Australian Labor Party

Australian Labor Party
The Party for all Australians

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Friday, 15 May 2015

Bill Shorten's Budget Reply Speech 2015


Thursday, 12 March 2015

Labor's right may lose control of conference for first time since 1984

Labor's right may lose control of conference for first time since 1984

Labor's right may lose control of conference for first time since 1984

It is possible neither the left nor right faction will muster a clear
majority at the national conference, creating kingmakers out of
independent delegates

Bill Shorten

Party leader Bill Shorten hails from the party’s right faction and will
rely on backing from his own camp. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP

Labor’s right faction is at risk of losing control of the party’s
national conference for the first time since 1984 – a development that
would create a major headache for Bill Shorten.

The ALP is currently in the process of settling the final composition
of the 400 delegates to its mid-year national conference, and factional
chiefs report the numbers are extremely tight.

One senior party source told Guardian Australia it was possible on
current indications that “no one” could control the July conference –
meaning that neither the left nor the right factions could muster a
clear majority – creating kingmakers out of a small handful of
independent delegates without formal factional allegiances.

The party’s right wing has enjoyed and enforced an effective lock on
the national conference since the Hawke-Keating years, allowing various
divisive policy debates to be settled mostly in line with the prevailing
wishes of the party leadership.

The current party leader, Shorten, hails from the party’s right
faction, and will rely on backing from his own camp to minimise
turbulence and political embarrassment at his first national conference
outing as the federal Labor leader.

Whether or not the right can emerge with a working majority depends
on the final resolution of ALP conference delegates from New South Wales
and Victoria – the two biggest blocs.

right is confident about its prospects in Victoria, and factional
chiefs are relying on an administrative process in NSW to calibrate the
final numbers. Sixty of the 108 NSW delegates are expected to be
selected centrally and 48 at the local electoral level. But there is a
determined push on from the left to maximise final representation in

The shift in the overall factional balance reflects a recent shift in
control of the Queensland branch from the right faction to the left
faction; poor organisation and weak electoral representation in Western
Australia and Tasmania; a breakdown in the organisation of the national
right; and incremental democratisation within the party.

The ALP national conference determines the Labor party’s national
platform, and this particular conference gives the opposition a
springboard into the federal election, which is due in 2016.

But the outing carries significant political risks for Labor, which
has attempted to move past the vicious internal divisions of the
Rudd/Gillard period which ultimately cost the party government in 2013.

Shorten goes into the 2015 national conference facing significant
internal flashpoints which include the vexed issue of party reform and
achieving a more progressive policy platform to regulate the treatment
of asylum seekers. Right sources are concerned the left could push for
the complete unwinding of offshore processing.

Other points of conference controversy are expected to be a binding
vote in favour of marriage equality, and debate about the status of

The left faction is expected to oppose a push from the right to remove the socialist objective from the ALP platform.

Left sources also report significant frustration with Shorten’s
personal agenda on party reform. His proposals are regarded as
insufficiently ambitious.

In addition to the complication of whether or not the right faction
emerges with a working majority for the July conference, there’s a
further wildcard: many of this year’s conference flashpoints are
unlikely to be settled along strict factional lines.

A push to moderate Labor’s hardline policy on unauthorised boat
arrivals will be championed by the left but is also likely to win
support from elements of Labor’s Catholic right.

Any serious Palestine debate is also likely to attract
cross-factional support – with elements of the NSW right joining
left-wingers in being supportive of recognising the state of Palestine.

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Rundle: if Abbott goes, Labor will have to do some serious soul-searching –

Rundle: if Abbott goes, Labor will have to do some serious soul-searching –

Rundle: if Abbott goes, Labor will have to do some serious soul-searching

Labor has had 16 months to define itself as something other than just “not Abbott”. So far, it has come up empty.

Tony Abbott retains a great deal of party support.
Unfortunately most of it is in the Labor Party, whose leadership must be
simultaneously crossing themselves and pissing razor blades at the
possibility that there may be a spill that dumps a man much of the
Coalition never liked or identified with anyway, and who has done
everything he could to confirm them in that opinion in the last 16

With Abbott in the top spot — has he even had a chance to
move into the Lodge or is he still at the police college? Are we allowed
to say now that that’s just weird, living in a barracks with fit young
men, and some women, when PMC has already paid for a rental for your
whole family for the entire time the Lodge will be out of commission?
Are we now allowed to say that it’s, like, Pasolini/Tinto Brass-level
weird? — where was I, with Abbott in the top spot, the Coalition is
running on 43-57.

Exciting. Could they widen? Could it hit 40-60? Would that
constitute a spill-triggering event in itself, presuming Abbott hasn’t
joined the Fadden/Forde end of the historical PM batting order by the
time the next polls hit? Could Labor be dealing with a PM who’s a
republican, believes in climate change and economically right-wing but
not a dickwit with regard to negotiations by the time the trees on
Capital Hill have turned to russet and the last of the January fish pie
special at the cafeteria has climbed out of the bain-marie by itself?

We could. Whatever soothing effects the Press Club speech
has had on some, it appears to have driven others in the opposite
direction and convinced them that the man is incorrigibly rigid and
delusional, and that there is no upside to leaving him in place. These
are the “Abbott-haters”, apparently. They now constitute a third of the
parliamentary party. Perhaps Nick Cater can do a quick phrenology check
to see if they have the right skull bumps for responsible government.

Which is of course terrible news for Labor, for they have
either shown primo security in guarding their comprehensive pitch for
the 18 months of a post-Abbott government, or they have nothing in the
barrel, de nada zilch zero zip. Based on the last 20 years of Labor, I
wonder which it is?

Obviously it was right for Labor to stand well out of the
way last year, as the Coalition’s forces were steadily undermined by
Clive Palmer’s Guevara-esque guerrilla tactics. The Coalition was
essentially its own opposition, with a little help from Palmer United
for a good six months. But that should have been the ideal time to start
developing quietly, slowly, some new idea of what Labor is in the 21st
century, what its new pitch is, what it’s for. Developing it from the
ground up, first of all, and then getting it out there in a low-key way.

Something. Anything. There is nothing. Labor is full of
people with good ideas, committed to making a better society, yet there
is no leadership in place to gather these ideas up and move towards a
new idea of Labor. That is emphatically not a suggestion for a 90-page
plan starting with the socialisation of all industry. It is simply an
observation that Labor throughout its history was wont to renew itself
periodically, with a few pauses, and the current pause is about to hit
its third decade. What began as a trade union party of white men became a
socialist nationalist party, then a modernising social democratic one,
and then a postmodern social market party.

At each point it has had a proposition about what group of
people it represents, what it believes the good society is, and how it
wants to get there from here. Now, it is simply clueless. “How do you
deal with them?” I asked a Greens senator recently. “Do Labor seem
confident, or is it like The Poseidon Adventure, and they’re tapping in Morse code from the inside of the hull?” “Poseidon Adventure,” he
said. “You go to different parts of the hull to hear what different
factions are saying.” Original, not remake, in which the stricken liner
represents the hubris of technological society, and the theme song was There’s Got To Be A Morning After. Those were the days. When disaster movies had a song. I wonder, if it were a movie, what the Coalition’s song would be at the moment? Probably There’s Got To Be A Morning After.

Now, unions are managers of multi-billion dollar capital funds, with an employment dispute resolution service as a side line.”

Labor figures have produced books, some of them good (I especially enjoyed Paul Howes’ Confessions of a Manless Face),
and they’re full of ideas for piecemeal reform, but there’s no
proposition they can put to a class base, or the electorate as a whole.
That’s because there’s very little analysis of how society has changed
in what is now a quarter century since the last big proposition was put.
That one was the idea that one section of the Australian
settlement —  tariffs and protection — should be pretty comprehensively
abandoned, the pain of a restructuring recession borne, and enhanced
training and education be applied to fill the gap with new industries
and services. As that process undid old forms of material solidarity,
the nation would be reintegrated by a new “cultural nationalism”, with
themes of republicanism, post-Commonwealth identity, and
multiculturalism at its core.

That was not merely a strategy, it was underpinned by an
idea of the good life, of what we should be moving towards. Labor had
been, ostensibly, a party of the working class, with a “new class”
add-on, and had let the economy and society determine culture. Now it
was going to propose a whole new idea of the good life — highly educated
and mobile rather than fixed, culturally recombinant rather than
settled, global rather than parochial — and take a big section of the
population with it. Implicit in that proposition was the idea that a
section of the old working class — many of whose working lives, and
worlds, were shut down a decade earlier than they would have
been — would not go with them, but that new groupings would.

That worked in 1993, but by 1996, the mix had become
contradictory. The new national culture being proposed felt alien and
elitist to those who had been hardest hit in the early ’90s. John Howard
didn’t have to promise to do anything about the economic or life
changes to get their vote — he just had to say “political correctness”
189 times and “comfortable and relaxed” once. But in the scheme of
things it didn’t matter. He continued most of that program, especially
high non-white immigration. Inconvenient as it is to supporters and
detractors, Howard’s historical achievement was to make Australia
decisively post-European, and to continue and extend the atomising
effects of Keating’s other signature policy, compulsory individual

This latter policy is Keating’s most significant
contribution, and one Labor has yet to deal with. When Bob Hawke left
office, workers were dependent on collective arrangements through the
state for much of their welfare over life, and trade unions were still
workers’ representation bodies, however short they fell on such duties,
funded by fees. Now, unions are managers of multi-billion dollar capital
funds, with an employment dispute resolution service as a side line.
Workers have had their life paths and fortunes not only individualised,
but embourgeoisified — anyone looking to retire at 60 and live to 85 on
super will be living at least a decade on funds accrued from investment.
Good luck to ‘em, but the material reality is that they are, in part, rentiers, to
use an old Marxist term, with a direct personal interest in the health
of the stock market. This is a decomposition of the working class at a
fundamental level (something I have found very difficult to explain to
actual Marxists).

Thus, it has caused a fundamental decomposition of Labor’s
primary vote. As the “new class” — or knowledge/culture/policy workers
as I am wont to call them — departed to the Greens, a whole section of
suburban workers that Labor could have held onto (especially as it
distanced itself from the Greens, culturally) became biddable free
agents. It’s not just super obviously: it’s high wages (massively high
by a global scale) for jobs that are paid at a pretty basic level
elsewhere, property as an asset, private health insurance. This
transitional working-middle class is, in its particular form, pretty
distinctive to Australia. In the US, it’s simply called the “middle
class”, and it’s squeezed, hanging onto a house, living from paycheque
to paycheque, fearing bankruptcy if chronic illness strikes. In Europe,
it remains bound up in collective welfare: the teacher, the plumber, the
shop owner, the nurse all live in public housing, with universal
healthcare, oriented to a pension that will support them in a decent
manner. And in the UK it’s just pov everywhere, except for Russians and
Sir Prince Philip.

So the Australian working-middle class has distinctive
power — capable of swinging substantially from side to side — and a
distinctive ensemble of political values. Because most are workers, they
want state-supervised wage and conditions fixing, they want a moderate
social-market style welfare system in place, and they want a viable
state sector. But they’re open to privatisation on a case-by-case basis
and very attentive to the budget bottom line, and the health of the
wider economy. The latter is seen as directly impinging, in a way that
it didn’t a generation ago. Budget irresponsibility will be punished,
but so too will ideological slash-and-burn, especially if it is seen as
threatening an irreversible change. The ’90s angst about “PC” and “elite
cultures” etc is gone now. A whole tranche of those most worried about
it have simply died of old age.

The ranks of the working-middle class is being filled by people in their 30s who believe in Anzac Day and an apology and recognition, a traditional church wedding and same-sex marriage, stopping the boats, and
that multicultural society is just how the world is. They know what
debt is because they hold a mortgage that’s 400% of a couple’s combined
salary, so they’re not impressed by the Coalition’s intellectually
insulting proposition that all debt is death. But they’re dismayed by
Labor’s unwillingness to talk about how it got to be as high as it did,
and what they’d do differently. They are particularly uninterested in
culture wars: they couldn’t give a damn about premiers’ literary prizes
or 18C, and it took knighting Sir Prince Philip to get them interested
in the government’s cultural follies. What the Right presents as a war
on their behalf against elites, they see as an elite game, when they pay
attention to it at all. Gonski mattered to them because everyone’s kid
is in a class with an autistic kid (or is the autistic kid), and all
teaching stops when a single teacher has to attend to her/him.
Christopher Pyne’s curriculum review, by contrast, is just more
self-indulgent disruption, more Churchill kitsch, a moving target as
their kids try and focus on exams on which their lives will hinge. They
live in worlds knitted together with social media and global media in
which local life is as prominent as it ever was, but national life — the
Empire! the Commonwealth! the “It’s Time” nation! creative
nation! — has faded from view, save for intense moments of national
regrouping, such as the accidental death of one cricketer once. That’s
what such moments are for — they substitute for what was once a
sustaining, continuous and very present sense of identity. The idea that
the government should be setting a cultural agenda strikes them as
tantamount to a category error.

this expansion of the domain of struggle … Labor not only has no
purpose, but it remains dependent on crisis and failure on the Right.”

Thus they want a government that is very mildly on the
centre-left, but that combines that with judicious management. And
decisively eschews the cultural malarkey. The good news for Labor is
that this class will choose the ALP to do that when the Coalition starts
to direct policy from the IPA playbook. The very bad news for Labor is
that this class will gravitate to a Coalition that is moderate and
evidence-based, and strongly prefer the Coalition as economic
managers —  because the funds that the government is managing are
theirs in a very direct sense, and not simply a general thing called
“the economy”.

When a Coalition grouping gets that right, the great sucking
sound you hear is many many people whose parents would never have voted
anything other than Labor rushing to a Coalition that, if it can keep
them over two or three election cycles, might hold onto ‘em for good.

Labor has thus deconstructed its base very ably, but it
hasn’t built a new one. And it doesn’t have much of an idea how to. From
the late 1960s to the 1990s, Labor built up a formidable array of
allies giving it advice not merely in economics, but in sociology, and
media and cultural matters. This allowed it to successively change its
ideas about society, as society was changing rapidly in a post-’60s era.
These have pretty much all been chased away now. First-rate figures
like Hugh Stretton, Peter Westerway and Anne Summers gave the sort of
input that MPs and their advisers can’t get themselves because they’re
so focused on the tactical moment — and they were used as much by the
Right as by the Left of the party in this matter. Such figures would be
derided as wankers these days and given no place. The publication that
allowed Labor to repoint itself, the annual Labor Essays, is as
distant as Peterloo and the Charter. The 1970s/’80s process whereby the
Hawke/Keating/ACTU “Australia Reconstructed” strategy came from the
Left — from Laurie Carmichael and the eurocommunists around the
CPA — and could only come from there, has vanished too. Labor, as a
parliamentary grouping, has let a whole political-cultural hinterland
die, without understanding that that was its habitat.

What survives is a narrow and self-mythologising economism,
coming largely from the Per Capita group, which amply demonstrates the
truth of the old idea that to a hammer, every problem looks like a
nail — and a rationally calculating, utility-maximising, marginally
useful hammer at that. The world is rising up against the world this
sort of economics has produced, but the centre of Labor can’t see that,
because that is all that it can see. The only discourse that could be
called social-analytic in the Labor camp is that of Tim
Soutphommasane — but it’s policy-oriented, and pretty thin stuff
compared to what has gone before. Other Labor academics/intellectuals
are just vacuous or, below that, Troy Bramston.

Should the Coalition dispatch Abbott, that is going to be
the problem from hell for Labor — especially if the new leadership has
the audacity to clear the decks, pretty much define the last 16 months
as an extended hostage situation, they had to say what this lunatic told
them to, etc, etc, but now let’s get back to it. The rapid collapse of
Abbott is a gift to the Coalition, and one they could maximise if they
made it an occasion for generational change. That is, elevate Bishop not
Turnbull, put the latter as Treasurer — where he would be seen by the
public as a non-political expert — sack Pyne and Brandis, and replace
them with quiet managers with modest programs. Announce a five-year plan
for return to surplus, re-affirm a commitment to Medicare, to a
modified Gonski and NDIS — which, in realpolitik terms, can be
eviscerated in instalments — a new package for higher ed, and
congratulations you are now the natural government of Australia again,
and you can just bang bang bang Labor over the head with deficits and
debt. Labor has nothing to say back, because it has not created anything
else to say.

What could/should Labor do, supposing that the Coalition
leave Abbott twisting in the gibbet by the crossroads, and they get a
reprieve? What they should have been doing is reflecting on what a
progressive party is for in the first place — what is implicit in its
being. Its general mission is to not take given social existence for
granted — to say that there are better and worse collective situations,
and that the whole of social life, or a dimension of such, must be
transformed at certain times, in service to that. If you don’t believe
that, you shouldn’t be in Labor. You should leave and join the Liberal
Party and try to make it into a more rational classical-liberal party
with a few social-liberal bells and whistles. But if you want to be a
Labor Party then what was once its mission — real material improvement
of working-class life — has to be seen as a particular case of a more
general mission (and I’m leaving out any discussion of the socialist
objective). The first part of that struggle was to make people recognise
that life was political at all, and that wages, conditions etc were not
ordained. That was a reorientation within the left itself across the
19th century, since the movement had began as one that was merely
pushing for the extension of liberal rights to the working class.

Today, there is going to have to be the same struggle to
draw in a whole series of given conditions as political: housing
affordability, free time, childcare and support, commuting and urban
quality of life. These are all the things the Right has succeeded in
convincing the working-middle class are simply ordained, and how life
is — that you work like dogs to pay off floorspace, have no public
transport, no time with your kids, or you can’t combine work and
childcare because there’s no gain, and so on. These are the barriers in
Australia to life getting to the next stage — to a qualitatively better
life than the previous generation, and one more expressive of human
needs and desires, both simple and complex. That has to be the
proposition that Labor makes to the Australian people and makes often
enough to turn this stuff — which people bitch about endlessly at
barbecues etc — into a political demand. Without this expansion of the
domain of struggle — which is in no way a revival of the idea of a
bigger state, simply a smarter, more responsive one — Labor not only has
no purpose, but it remains dependent on crisis and failure on the
Right. The Right are not going to be in crisis forever. They may no
longer be in crisis by the end of this week. The Abbott-govt Blunder might
have keeled over, leaving Labor on top, banging on the hull, but it
could turn again. It’s not over till the fat lady sings. And she’s
singing There’s Got To Be a Morning After.*

*oh hang on, that was Maureen McGovern.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

It’s Time - The AIM Network

It’s Time - The AIM Network

It’s Time

It’s time for Labor to come out swinging. It’s fine for Tanya
Plibersek to say that Labor needn’t comment on Liberal leadership
tensions because the Liberals are doing it for them. But Labor can’t
just hope that the Liberals will free fall, and allow Labor to coast
into office in 2016 on a wave of anti-Liberal sentiment. The Liberals
may be doing their best to lose the election, but Labor still has to win

With that in mind, it’s time Labor started pushing a consistent
narrative. And that narrative needs to be reducible to a three word
slogan. Sorry, but there it is. The party machine will come up with
something for the election campaign; how much better to have a shorthand
way of indicating Labor’s holistic approach now, up to and including
the campaign. I for one don’t want to be stuck with ‘moving forward’
ever again.

With this in mind, I’m suggesting a competition to come up with the
best three word slogan for Labor. It could be four words, I suppose. But
no more; it needs to fit on car stickers, banners, coreflutes,
pamphlets etc. Your friendly bloggers and tweeps Vic and Cat Rollison
and I will be the judges. The only prize will be glory – though I’ll buy
you a beer if you’re in Adelaide. The winner and two runners up will be
submitted to the federal executive of the Labor Party.

And now of course I’ve got some suggestions of my own. But none of them is quite right.

‘Labor for a fair go’ (five words.
Oh well) This is an appealing slogan because progressives can see that
the Liberals are only interested in the big end of town, even though a
fair go is supposed to be part of our national ethos. So what’s wrong
with it as a slogan? The problem I see is that Liberals can claim that
their policies are fair – they just mean something different by ‘fair’. For them, it’s not fair
for hardworking taxpayers to have to foot the welfare bill for all
those dole bludgers etc – the lifters and leaners argument. While the
economic narrative remains tied to the neo-liberal surplus = good,
deficit = bad, the Liberals will frame Labor spending on welfare as
waste and extravagance, unfair to working families etc. It isn’t a strong enough slogan to withstand this onslaught.

‘Fight inequality. Vote Labor.’ It
is pleasing to see that the destructive effects of inequality on the
social fabric – to say nothing of its economically dire results for
business and consumers – are becoming part of mainstream liberal/social
democratic political discussion. ‘Will we accept an economy where only a
few of us do spectacularly well?’ President Obama asked in his State of
the Union address. ‘Or will we commit ourselves to an economy that
generates rising incomes and chances for everyone who makes the effort?’
Labor politicians such as Wayne Swan, Andrew Leigh and Jim Chalmers are
now talking about the ways in which inequality flows from the LNP
government’s neo-liberal trickle-down economics and its concomitant
austerity policies. And there will be more of this; the fates of the
minimum wage and penalty rates come to mind. But I think that it’s too
negative as a slogan. The swinging voters that Labor needs to attract
don’t care about inequality as a concept relating to them or anyone
else; they care about things like house prices, wages and inflation.

So how about we make it positive?  ‘Labor for Equality’.
(Three words. Finally.) Many of Labor’s policies, such as those on
education and health, would make society more equal, or at least stop it
from becoming less equal than it is. You can imagine the conservative
response. Socialism! Class War! Lifters and Leaners! Should this matter?
But there’s also the same problem as with using inequality in a slogan:
it’s a concept that doesn’t have a concrete meaning for most voters.

Here’s one from left field. Though you might think ‘right field’ is more appropriate. ‘Conserve Australia. Vote Labor’.
This one appeals to me in some ways (even though it won’t do) because
it draws attention to the wrecking ball policies of the Abbott
government. We need to conserve Medicare. We need to conserve the
minimum wage. We need to conserve affordable higher education. We need
to conserve the ABC. We need to conserve the environment. Many of the
institutions we have developed over the years are under ferocious attack
by the Abbott government. Labor has to promise to save them. This is
not a traditional progressive view point, which usually encompasses
change to existing ways of doing things. But with so much right-wing
‘reform’ going on, maybe Labor should emphasise continuity? This idea
doesn’t work for two reasons. One is that there will have to be some
changes to what is under attack in order to save it. Labor can’t just go
back to what there was before. Its whole narrative has to be about
improvement. The second is that progressives won’t support it, but
neither will conservatives, who would never vote Labor. Even changing
‘conserve’ to ‘protect’ doesn’t fix the problem. Just think of the field
day the LNP would have. ‘We stopped the boats. We protected Australia.’
It doesn’t work. Pity.

How about ‘Stop the Lies. Vote Labor’?
Tempting, given the number of them –budget emergency, unsustainable
Medicare, wages breakout, unstainable welfare system ete etc etc. But
even I can see the problems with that one.

I’d really like to see a Labor slogan that focusses on jobs. ‘Labor means jobs’.
Full employment means higher tax revenue – both income and consumption –
and lower expenditure, in terms of welfare payments in both the short
and long term, to say nothing of the dignity of labour. We already know
that Abbott says his government will now concentrate on jobs and
families – by which he no doubt means ‘freeing up’ the labour market
through some newly resurrected version of Work Choices. We also know
that there are already five unemployed people for every available job.
And this is where things get really tough. A successful slogan has to
encapsulate the Labor narrative. How can a slogan about jobs be
meaningful under current circumstances? It can’t, unless Labor changes
its narrative on debt and deficit. It’s only by being prepared actively
to advocate running a deficit that Labor can create jobs. It’s only if
the economy is re-visualised as a series of cooperative rather than
competing interactions between the public and the private sectors, that
Labor can argue for government stimulus and a deficit budget. And even
if Labor accepted this, what would it take to turn around the public
perception of debt and deficit?

So you can see why the Labor slogan is so elusive. But if you can
crack it, I promise to deliver your gem personally into the hands of
Labor’s National Secretary. Good sloganeering!

Friday, 23 January 2015

Are you angry about what the Abbott government is doing to Australia? Then join the Labor party

Are you angry about what the Abbott government is doing to Australia? Then join the Labor party


Are you angry about what the Abbott government is doing to Australia? Then join the Labor party

If you want to see a progressive party rule Australia, your only
choice is to join the Labor party and make it more progressive from the

‘Join Labor to give Australia the party of the left it deserves. A party
Gough Whitlam would be proud of.’ Photograph: Graeme Fletcher/Getty

If you despise what the Abbott government is doing to Australia, your best shot at ending the carnage is to join the Labor party.
You may vehemently oppose some of their positions – Manus Island
springs to mind – and that is the very reason you should join. The
Greens cannot help you. To lead a nation you must govern it; the Greens
will never win the votes required to hold government.

Since the second world war, all progressive change in Australia has
required Labor – think of Medicare, free education and ensuring the
largest migration program in the world made all feel welcome through
multicultural policies.

But in order to connect with a new audience, and a potential new party base, it’s critical to acknowledge that Labor
governments have made mistakes as well. It was the Hawke and Keating
who ended free tertiary education, that was a huge mistake, as was much
of the privatisation that took place in the 1990s, the sale of public
housing, and the ghastly treatment of refugees.

even Barack Obama, in the wildly capitalist United States, is seeking
to make community colleges free. This provides an opportunity for Labor
to boldly fight for a just Australia where tertiary education does not
leave people with a debt sentence. It’s time for visionary policy, not
governing by bean counting.

Labor must fight for free education, not because it is something nice
to have, but because it is essential to have if we want to live in a
knowledge economy with high wages into the future. The fight will happen
within the party from its left factions. The Labor party’s right has
been growing stronger with the loss of left-leaning members.

People need to participate in party politics to get the parties they
want. Parties are made up of people – if you want a more progressive
Labor party, make it. It can be easily done.

There is a curious cognitive dissonance when it comes to politics in
Australia. A great many people are willing to take to the streets to
protest over free education and the Abbott government’s unfair policies,
but not as many are willing to join the governing party of the left to
ensure it is more progressive – to ensure free education, same sex
marriage, a working wage and a meaningful response to climate change

Many on the left ignore basic political science and have a loss maximisation strategy. Duverger’s law – the propensity for single member constituencies to form two party systems – and parental socialisation
effects are the institutional and sociological drivers of party
stability. Labor is not going anywhere fast, nor is the Coalition.

Greens are not an answer to the ending the Abbott government. Holding
power is a necessary preliminary to ridding the country of Abbott’s
horrid policies, and this is something the Greens cannot attain. Labor
was created by the union movement as a political wing to fight the

When the CFMEU or NTEU
give $1m each to the Greens and Labor, they fight over Grayndler and
Melbourne. These are seats that have traditionally gone to Labor. The
scarce resources we have on the left could be better used against the
Liberals, rather than each other, in marginal seats such as Banks or
Brisbane. The Greens do not fight Tories, Labor does. The Greens
presently weaken the capacity of Labor to fight Tories and prevent a
progressive party from holding government.

The words “in solidarity” have been forgotten. The division of the
left is wasteful. Everyone can reasonably accept that the Greens were
formed in critique of capitalism’s exploitation of the environment; for
Labor, it was capitalism’s exploitation of workers. Both parties share
the same concerns, if not intensities of focus. Parties critical of
capitalism fighting each other instead of the capitalist’s party is
proverbially pissing money into the wind. When fighting the limitless
donations the Liberals receive from big business, and the Murdoch press
to boot, this is no laughing matter.

Politics is a choice between the preferable and the outrageous. By
becoming a member of the Labor party, you can help ensure that mistakes
like ending free education don’t occur again.

In 2014 I witnessed NSW Labor fail to make same-sex marriage a
binding issue at national conference. The vote was lost on the floor
narrowly by 72 votes. An additional 1,080 left-leaning members of the
ALP would have made that vote a victory for progressive politics (there
is 1 vote per 15 members on conference floor).

In 2011, 10,000 people walked through Sydney during the Labor
national conference to call for a binding vote, not the current shame of
a conscience vote. If those people were to have joined the party, the
change would have been made. There is a disconnection between the ends
people seek and the means they are willing to achieve such ends.

Australians who believe in progressive politics must realise that a
Labor government is the only option to protect the vulnerable. While I
am highly critical of Labor’s flaws, such as its treatment of refugees,
the party remains the structural barrier that has protected workers’
rights, the environment, welfare, health care, education and every other
social institution the 2014 budget sought to destroy.

If you do not approve of this Abbott government, what are you going
to do about it? Man the barricades! Join Labor to give Australia the
party of the left it deserves: a party stronger both in numbers and
morals. A party Gough Whitlam would be proud of.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

How to sell the Economy - The AIM Network

How to sell the Economy - The AIM Network

How to sell the Economy

Beyond all the programs and policies it takes to
the next election, Labor’s biggest challenge will be selling its
economic credentials. While their record in health, education and
foreign affairs is admirable, future policies will always be threatened
when the media and the Coalition ask the question: How will you pay for

Labor’s record of managing the economy from 2007 to 2013 was much
better than most people think and they have every reason to be proud of
what they achieved, particularly when the GFC is factored into that
assessment. Their weakness, however, is public perception. For some
inexplicable reason, the Coalition have been able to convince many that
Labor were economic vandals.

As false as that was, and is, it remains an issue that needs to be addressed.

That means the next federal campaign must be planned in such a way that
any repetition of that scare mongering which will, no doubt, be based on
false premises, can be cast aside with superior economic arguments that
treat it with the contempt that it deserves.

opinion polls, then and now, suggest that clever politicking by the
Coalition has contributed to a misunderstanding of how successful that
period was for Australia economically. We were the only OECD country not
to experience a recession, yet the perception was one of impending

When in opposition, Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey demonstrated how easy
it was to attack a government’s credibility in economic matters,
particularly when a compliant media gave them plenty of exposure. It
didn’t seem to matter that their claims, e.g. ‘budget emergency’ and
‘debt and deficit disaster’, were false and misleading.

Mud tends to stick and polling today still shows that the Coalition
is seen to be the better economic manager. This defies the comparative
record of the two and says more about the myth than it does about the
Coalition’s tactics, but, at the moment, the perception and the myth are

As many of us expected, over the past year the government’s own economic
credentials have been put under the microscope and they have been found
wanting. They are failing to produce the results they boasted of in
opposition and failing to reduce the debt and deficit disaster they
claimed was so damaging to the economy. They are now fending off
criticism from nearly every neo-liberal economist in nearly every
mainstream newspaper in the country.

Joe Hockey’s foolish claim that he would deliver a surplus budget in
his first year and each year thereafter has come back to bite him. He is
staring down his worst nightmare. He can cut as much spending as he
likes but he will never deliver a surplus budget without an increase in

hockeyIf he was any good at his job in opposition, he would have known that.

Worse still, he cannot see that the major stumbling block to
sustained national growth, higher tax revenues, increased demand and a
positive terms of trade, is unemployment and underemployment.

This is where his problem lies and where the real waste lies. It is a waste to the tune of $4.7 billion per month.
Deficit spending is not the problem. Nor are ballooning health or
education costs. It is the under-utilisation of the available work force
that needs to be addressed.

Deficit spending on value-adding projects is good for the economy.
Eighty-two of the last 100 years of Federation involved deficit
spending, a body of fact that has contributed to where we are today. Are
we burdened by those deficits? Are we cursing our parents and
grandparents for making us the beneficiaries of this debt? I don’t think

This is where Labor needs to concentrate its efforts because when the
public understand this, everything else becomes possible. When a
nation’s workforce is fully or near to fully engaged, healthy GDP growth
is assured. This enables proper funding for health and education. But
to achieve near full employment job creation programs are required and
that will require deficit spending.

do this, they need to explain the nature of government debt, the
issuance of bonds and treasury notes, the time frame over which these
issuance’s are dealt with, how the interest is paid and where it comes
from; that buying bonds from government is no different from opening up a
term deposit account at your local bank.

They need to consign the ‘debt and deficit disaster’ to the garbage
bin once and for all. But most importantly, they need to demonstrate in
simple terms how deficit spending creates demand.

They might also take a serious look at tax expenditures like
superannuation concessions and the private health insurance rebate, but
that won’t create employment.

The Coalition will, of course, cry more debt and deficit disaster.
They will demand to see it fully costed. It will be an utterly
hypocritical cry but it will be loud and it will resonate. Labor has to
make its case with vigour and conviction, but most of all, with facts.

They need to show how important deficit spending has been over the
past 100 years and the importance of the workforce in realising a
nation’s potential. The Coalition doesn’t understand this simple
principle, or if it does, it is so beholden to its financial backers
that it ignores it and won’t deliver what is best for the people.

It will only deliver for those who have the money and lobby the hardest.

If Labor could succeed in exposing the deceit that accompanies the
government’s surplus objectives, they could render neo-liberal
conservative governments extinct. To achieve this they need superior
economic minds whose sympathies lie with social cohesion. It doesn’t
involve any policy changes, just a simple explanation of how this system
actually works.

They cannot do it alone.

billEngaging the assistance of people like Bill Mitchell,
Professor of Economics at the University of Newcastle, and director of
the Centre of Full Employment and Equity would give them an enormous
boost. Steven Hail
is another from the University of Adelaide. These are individuals who
can clearly articulate the fallacy of supply side economics.

The sheer simplicity and logic they demonstrate will silence the
pseudo economists within government ranks and embarrass right leaning
media economists into silence. The rest will follow and fall into line.

Those who have blindly followed outdated textbook theories and think
as we did when sovereign economies were based on the gold standard will
be forced to confront the reality that these theories no longer apply
and have, in practice, been seen to fail time and time again. They are
failing now, in Europe, the UK and the USA.

This is also where people like Joe Hockey and conservative think
tanks the Institute of Public Affairs can be made to look so far out
date they are drowning in their own ignorance. The challenge for Labor
is to articulate its credentials convincingly and do it with
authoritative voices in support.

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Queensland election 2015: Labor renews support for coal despite climate warning

Queensland election 2015: Labor renews support for coal despite climate warning


Queensland election 2015: Labor renews support for coal despite climate warning

Queensland Labor commits itself to the state’s coal industry, but says new projects need to ‘stack up environmentally’


Queensland’s outgoing deputy Labor leader, Tim Mulherin, has said coal
remains “an important and vital energy source for Queensland and the
rest of the world”. Photograph: Dave Hunt/AAP

Queensland’s Labor opposition has renewed its commitment to the coal
industry for the “foreseeable future” despite a new study warning most
of the state’s coal must stay in the ground to avoid dangerous climate

Responding to research quantifying for the first time the scale of disruption faced by Australia’s coal industry to avoid a 2C warming,
the outgoing deputy Labor leader, Tim Mulherin, said coal remained “an
important and vital energy source for Queensland and the rest of the

However Mulherin, who is about to relinquish his seat in the mining
boom town of Mackay, said new projects “can’t come at any cost” and
needed to “stack up environmentally”.

criticised the government’s multimillion-dollar commitments to help
Indian miner Adani open up the massive Galilee basin coalfields in
central Queensland.

Australia needs to forgo 90% of its coal reserves
to play its part in cutting CO2 emissions by 2050 to avoid more than 2C
warming, according to the study by the UCL institute for sustainable

Thermal coal from nine proposed projects in the Galilee, when burned
in export markets such as China and India, would produce an estimated 705m tonnes of CO2, more than Australia’s total greenhouse gas emissions of 542m tonnes a year.

Mulherin said the Newman government had “put the cart before the
horse and already committed millions in taxpayer money to fund a
development that would normally be funded by the private sector before
and all this before the necessary approvals have been gained”.

“There always need to be a balance between commercial development and
environmental considerations and the LNP have never been able to get
that balance right,” he said.

“Given the current unemployment rate of 6.9%, projects that lead to
job development are absolutely essential but they can’t come at any

“Any project needs to stack up environmentally and Queensland has a long history of being able to make that happen.”

than renewable energy sources, Mulherin pointed to gas-fired power as
an example of a lower emission source the state was moving towards.

“However, for the foreseeable future, coal will remain an important energy source especially for base load power,” he said.

The premier, Campbell Newman,
was joined on the election trail on Friday by Adani’s Australian chief
executive, Jeyakumar Janakaraj, telling reporters that the company’s
mine would bring 10,000 local jobs.

Janakaraj, who vowed the mine would proceed, despite controversies
including the boycott of the project by a number of major financiers,
said Adani “welcomed” government assistance but did not need it.

Newman said his government would work with miners to create up to 28,000 jobs.

Just weeks before calling the election, the government approved
another controversial project: a $900m expansion of a coalmine owned by
one of the LNP largest donors.

The government announced approval of New Hope’s Acland mine, west of Toowoomba, the week on the Friday evening before Christmas.

The attention of the state’s media that day was focused on the murder of 8 children in Cairns, and separately, the arrest of Clive Palmer’s publicist over an alleged criminal conspiracy.

New Hope and its parent company Washington H Soul Pattinson gave more
than $720,000 to the state LNP and the federal Liberal party between
2010 and 2013.

New Hope’s chairman, Robert Millner, was called before the Independent Commission Against Corruption
(Icac) in New South Wales last year over a donations controversy
involving another Washington H Soul Pattinson subsidiary of which he was
chairman, Brickworks.

Icac is due to complete its report this month on whether Brickworks’
donations to the Liberal party in NSW broke laws banning political
contributions from developers.

Activists have accused the Newman government of further burying the
New Hope approval with a snap summer holiday election announcement.

A Stop Brisbane Coal
Trains spokesman, John Gordon, said the government had “opted to cut
and run” from accusations of favouring a donor by timing its
announcement “in school holidays with the media in hibernation”.

A spokeswoman for the deputy premier, Jeff Seeney, has said donations
were “a matter entirely for” state and federal party organisations.

“They have nothing to do with the state government and nothing to do
with the independent coordinator general’s approval with conditions of
the New Acland stage three project,” she said.

The government approval dictated the footprint of the mine – which
would provide 700 new jobs – be reduced by 60%, its life cut by 13 years
to 2029, and its throughput by 2.5m tonnes to 7.5m tonnes.