Tag Archives: ALP

The Long Haul, Lessons from Public Life, by John Brumby

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The Long HaulPeople often tell me that I should have gone into politics, and sometimes I think I might have made a good politician, but reading John Brumby’s book The Long Haul reminds me why I never made that choice.  Teaching, especially in disadvantaged schools where you can really make a difference, is enormously satisfying work: it is a privilege to be in a position where the work you do can change a child’s life, and if you are a good teacher, you can feel a sense of achievement many times over in a day.  But politics – as the title of Brumby’s book warns us – is a long haul.  It’s an enormously complex business, inextricably dependent on dealing with people with whom you must find common ground.  For good people who want to make a difference, it looks like a very frustrating job, even when in government instead of Opposition…

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Grattan on Friday: What’s bad for Bill Shorten? Too much election focus on the unions

The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Bill Shorten should be praying those pesky crossbenchers give in to Malcolm Turnbull and pass the government’s industrial legislation.

Unless they do – and so far there doesn’t seem much prospect – the bad behaviour of some unions, notably the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), will be right in the centre of a double-dissolution campaign.

That can’t be good for Shorten, who has been weak on the issue. While he insists Labor has zero tolerance for instances of union thuggery and corruption, he tends to minimise the problem.

The impression remains that he is too much under the influence of the unions generally and in particular is unwilling to robustly distance himself and his party from the CFMEU, which donates large amounts to the ALP and helped Shorten’s numbers on difficult issues at last year’s ALP national conference.

There is not just a matter of perception, but one of substance. Put bluntly, it is disturbing that the CFMEU would be well placed to influence a Shorten government.

Shorten should have confronted the excessive power unions have in the ALP’s structure. He should have taken on the CFMEU. He should not have as his workplace relations spokesman Brendan O’Connor, brother of CFMEU national secretary Michael O’Connor.

Shorten belatedly put forward the opposition’s own proposals but Labor would be better placed if it had allowed passage of the government’s legislation toughening union governance. This is one of the bills that will be before the recalled Senate.

As for the legislation to restore the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) – also to be considered in the special sitting – the ALP argues it restricts people’s rights and breaches the principle of equality before the law by separating out one sector for special treatment.

But Shorten is unlikely to win the debate in the public arena, given what came out of the royal commission into trade unions and the large number of CFMEU officials and delegates now before the courts for industrial breaches.

Polling done by Essential published this week found 35% supported reestablishing the ABCC, with 17% opposed, 27% neither supporting nor opposing, and 22% “don’t knows”. In October 2013, 29% supported bringing the ABCC back; 22% opposed.

If the crossbenchers passed the bills in coming weeks, Turnbull would have a victory but there would not be a double dissolution, and industrial relations would not be so sharply profiled when the election campaign came. Labor would have more opportunity to find the government’s weaknesses, and to elevate its own issues, especially health and education.

Even in a double dissolution triggered by the industrial relations legislation, economic management and tax will be core issues. Turnbull, presumably assuming a double dissolution, has merged the tax package into the budget, now on May 3. This gives what otherwise could be an anorexic budget a centrepiece, and helps with the fact that the tax reform is less ambitious than once hoped.

Also, it fits the flagged company tax cut into a broader economic context. A poll done for Sky News underlined what every Coalition backbencher would know – a company tax cut is not something ordinary voters are hanging out for.

Asked to choose from a list of what the government’s highest priority should be, 46% said fixing the budget and returning to surplus, 27% nominated spending more on education, 25% said personal income tax cuts and only 3% opted for company tax cuts.

This is the Coalition’s third budget. The first deeply soured people’s views of the Abbott government and its treasurer, Joe Hockey, and also heavily circumscribed the framing of the following one. As he struggles with this last budget of the term, the pre-election one, Treasurer Scott Morrison is working against the background of a money tree with few leaves and a relationship with Turnbull that has become poor.

His colleagues and his boss will be closely watching how well he does in selling the budget’s tax and other measures. There won’t want to be stuff ups.

Politics is a competitive game, and Morrison has a potential rival sitting further along the frontbench. Former Western Australian treasurer Christian Porter gave up state politics to pack his bags for Canberra in 2013. Porter was on track to be premier; his eyes look beyond his present social services ministry.

As a member of cabinet’s expenditure review committee, Porter is, in the words of one source, “active without overdoing it”, and some Liberals are already speculating he would be a good treasurer for a re-elected Turnbull government.

Morrison is not deputy Liberal leader, a post carrying the right to choose one’s portfolio. His future, if the government is returned, would be totally in the hands of Turnbull, who has already shown a ruthless streak in dealing with ministers – ask Ian Macfarlane, who was dropped.

Morrison earned the treasury job because at the time he was seen as a good performer. Potentially, he has to earn that job all over again.

https://www.podbean.com/media/player/ve99p-5d9281?from=yiiadmin

The ConversationMichelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. (Reblogged by permission). Read the original article.

 

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Reviewing an anachronism? Labor to debate future of socialist objective

The Conversation

Carol Johnson

The 2015 ALP national conference agreed that there will be a review of the Labor platform’s so-called “socialist objective”. The review follows calls from the likes of NSW Labor leader Luke Foley to revise the party’s objective, given that:

… no-one in the party today argues that state ownership is Labor’s central, defining purpose.

How the socialist objective has evolved

The socialist objective dates from a more radical time in the ALP’s history. When it was written in 1921, the Labor Party was responding to a period of industrial unrest and economic uncertainty following the first world war.

However, even then the party’s original 1921 commitment to “the nationalisation of banking and all principal industries” was quickly watered down to suggest that collective ownership was necessary only where such industries were being operated in an exploitative and socially harmful way.

That important proviso remains in the party platform’s current socialist objective, which reads:

The Australian Labor Party is a democratic socialist party and has the objective of the democratic socialisation of industry, production, distribution and exchange, to the extent necessary to eliminate exploitation and other anti-social features in these fields.

These words already leave a convenient loophole for those modern Labor Party politicians who argue that a healthy private sector is essential for economic growth and employment; that capitalism is not inherently exploitative; and that some basic government regulation, good industrial relations legislation and active unions – rather than nationalisation – is all that is needed to prevent problems of exploitation.

It is well over half a century since a Labor government attempted to nationalise an industry. In 1947, the Chifley government unsuccessfully attempted to nationalise the banks – a move which was found to be unconstitutional. However, Ben Chifley only resorted to nationalisation after Labor’s previous attempts to bring in increased government powers over private banking had failed.

Far from being part of a radical socialist agenda, Chifley’s attempts to have more government control over banking arose from his belief that the private banks were resisting Keynesian-style financial stimulation policies and were not adequately funding the development of Australian manufacturing industry.

With the exception of the banks, Chifley was generally very supportive of private industry, particularly manufacturing.

So, while Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull may occasionally accuse the Labor Party of being fundamentally socialist, it is many years since Labor governments attempted any form of nationalisation.

Why the calls for reform?

The national conference decision is not the first attempt to remove or substantially water down Labor’s socialist objective. There was also a concerted attempt in the early 1980s, in which Gareth Evans played a leading role. He published key arguments critiquing the objective. Some of the 23 sub-paragraphs that modify and explain Labor’s current objective date from that time.

Consequently, the ALP’s socialist objective now has much less political significance than British Labour’s equivalent, Clause IV. Tony Blair argued that the:

… ideological refoundation of the party took place through the revision of Clause 1V.

Blair saw it as a central part of the modernisation process that separated “New Labour” from its socialist and, in his view, overly trade union past.

Years before Blair revised Clause IV and trumpeted New Labour’s arrival, the ALP under prime ministers Bob Hawke and Paul Keating had been moving in a similar direction. The ALP began placing an increased emphasis on the positive role of markets and private enterprise in achieving the party’s aims of economic growth, full employment and equality of opportunity.

Hawke and Keating had introduced their economic rationalist policies with the support of the trade union movement. They had even increased private profits by trading off real wage increases and some working conditions in return for providing superannuation, education and welfare benefits.

The Rudd government did not embrace such economic rationalism as enthusiastically as Hawke and Keating had. Nonetheless, both the Rudd and Gillard governments still saw a healthy private sector as having a crucial role to play in achieving Labor’s aims. Kevin Rudd and – contrary to popular opinion – Julia Gillard both saw the ALP as already being a modern social democratic party.

So, given that retaining the socialist objective hasn’t prevented Labor from developing pro-market policies, why is it still seen as such a significant issue? Why does it still generate passionate debate?

The objective’s opponents argue that it is time to make a definitive and symbolic break with Labor’s more radical socialist past. They claim Labor needs to reformulate its social democratic objectives given that nationalisation is no longer on the party’s agenda.

Since that clearly is the case, why are others still wanting to hold on to the objective? One reason is that the objective does reference a time when the ALP still had a critique of capitalist markets, even if a somewhat qualified one.

Also, vague references to “democratic socialisation” – and only when essential to prevent “exploitation” and “anti-social features” – can potentially include a variety of regulatory measures or forms of public sector provision, not just nationalisation. The sub-paragraphs explaining the objective make that clear. Many left-wing ALP members are concerned that Labor’s embrace of market-based solutions has gone too far.

After all, if there are no significant problems with relying on markets, why do we even need social democratic parties like the ALP? Consequently, Labor’s socialist objective has a much deeper significance than appears to be the case at first sight. Rather than just being an anachronism, it still raises issues about the ALP’s fundamental nature and political mission.

The ConversationCarol Johnson is Professor of Politics at University of Adelaide.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. (Reblogged by permission). Read the original article.


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