Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Overdue generational change in the Victorian ALP

"I support generational change" says Simon Crean, "I practised it." As Labor Party leader, he says, he was responsible for bringing new blood to Labor's front bench, including Julia Gillard, Kevin Rudd, and Mark Latham.

Oh, gimme a break (again!): the above-mentioned trio are all boomers (Gillard and Latham were born in 1961), just like the Xercidal Crean himself.

But shove over, boomerpath Simon; generational change – this time actually featuring Xers – is currently on the menu, big-time, within Victorian Labor, at both state and Federal levels. Of the eight individual challenges anticipated to Labor incumbents (all boomers, and all in safe seats, I’m pretty sure), seven are by Xers (four definitely, the others I’m guessing) – and curiously enough, all eight are most definitely male.

What’s happening at state level is relatively simple: a case of the Premier anointing two favourites – one who happens to be his Chief of Staff, Tim Pallas (aged late 30s, I’m guessing), and the other dotcom millionaire and generous Labor donor, Evan Thornley (aged 40 or 41). In politics, this may not seem a particularly new narrative, but its novelty, for me, is that the installees both seem relatively old – not to mention career-established – for this kind of nepotism to be the make-or-break factor. Admittedly, Tim Pallas has had unhappy runs (narrowly and questionably defeated by pedestrian, at best, boomers) at preselection for the state seat of Kororoit and the federal seat of Melbourne Ports (PDF), but falling back onto crass boomer patronage is hardly a good look for a middle-aged Xer, if you ask me.

At Federal level, two of the six challengers (Party/union hacks Nathan Murphy and Matt Carrick) I know nothing about, but I’m guessing that they’re mid-30ish Xers (Correction 14 February 2006: Murphy and Carrick are 28 or 29). Then there’s the odd man out: Melbourne QC and boomer Mark Dreyfus (49). The remaining three are definite Xers, all between their mid-30s and 40 (and all also Party/union hacks): Martin Pakula, Bill Shorten and Richard Marles.

What’s going on, then, is a quite concerted Xer putsch. Note that this is most certainly not a “youth” push – and also remember that this is not a leadership tussle thing; it is about just getting one’s foot in the door of, at or near middle-age, a parliamentary seat. And plainly all seven Xers have already more than paid their dues as Party/union hacks, if previous generations’ lessons and graduation in Preselection for Faithful Hacks 101 (Mark Latham became the member for Werriwa at 32) are any guide.

Has something previously gone wrong with the system, then, which has lead to this seemingly-sudden eruption? Most definitely. Affirmative action in recent years – which has lead to disproportionately more Xer women being preselected (by Liberals, as well as Labor, BTW), all to replace an imbalance of boomer men – may be partly to blame. Branch-stacking (same URL) can’t be held to blame, though, as it is hardly new. Some blame, at least, must admittedly be laid at the foot of the Xer aspirants themselves – the “instead of going for a marginal seat preselection at 30, go for a safe seat at 40” game is perhaps a reckless (although characteristically Xer), all-or-nothing, short-sell ploy.

Above all, though, the Victorian ALP Xer eruption is just one illustration of a wider malaise affecting Xer men in particular. With one in seven* not even in casual or part-time work (and many more with only meager employment), it is about time we stopped being grateful for boomers’ scraps. Fuck the boomers' petulant, youthful: “We want the world and we want it now!”. Xers of the world unite: “We only want what you got given on platter, we’ve been patient long enough, and so we’re taking it now!”.

* This is extrapolating GenX (aged 30-43) as being pari passu with the wider 25-54 y.o. band. While this assumption may not be correct, the fairly standard preconception, that workforce participation among 25-54 y.o. men would run in a straight-ish, downward line, can be safely knocked on the head. Recipients of the disability support pension have a striking, counter-intuitive mini-peak among those born 1962-1965, while there are almost no DSP recipients who were born in 1960 or 1961 (Take a bow, Mark Latham). (Numbers of DSP recipients that match rates among the oldest Xers are only again reached in the 50+ age group, with those born in or before 1956).

Update 9 February 2006

Once again proving my “demographics is thicker than anything else” theory, (boomer) Julia Gillard yesterday went into bat to save the preselection of (boomer) Simon Crean from a Xer’s challenge:

Mr Crean's long history in the ALP as a minister, shadow treasurer, deputy leader and leader meant he deserved respect. "That respect should be shown in the preselection process by having Simon re-preselected and returned. Simon is now one of the important custodians of our collective and corporate memory".

If he’s such an important custodian, Julia, why not mount him in a glass box, and then place the said exhibit out of harm’s way? (Seriously, I’m sure there must be sinecures within Labor other than plain vanilla, safe-seat do-nothings.) You actually expect Xers, and particularly Xer men, to vote for a party that values "memory" above a future, and proven mediocrity against at least possible talent? Sheesh.

Further update 9 February 2006

Greg Combet (a typically clueless boomer) says re the Pakula vs Crean preselection battle: “something's gone awry here along the way and I can't quite put my finger on it”. Earth to Greg: What’s gone wrong is blindingly obvious – boomers pretending that they could run a closed-shop, bar a few token Xer women, indefinitely.

Ages for Nathan Murphy and Matt Carrick have also been corrected.

Further update 27 February 2006

Look at this hilarity from the mouth of John Button:

"Sometimes they call it renewal; sometimes they call it regeneration . . . But that can't be right because they [i.e. the Xer challengers] won't be there, if they succeed in their preselections, until after the next federal election. Now, if Labor wins the next federal election, is it in need of renewal? That is a nice question. If it doesn't win the next federal election, then they're there".

So "they" will always be there (on tap, as it were), eh John? What a moron.

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