Sunday, March 12, 2006

Labor Pre-selection Battles

Reflecting on the events of the past few weeks, I think it’s safe to say the next Labor Prime-Minister is currently not a sitting member of Federal Parliament. Furthermore, a realistic view is that the next federal Labor government could be 10-15 years away if party reform isn’t seen as an urgent priority.

Although the figures behind the moves to oust sitting members from safe Labor seats claim renewal as their primary motivation, this could not be further from the truth. The people behind the moves, Union hacks, factional powerbrokers and careerists don’t represent renewal- they represent stasis at best. They are not candidates that make Labor an attractive vote winning force in the present political environment. They cannot appeal to electors in marginal seats. What the party needs are people from broader backgrounds to represent the party in parliament. We need true representatives of the people, and not just representatives of the unions and factional interests. I think this is one of the main areas where the Howard government has it over the Labor party at the moment. Labor consists almost entirely of professional political operatives, whilst the voices of ordinary Australians have been lost. And where have all the social activists gone in the ALP?

What I note about the UK party is that they have representatives from a broader range of professions and walks of life. Not just professional politicians and not just trade unionists. Party reform under Neil Kinnock in the 1980s and 90s has given Labour a broader appeal in the present, and made the party electable after a long period in the wilderness. Without similar party reforms in Australia, Labor will be unelectable, and factional warlords will be left to fight over the ever-diminishing returns of their political fiefdoms.


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