Feb 262012

An open letter to the Australian Labor Party.

I have often considered becoming more active in my political interests, but until just recently, dismissed such thoughts almost as soon as they arose. ‘What political organisation would value my input’  was the what the internal voice would admonish me with. That was until a week or so ago when it became obvious to me that Labor, come the next federal election due in 2013, would lose and lose so badly as to be lost in the political desert again, perhaps for decades. The only saving grace, or time limiting factor on the inevitable stint in the wilderness would be the conservatives determination, or otherwise, to persist in carrying Abbott as leader.

My internal voice still tells me that my input as a single voice means diddly, but that voice is dwindling. Machinations within the Party since 2010 have confirmed for me that Labor today, is not the Labor I grew up with and was taught to revere as the only political party espousing the core ethics of a modern, progressive society. My Father instilled in me those values. ‘The greatest good for the greatest number’  being the one statement he’d often make when describing his ideological world view. I didn’t really understand what that meant until I aged & matured. These days, it’s my core belief, along with a sense of fairness, the much quoted but little adhered to ‘fair go’ and genuine egalitarianism. To each their own, which is why I avidly support the ideal of same-sex marriage. Homosexually oriented folk are no different to me, save for their sexual preference. That preference is none of my business in any event, so why should it concern me if such folk wish to be considered equals in their own society? It doesn’t, but it does seem to frighten so many Australians.

And that, I think, is where I can come to my reason for writing this piece. Fear is what drives our so-called progressive society. Fear of change, fear of difference, fear of being presented with situations which differ from what we may wish to consider as the norm. I blame John Winston Howard, but that’s another issue. I also lay fault at the feet of the political party I once called MY party. The Australian Labor Party. The ALP of today is not the ALP I grew up with. Today’s ALP is as far from Chifley’s ALP as it is from retaining government in 2013, possibly further. Today’s ALP answers the beck and call of conservatism. Today’s ALP doesn’t have the courage or conviction to stand alone on issues like Asylum Seekers, Climate Change, Same-Sex Marriage, genuine Tax Reform, abolition of the Private Health Care Rebate and a slew of lesser issues which mean a lot to people like me who want OUR party to stand and deliver, without fearing the politics of conservatism.

I’ve read through the Faulkner-Carr-Bracks review of the party. It’s very dry stuff, but what shines out most is the opinions of the rank and file members. This one in particular caught my attention:

“The [issue is the] rise of the central Party apparatus and the decline of the branches. If the resolutions of branches are ignored, if the rules of the Party are ignored, if preselections are determined by head office and not the relevant electoral councils, if we remove democracy as the beating heart of our Party why would people join a branch, why would people get involved in our Party, why would people vote for us?”

That from a NSW branch member. ‘the rise of the central Party apparatus’ . It was the central Party apparatus, in 2010, that displayed a complete lack of spine in removing a sitting PM, on the pre-text that polling was poor. Polling has only plummeted since. Of course, most Laborites know that Rudd is not of the apparatus. Rudd is not a unionista, and by definition, not a factionista. That is why he was removed. Rudd, it can be fairly said, is no different to me in his core beliefs. We’re the same age. I have not been a union member for more than 30 years. I have no love of militancy and in my career industry unions have always been historically toothless anyway. Enterprise bargaining works just fine as far as I’m concerned and I make my own way in my chosen career. That’s not to say I don’t believe unions have a place, because I do, and unions do play a vital part in the conciliation and advocacy process between employers and employees in the more labour intensive and corporately dominated industries. Unions, however, do not and must not ever become the core reason for existence of the Labor movement. Sadly, the Labor apparatus these days IS of the union movement, as clearly defined by the June 23 coup against a sitting PM. The saddest day in the entire 121 year history of the party.

I’ll leave you to ponder on these quotes from Labor’s own history repository. In the words of the greatest true believer of my lifetime, Edward Gough Whitlam:

‘Our programme has three great aims: They are: to promote equality, to involve the people of Australia in the decision-making processes of our land, and to liberate the talents and uplift the horizons of Australian people’

John Curtin:

"I believe the inspiration for change for progress, for all that demonstrates the best in the Australian people lies in the Labour Movement -… it stands for humanity as against material gain and has more resilience, more decency and dignity, and the best of human qualities than any other political movement."

Curtin in particular would be gravely ashamed of what his party has become. I am still considering my thoughts of party membership. I doubt I’ll act while the party remains in government. The party has lessons to learn, I think, before I’ll pay my money & give of my time. Right now, Labor doesn’t deserve me.

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