Laurie Aarons: 19 August 1917 - 7 February 2005

This obituary for Laurie Aarons, a leader of the Communist Party of Australia, appeared in The Age, 11 February 2005 under the heading 'Top comrade bucked heavy-handed Soviets'.

One of the first acts of rebellion by Laurie Aarons, who has died of cancer at Calvary Hospital in Sydney, aged 87, occurred during the 1930s when a conservative member of the NSW Parliament tried to pass a law enforcing "neck-to-knee" costumes at Bondi and other surfing beaches in Sydney.

Lindsay Tanner: Old labels don't reflect new values

The following is a speech by the ALP Shadow Minister for Finance, Lindsay Tanner at the launch of Beyond Right and Left at Gleebooks on 20 Sep 2005 at Gleebooks in Sydney.

VIRTUALLY every day I read stories in The Australian about a mysterious group called The Left. I rarely see any reference to The Right. Those opposed to The Left are clearly right-thinking people, way too discreet and civilised to warrant anything so impolite as a label.

A world made by markets

The following is an excerpt from Chapter 2 of "Beyond Right and Left: New Politics and the Culture War" (Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 2005).

We live in a world made by markets. The last 20 years has seen the triumph of a broad doctrine which goes by many names -- economic rationalism, neo-liberalism, neo-classical economics, supply-side economics -- which argues that all kinds of economic and social issues can be successfully dealt with by a combination of individualism, competition and free markets. At the same time, an older style of conservatism and social liberalism have waned and along with socialism in both its radical and reformist modes.

Beyond Right and Left: Introduction

This is an excerpt from the first chapter of my book, "Beyond Right and Left: New Politics and the Culture War" (Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 2005).

Do the terms Right and Left mean anything anymore in politics today? Political pundits use the terms Right and Left but like any words repeated over and over, the meaning starts to disappear. So many people are skeptical. We routinely describe the John Howard's Liberal-National coalition government as Right. Logically, then, Labor, is Left. But is this accurate or even helpful? The meaning of these terms, like the ideas of those parties, has been transformed in recent times. When Kim Beazley was elected leader of the Labor Party for the second time in 2005, the former Liberal Prime Minister, Malcolm Fraser commented that there was not a single issue on which Kim Beazley 'is on the Left of me'. Then there is Iraq. George W. Bush (on the Right) made war and was joined by Britain's Labour Government (on the Left). Meanwhile, the French Government (Right) and the German government (Left) opposed the UK-USA war.



Friedrich Hayek: prophet of the free market

The following is an excerpt from Chapter Three of David McKnight, 'Beyond Right and Left: New Politics and the Culture War', (Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 2005).

The full chapter outlines the ideas of Hayek and discusses their influence on advanced industrial countries.

Any understanding of neo-liberalism must grapple with the complex ideas of the Friedrich Hayek, because they are foundational to the revival of neo-liberal ideas which have swept the world. It is Hayek's vast intellectual output and theoretical system which gave the revival its resilience and depth. His vision and ideas helped give the sustaining confidence needed by the small radical liberal movement in its years before triumph. What follows in this chapter is a description and discussion of Hayek's key ideas.

The culture war and moral politics

The following is an excerpt from Chapter Five of David McKnight, 'Beyond Right and Left: New Politics and the Culture War', (Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 2005).

[Apart from the Iraq war]'there is another war of values, and it is the culture war being fought within the West. This is the war between those who feel that on the whole our values and traditions are sound, and those among the intellectuals who argue that they are simply a cloak for racism and brute power.

- Editorial, The Australian, 12 April 2003

At its heart Howardism is about the culture war. Howard knows that Australia must change and he has long championed economic liberalism and deregulation. But Howard sees no need for cultural reinvention driven by the urban intellectual elites.

- Paul Kelly, The Australian, 27 October 2001

In early 2004, the Prime Minister, John Howard, sparked a brief but intense national debate about the values taught in public and private schools. Parents were increasingly sending their children to private schools because, he said, 'they feel that government schools have become too politically correct and too values-neutral'. The acting Education Minister, Peter McGauran joined in, adding that too many government schools were 'hostile or apathetic to Australian heritage and values'. Treasurer Peter Costello backed his leader. Parents turned to private schools, he said, because they delivered hard work, achievement by effort, respect for other people and strong academic standards.

A hybrid vision of humanism

The following is an excerpt from Chapter Five of David McKnight, 'Beyond Right and Left: New Politics and the Culture War', (Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 2005).

Why humanism?

Humanism emphasises a commitment to the interests and needs of human beings. Placing human needs at the centre of this world view means establishing a concrete reference point for measuring well being, rather than an abstract principle, whether it is liberty or equality. It also means acknowledging an inevitable complexity. The good society must satisfy needs which pull in opposite directions - for diversity and autonomy as well as for solidarity and community. The good society is thus a balance between state, markets and civil society. Human needs are both physical and psychological and arise from our status as evolved creatures. Making our needs foundational not only means aspiring to fulfill them at the personal and social level. It also means rejecting the social theories that suggest that human beings are completely malleable and therefore perfectible. This is because our needs are an expression of our evolved nature which has limits and is not completely plastic.

Welcome to Beyond Right and Left

I have established this site to connect with people interested in my book, 'Beyond Right and Left: New Politics and the Culture war'.

In the coming weeks I will publish extracts from the book on this site, as well as other articles. I'd love to hear your comments and engage in a conversation with you about the ideas in my book.

The book is the result of several years of wondering about the reasons that the Right has so completely come to dominate the political agenda. In researching the book, I found very early that while a lot of people complain about the Right, not many have grappled the ideas and arguments. It's a mirror image of people who used to complain about the Left, in the days when it was setting the political agenda.