Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Event: Lindsay Tanner

Lindsay Tanner struck a sauve figure in his dashing black suit and navy blue tie when he graced Shearer's with his presence on Tuesday October 23. In a parliamentary career spanning 18 years, culminating in his position as minister for finance and deregulation in the Rudd-Gillard Governments, Lindsay Tanner always talked straight, and was always worth reading or listening to. His latest offering, Politics with Purpose, represents the better samples of work from his numerous and varied participation in public debate throughout his years in politics. In the words of the man himself, some of his works are 'lighthearted and whimsical', whereas others are deeply serious and take a thoughtful and considered stance in defending the honour of the Labor Government, which Tanner believes to be 'his duty'.

Just as his years in parliment demonstrated time and time again, Tanner showed us he is a man of true integrity with a real sense of what is right. Whilst he unapologetically carried out his duty to defend the Labor Government, he did so with a critical eye and maintained a focus on the future of progressive politics in Australia and the world as a whole. Some alarming statistics and trends around the Western system of progressive politics were revealed, including the worldwide drop in the Labor vote and how this strongly coincides with the rise of new and pressing issues such as sustainability and the impact of new technologies. Tanner spoke of a new political party gaining traction in Germany, the Pirate Party, that is run by and centred around young people and focuses on digital issues facing Germany. This party has consistently polled at 15% at the local level, and looks set to gain federal seats in the next election. Tanner sees this as a real indication of how absolutely necessary it is that the Labor Party worldwide needs to take a firm and consistent position on the new issues facing our ever-changing world, rather than desperately trying to hold onto an ideal that is becoming more stale and tired with every passing day.  

Of course, what the audience really wanted was the dirt on the ALP and the leadership spill, and Tanner delivered on this with grace and eloquence. He tackled curly questions from the floor with ease and diplomacy, only appearing ever so slightly flustered at the mention of Tony Abbott becoming a world power. He lamented the changing nature of the ALP, taking the audience back to the days where Labor was 'a bit nutty, a bit wacky', but full of members driven by their passion for progress and change for the average Australian. Tanner views the current climate of the ALP as being too focused on winning, and not focused enough on what made them the quintessential progressive party in Australian politics: innovation, new ideas and a real sense of social justice. He fears the fragmentation of the ALP will lead them to failure, and their continual ducking of hard choices, such as making true and committed stances on asylum seekers and climate change, will only further weaken their credibility in the eyes of the public.

Tanner's visit to Shearer's was thought-provoking, inspiring and a cold, hard dose of reality. The future of progressive politics in Australia is looking rather bleak, but Tanner holds out hope for a future where the ALP finds its feet again and builds itself up into the strong, inspiring and forward-thinking party it once was. Politics is a game, Tanner does not try to hide or disguise this truth, but he believes it is a game that should be played with dignity and with the big picture in mind. At the end of his visit, even though there was an unavoidable sense of sombreness in the room, there was also the smallest spark of hope for the future of the Left beginning to slowly reignite.    
 - Sarah

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