Oct 112019

an approach that evaluates theories or beliefs in terms of the success of their practical application.

Richard Marles, Labor’s Deputy Leader of the Parliamentary Party, has come out stating that Labor needs to be ‘pragmatic’ in it’s approach to policy development between now and the next federal election.

“be prepared to ignore and avoid and look past the manufactured parliamentary tests, the stunts and the wedge politics the Liberals spend so much of their time constructing for us”.

“We know that sometimes that will hurt in the short term, sometimes it will sting our passionate supporters who might prefer a pyrrhic parliamentary victory. But so be it. That is pain we will have to wear.

“Because none of the people who count on Labor governments benefit if we all die in the first ditch the Liberals dig for us.”

Marles is of the right of the party and it must be remembered that Shorten, the leader who lost what was deemed by all to be the unloseable election in 2019, was of the same ilk. My ideological approach is different and I do NOT agree with Marles. Yes, there are times when pragmatism is a galling fact of life, but to surrender – and that’s what I read – is not the Labor Party I grew up with and the ethos I believe in.

I understand what Marles is saying, and agree with him that their opposition have no policy, are only dedicated to retaining power, and playing political games while instigating the Institute of Public Affairs edicts. But to surrender the true believers to the maw of conservatism does not sit well with me. Doing so is tantamount to playing the very same games the coalition want to play. This devolves our democracy – such as it is these days – to simplistic game playing and self-preservation at the cost of real policy creation and innovation.

In this years election, the coalition deliberately went out to spread disinformation about Labor policy, presenting nothing of their own vision. The lies about Labor’s franking credits policy, the blatant fantasy of proposed Death Taxes by Labor are classic examples. Yet Labor, under Shorten, did nothing, absolutely nothing, to categorically dispel these lies. Pragmatism can be dangerous and ignoring those who tell lies in the belief that voters will see through them, is even more so, as we saw in the eventual election outcome.

The Australian electorate is disengaged from the political process. The game playing, lying, misdirection, arrogance and hubris of conservatism has bored the electorate to the point where ‘same ‘ol, same ‘ol’ is seen as less dangerous than innovative change. Labor must NOT accede to a cow-towed, lock-tugging, pragmatic approach, but take on conservatism head on. For every address by conservative apologists to the Institute of Public Affairs, The Sydney Institute, and Centre for Independent Studies, Labor MUST provide a counterpoint address deliberately confronting and opposing proposed policy pronouncements from these think tanks. Make no mistake, the Parliamentary coalition parties have no policy initiative. Their Parliamentary parties do not create policy, they have out-sourced policy creation to non-elected, non-representative parties and individuals. Practically every coalition member is a member of one or more of the aforementioned organisations. Those organisations operate in secrecy from the Australian electorate by dint of legislation.

Australian tax laws allow some NGOs to be awarded charity status through an act of parliament. Many think-tanks have become registered charities through this provision, which has the benefit of conferring tax-deductibility without the usual transparency requirements. Groups like the Institute of Public Affairs and the Centre for Independent Studies are able to offer tax deductions to their corporate donors without having to make the relationship public.

This has to end, for ALL external policy research organisations that present day political parties rely upon for policy creation. This says a lot for the state of our body politick, that it is unable to research and instigate policy from with the bounds of the elected representative cadre. This situation has arisen through pragmatism. Through ‘same ‘ol, same ‘ol’ attitudes. Being pragmatic is an open doorway to laziness in policy creation. Labor MUST come away from the right, return to being a party for the worker, a party of opposition from an authoritative standpoint. An example being the revelation during the week of the massive increase in asylum seeking arrivals to this country by air. The issue was raised by Senator Kennealy, it received minimal air time, was dismissed by Dutton and died in the political gutter of pragmatism. There was an edge to be had, and it was cast aside. Dutton offered no validation for dismissal, simply waved it away.

Pragmatism is nothing more than surrender. The Labor Party I believe in does not surrender. There are 30 months for Labor to re-establish itself as a political force for the working class. The next 30 months should be used as a continual election campaign, a battle of ideas and those ideas must come as a direct confrontation to anything conservatism proposes. If that time is not used actively and aggressively, Labor will spend the decades in opposition that it spent pre-1972.

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