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
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.