Apr 272007

"My name’s Kevin, I’m from Queensland, I’m here to help,"

Seriously, if I’ve* heard that opening line from Kevin Rudd once today, I must have heard it twenty times.

I’ve not yet heard the full speech and would very much like to, but I’m absolutely gob-smacked at the attention the media are paying to this years ALP Conference. Newsradio must have played the bite at every bulletin and PM this evening had one-third of it’s time allocated to the conference goings-on.

Let’s be clear. It’s a party political gathering during which election year dirty laundry policy will be aired, tested, discussed at length and above all, made available to the general public for consumption via a media circus which doesn’t seem to be able to get their fill of Kevin Rudd and his Labor feast. It’s a show. It’s designed that way, from the you-beaut new tune to the glib intro, and it’s deliberately styled that way. This is the American influence which has oozed it’s way into our political scene. It’s not Australian and it’s not Labor, but if it sells the movement, the ideals and the strength of what democratic socialism has to offer, then I’ll turn a blind eye.

I’m much more interested in observing the machinations of the factions when the real meat is laid on the table tomorrow for the hounds to fight over. Industrial relations, climate change and uranium. The word is that dissent is being grudgingly swallowed by those disgruntled minorities within the factions on uranium and climate change policy. The Union delegates are apparently swallowing hard over the new 21st century brand of industrial relations, and I for one must admit that I’m not at all comfortable with the proposals to virtually outlaw strike action. Yes, a good thing as far as business and the economy goes and clearly a lever being used by Labor to differentiate itself politically from the Union base, but at what cost, I ask? I fear there is an unstable base beneath this thin 21st century macadamisation of a pot-holed 20th century road to industrial relations. The potential for much grief and heart-ache, not to mention political oblivion, lies just beneath the slick new surface. Especially if the Union movement finds itself on a tenuous limb, as I fear might happen at some point in the future. I’m afraid I may be an old school socialist, but a workers right to withdraw his/her labor in response to an employers implacable stonewalling must remain sacrosanct. In the final washup, it’s the only real weapon a worker has.

On a brighter note, I have to say that I’m gladdened by Doug Cameron’s stance in the face of a Rudd assault to his honesty of values earlier this week. Cameron’s utterance at today’s opening round of the Labor conference rings very true with me.

"The economy exists for the benefit of the people. The people don’t exist to serve the economy."

As radical as I believe Doug Cameron to be, I can identify with those sentiments.

* yes indeed, Ken Parish. Bannerman is still rummaging around in that shed.

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