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Trevor Cook
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Saturday's WA senate election was a disaster for the ALP. Spin it anyway you want but 21% of the vote, just five points ahead of the Greens, looks to me like a threshold event. Everyone knows that the ALP senate tickets are full of union and party hacks. Most of the time the voters don't get to see the poor quality of the ALP's upper house representation. The Obeid episode in NSW has changed that. So has the Joe Bullock fiasco in WA. It is hard to even imagine why Bullock is a member of the ALP, let alone topping... Continue reading
Posted Apr 6, 2014 at Trevor Cook
The following is the text of my contribution to the NSW Fabians event next Tuesday. Former prime minister Kevin Rudd, saw unions as just so many interest groups he had to deal with. Kevin Rudd could imagine a form of social democracy that was not centred on unions. Even if unions are interest groups, or are becoming interest groups, they are well-resourced and politically potent. Despite everything that has happened since the hey day of the Accord in the 1980s, unions are still a big part of Australian society. And unions are still natural allies of the ALP. Since the... Continue reading
Posted Mar 5, 2014 at Trevor Cook
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I saw this new play by one of our best playwrights at the Belvoir on Tuesday (25 February). This is not intended to be a review, but a few reflections on the political dimension of the play. But I can't pass without praising the actors. I arrived early, bought the text / program and read over half before the play. It made me realise just how much the actors contributed to bring the words alive. While the cast is good all round, Brendan Cowell and Helen Morse are sensational. These people breathed life into those words - as well-crafted as... Continue reading
Posted Feb 27, 2014 at Trevor Cook
A facebook post from my friend Janine Gertz (Community Engagement Officer at James Cook University): Watching Nelson Mandela's Memorial on TV, I couldn't help but think about what the world might have looked like without this man. I bet you didn't know this but South Africa's Apartheid system was modeled closely on Queensland's Aboriginal Protection Act (1897). Queensland's Apartheid system enabled the Government to forcibly remove Aboriginal people to reserves and missions - places like Yarrabah, Palm Island, Cherbourg to name a few. It's hard to imagine but the lives of Aboriginal people were controlled down to every element of... Continue reading
Posted Dec 10, 2013 at Trevor Cook
What can you say? Mr ABBOTT (Warringah—Prime Minister) (21 Nov, 14:25): I do thank the member for Kennedy for his question and I appreciate his concerns, concerns which are quite general in this House, to ensure that the foreign investment Australia gets is the right foreign investment that supports our national interest, not the wrong foreign investment that does not. This government, this parliament, this nation has long supported foreign investment. Foreign investment has been a very important part of building the strong economy that we enjoy in this country. Our agricultural industry, our mining industry, our manufacturing industry would... Continue reading
Posted Nov 21, 2013 at Trevor Cook
When I was studying European history as an undergraduate several decades ago, one of the truisms was that the many strategic errors of military generals could often be explained by their tendency to fight the last war again rather than the new one. Those generals were heavily involved in the previous war, often it was the formative influence in their careers, and they has learnt the lessons of the last war very well. They understood, perhaps hoped, that this war would be a rerun of the last war, a war for which they were - now - well prepared to... Continue reading
Posted Oct 31, 2013 at Trevor Cook
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Last week I went to Melbourne for the launch of this book. There's a good review on the Conversation by someone much more familiar with the policy issues involved than me. I worked for John Dawkins in his personal office from October 1987 for about 3 years as variously a political adviser (dealing mainly with internal ALP matters and links with the ACTU), an adviser on training policy, media relations and finally as senior private secretary. The first thing to say about working for Dawkins while he was devising and introducing his revolution is that he was a difficult and... Continue reading
Posted Oct 27, 2013 at Trevor Cook
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Portrait of #tonyabbott made from junk food wrappers wins category in Warringah Art Exhibition http://bit.ly/15O9x0o pic.twitter.com/oatp5DbPhT Continue reading
Posted Jul 18, 2013 at Trevor Cook
In organisational terms, the ALP has always been closer to the British Labour Party (BLP) than just about any other national political party. Both are 'labour' parties in the formal sense, meaning that they were established by trade unions and unions are privileged internally over other groups and individual branch members (through formal affiliation). The 'labour' model of party-unions links is very different from that which is found in the US Democrats. There is much more on this stuff in my thesis. In recent decades, leaders of the ALP and BLP have seen party reform (usually meaning reducing the influence... Continue reading
Posted Jul 9, 2013 at Trevor Cook
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Kerry-Anne Walsh, The Stalking of Julia Gillard: How the media and team Rudd brought down the prime minister There's a punch line here somewhere. Despite the title, the book suggests that the author would have been surprised (not to mention disappointed and outraged) by the recent Rudd resurrection. Walsh's argument is essentially that Rudd failed miserably in his (first) term as prime minister and is so hated by a large majority of his caucus colleagues that any idea of a successful comeback is purely a media myth (fed by a small core of Ruddsters). Walsh's book is written with passion... Continue reading
Posted Jul 7, 2013 at Trevor Cook
The ALP faces an existential crisis. Rudd's resurrection is a desperate last throw of the dice for a party struggling for relevance in the second decade of the 21st century. The last prime minister to make a successful comeback was Menzies in 1949, he went onto to be Australia's longest-serving national leader. When Menzies lost office the first time in 1941, the venerable Alan Reid, perhaps the most important important Canberra Gallery journalist ever, wrote a column declaring that Menzies' career was over. Not a few times in the 17 years Menzies spent as PM after defeating Chifley at the... Continue reading
Posted Jul 1, 2013 at Trevor Cook
As the ship heads towards the rocks, it's payback time. Here the long-term battle between two former AMWU officials (George Campbell and Doug Cameron) gets an airing, along with some more public airing of the ALP's unsavoury party pre-selection processes. The AMWU has a lock on one of the ALP's NSW Senate spots, what branch members might think doesn't enter into it. Meanwhile, union support for the ALP is apparently wavering as the scale of the looming electoral disaster becomes more apparent: - The ACTU seems to be wavering in its support for Julia Gillard following the union body's polling... Continue reading
Posted Jun 18, 2013 at Trevor Cook
Note: My thesis on the changing relationship between unions and the ALP has passed 1750 reads on Scribd. From Alan Stokes at Fairfax: It was telling on Tuesday when she(Gillard) said: ''I am the best person to lead the Labor Party.'' That is a party run by factions, apparatchiks and unions irrelevant to most people. Notwithstanding her talents, Gillard capitalised on those party insiders to oust Rudd from the top job. Most voters have not forgiven her. They don't trust her. Yet she still believes she is the best person to lead the party. So, too, do the faceless men... Continue reading
Posted Jun 12, 2013 at Trevor Cook
The interviews for my doctoral thesis on the changing relationship between unions and the ALP were conducted during the days when Rudd was riding high as PM, even then there was evidence of a schism that goes to the heart of the ALP - as well as to Rudd's sense of himself as a political leader. Whatever his strengths and weaknesses, Rudd has always been a big problem for the ALP because he has very little feel and sympathy for the old blue-collar union machine. Here are some key quotes: I don’t think Rudd likes us (unions). With the exception... Continue reading
Posted Jun 10, 2013 at Trevor Cook
The last leadership challenge by Rudd in February 2012 was brutal. A lot of people in the ALP believe that Rudd deliberately undermined Gillard's campaign in the 2010 election. A lot tof the hatred of Rudd inside the ALP stems from his behaviour after he got dumped. We're talking real hatred here not just the rough and tumble of some ambitious people. How would they work together? This is just a few samples of what is on the public record imagine what they really think? Julia Gillard: Asked if she blamed Mr Rudd for derailing her election campaign, Mr Gillard... Continue reading
Posted Jun 10, 2013 at Trevor Cook
The last federal ALP leader capable of winning an election AND governing a country was Paul Keating. Even Keating was a poor second to Bob Hawke who was (IMO) the best PM since the second world war. Hawke was a genuine policy innovator and a brilliant campaigner - it's a rare combination in politics. After 1996, Beazley and Crean basically wasted the ALP's time for a decade. Beazley and Crean rejected the Hawke and Keating legacy because they didn't understand it. They were two of the least impressive Cabinet ministers during the Hawke-Keating era. They turned away from the Hawke-Keating... Continue reading
Posted Jun 10, 2013 at Trevor Cook
Ultimately, as Mark Kenny said on ABC Insiders yesterday, unions will determine whether Gillard stays or goes. Well, partly right, because it is union bosses, not union members, that make these decisions. Many members of the ALP federal caucus owe their pre-selections to the support of individual unions, particularly the right-wing unions - the AWU and the SDA. Other significant unions include the CFMEU, AMWU, TWU and NUW. So far Shorten and the AWU seem to be holding firm, and there is little or no media coverage of what the SDA or other unions are doing. Union leaders, who helped... Continue reading
Posted Jun 9, 2013 at Trevor Cook
The Australian Unions (ACTU) TV ad campaign has apparently driven an upsurge in membership, it has also caused some discussion on facebook of the approrpiateness of the links between unions and the ALP: Melissa Ohaeawai Wednesday That's great, however people will also continue to leave unions in droves as long as unions continue to support the ALPs clearly anti-worker agenda both financially and by a lack of public criticism of bad policy. If we really want a return of union power, we, as union members (for what else are unions if not their members?) need to fight for better laws... Continue reading
Posted Jun 6, 2013 at Trevor Cook
Coming at the end of another bad week for the hapless Gillard Government, Kevin Rudd's appearance on national TV was not notable for whether or not he ruled out a return to the federal leadership. What mattered was that his "I'm Kevin, humble backbencher, here to help get the Government re-elected" performance only served to demonstrate how hopeless Gillard and Swan's efforts to sell the government have been. Rudd was more articulate, and more convincing and, well, more prime minsterial than the current PM and her hopeless deputy. And the interview conducted in his office with flag in the background... Continue reading
Posted Jun 6, 2013 at Trevor Cook
Talk about unedifying: ex-Labor pollster predicts epic disaster, Feeney deserts Senate ticket, Labor MPs packing up, election or handover,dead government walking and much more. All the bush league batters Are left to die on the diamond In the stands the home crowd scatters For the turnstiles, for the turnstiles, for the turnstiles Continue reading
Posted Jun 5, 2013 at Trevor Cook
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I think it is a shame that the ACTU president, Ged Kearney, has ruled herself out of the pre-selection race for the ALP's safest federal seat of Batman. It is not surprising. Women still find it much harder than men to win ALP pre-selection for safe seats. Officials from non-affiliated unions find it even more difficult. The parliamentary representatives of the ALP are mostly drawn from that half of the union movement that has a formal affiliation with the party. Affiliation matters because it shapes the composition of the federal caucus, it is about backroom power not on stage talent... Continue reading
Posted Jun 4, 2013 at Trevor Cook
In a preview of a forthcoming book , Brad Orgill argues that the ALP's future after its defeat at this year's federal election lies in a closer relationship with the Greens. This argument strikes me as a bit fanciful for a number of reasons. First, it is premised on the idea that the Greens are growing in terms of electoral support and parliamentary seats, and about to grow even more rapidly in the next few years. Orgill draws the comparison with the ALP during its early years, but this seems far-fetched. The ALP in NSW and federally was immediately successful... Continue reading
Posted May 27, 2013 at Trevor Cook
Yesterday saw the launch of the Australian edition of the Guardian. There was a great deal of excitement on twitter and elsewhere. Many saw it as an escape from 'having to read fairfax and mews ltd'. I'm a little dubious, it looks to me like more of the same. Why will these journalists do anything much different to what they did before at (mostly) Fairfax? The more important reality is that there has been a rapidly growing list of alternatives to fairfax and news ltd. Many of these seem more genuine alternatives than the Guardian (but time will tell I... Continue reading
Posted May 27, 2013 at Trevor Cook