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Synopsis

In the second Quarterly Essay of 2002, John Button looks at what has gone wrong with the Labor Party. What has happened to the faith of the True Believers and why is the ALP so bad at recruiting new members? He offers a tough-minded analysis of what went wrong in the last election and asks why the Labor Party has turned its back on its destiny as a party of reform.

Here is a very cool account of the factions which seem to stand for nothing but their own power bases, and the unions who both give and get little from the ALP. In a withering analysis, John Button looks at the quality of Labor members and the short-sightedness of a party turning its back on ideas. This is an essay by a man who still believes in Chifley's light on the hill but who thinks the only hope lies with New Believers.

"Beyond Belief represents one of the coolest and most disheartening accounts of a great political party this country has seen. This is the Australian Labor Party seen from the perspective of an elder statesman who has an absolute belief ... in the moral superiority of the Labor cause but who seriously doubts whether the ALP will ever achieve government again and who distinctly implies that in its present state it is not fit for it." —Peter Craven, Introduction

"After the election debacle some people blamed the Tampa and September 11. But the simple fact is that the ALP had not built an adequate policy profile or built up sufficient enthusiasm and respect for its style of politics. Without these, it had no hope of differentiating its position on refugees and asylum seekers from the government's when this became the key issue of the election." —John Button, Beyond Belief

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