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Australia, we have become a nation of docile submissives

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13.10.2019

This time two years ago, we were in the midst of the marriage plebiscite. Along the way, commentators offered the Yes campaign plenty of free advice. If it lost, it would be because of its aggressive tactics. They were putting off mainstream voters. This was just not the way to persuade people. In the end, of course, the Yes vote won, and it wasn’t even close.

Replay

Around this time 14 years ago, The Latham Diaries had just been released. Mark Latham, who had stood down from the Labor leadership earlier that year, had sharp and nasty things to say about his colleagues and his party. Fears were raised: this would distract from attacks on the government. The book would dog the party all the way to the next election. In the end, it did Labor little harm. Two years later, Kevin Rudd – whom Latham had savaged – led the party into government.

Those criticisms of the marriage campaign might sound familiar. That’s because they are being put to work again. This time their target is Extinction Rebellion, the global movement of protesters calling on parliaments to declare a climate emergency. Stop disrupting traffic, their critics say. You’re putting off precisely the people you need to persuade.

These arguments are being made around the world. They’re also tired and misguided. A protest group is not a centrist political party.........

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