flatlands of Australia's major cities, people who grew up in fibro shacks now live in solid-stone double-story affluence. Families which were once resigned to a lifetime of blue-collar work now expect their children to be well-educated professionals and entrepreneurs. Can Labor reinvent itself and speak to a changed Australia? In election year 2013, this will be an essential and much-discussed contribution to national political debate.
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