|Issue No 119||16 November 2001|
Unions Call for Border Review
The head of the NSW union movement is advocating a full review of Australia's immigration and refugee policy in the wake of Labor's federal election defeat.
Labor Council secretary John Robertson made the call at a rally of international unionists in Sydney this week, claiming the Howard Government had outmanoeuvred the ALP by playing wedge politics.
Rejecting claims by some commentators that blue-collar workers were racist, Robertson said workers would respond to a compassionate refugee policy if it was clearly stated and fairly applied.
"My view is that it is not an issue of racism, but of ensuring Australians understand and have confidence in our policies on refugees," Robertson says.
"Australian workers have a great history of supporting just causes and opening their hearts to those in need."
Robertson also flagged a significant promotion and education campaign to promote racial harmony in the workplace and educate workers about the plight of all refugees including the Afghani refugees.
ALP Members Speak-Up For Refugees
Meanwhile, a group of Queensland ALP members have launched a campaign to change Labor policy towards refugees and asylum seekers.
Nearly 400 ALP Branches and party activists will receive a letter from Queensland Labor for Refugees this week calling for "a new policy towards refugees and asylum seekers, based upon compassionate and humanitarian principles".
Labor for Refugees acting-Convenors Siobhan Keating and Matthew Collins say the campaign will provide a forum for the many ALP members dissatisfied with Labor's "us, too" approach to the Coalition's asylum seekers policy.
"Since our election defeat many senior Labor figures have questioned our policies towards asylum seekers, including Doug Cameron, John Robertson, Gough Whitlam, Lindsay Tanner and Duncan Kerr," Matthew says.
"At the Branch level there has been a simmering disquiet for many months, but until now there hasn't been an organised or coordinated campaign to bring about change. Labor for Refugees aims to act as a catalyst for this change," he says.
The Labor for Refugees draft Charter, to be discussed at the group's inaugural meeting next week, calls for
· an end to mandatory detention;
· an end to Temporary Protection Visas;
· an end to the privatisation of detention centres;
· an end to the practice of processing asylum seekers offshore; and,
· a judicial inquiry into the practice of mandatory detention, and conditions within our detention centres.
Siobhan says a key focus of the Labor for Refugees group is to provide resources for Branch members so that rank-and-file activists can organise the campaign across the ALP.
These campaign resources include model resolutions, draft letters, speaker's notes and background papers, and will be principally distributed through the Labor for Refugees website (www.labor4refugees.org). The website was launched this week and will be expanded in the coming weeks.
"Labor needs to ensure that our policies towards asylum seekers and refugees reflect our party's values and principles, such as solidarity, compassion, and a 'fair go'. None of these values should stop at Ashmore Reef or Christmas Island," Siobhan says.
Labor for Refugees is holding meetings at Queensland's Trades and Labour Council building (16 Peel Street South Brisbane) on November 27 and December 18 at 6:00pm.
Balmain Declares: Time for change
And in other post-election news, the Balmain branch of the Labor party, founded in 1891 and the oldest ALP's oldest branch, has called for a transformation of the party following the election defeat.
Members who gathered last Monday night to commiserate following the Liberal victory felt that Labor needs to change the way it operates if it is to reconnect to ordinary Australians.
Members wanted to campaign on principled polices rather be a small target, to define the debate rather than react to it. Most all they wanted a say.
The branch unanimously has written to the leader elect as follows
This branch, conscious of its historic role in the history of the Labor Party, calls for the new Party Leadership to instigate a revitalisation of the Labor Party into a transformed political organisation that:
· Determines its leadership and major party policy positions through a democratic process involving Labor Party rank and file members directly
· Actively seeks the participation of the broadest cross section of society in the party decision making.
· Develops alternative economic and social policies that are connected to the aspirations of working Australians
· That campaigns continuously to educate Australians about its policies and principles
The failure to address the undemocratic, highly centralised decision making process that alienating so many Australians in 1996 has led to a continuing perception that we stand for nothing more than getting re-elected and continuing on as before. Ordinary Australians feel less connection with our party than at any other time in living memory. As a result our primary vote has declined since to our lowest since the splits of the Depression.
It is our view that a failure to transform the party into participatory democratic organisation will see a continued crisis of relevance for the party that will be reflected in a continued decline of our primary vote. Labor cannot afford more of the same.
We therefore call upon the new Federal Parliamentary Leadership to initiate a transparent, independent review whose terms of reference is to make recommendations to facilitate the transformation of the party.
Interview: Out of the Rubble
Michael Costa argues that Saturday's election result could have been much, much worse.
Unions: Sixty-Forty Are Good Odds!
John Robertson argues that while there may be many problems with the ALP, union power is not one of them.
Politics: Wrong Way, Go Back
Labor's failure in the federal election is the result of more than bad luck. It is the result of a shift to populism that has left the Party bereft of core principles.
Campaign Diary: Week Five: All Washed Up
If you can stand it, relive the fatefull final week of a most remarkable election campaign.
International: Trade Piracy Unmasked
As the trade barons met in Qatar to chart out their agenda, George Monbiot looks at the machinations behind the scenes.
Factions: The Party's Over
Chris Christodoulou renews his call for a breakdown of the factional system to bring new life into the ALP
History: The Fall-Out
Neale Towart looks back to Labor's reaction to its loss in the 1954 'Petrov election' and finds warnings for today's post mortem.
Media: Elite Defeat
Rowan Cahill looks at the intellectual paucity in the PM's ongoing attacks on 'elite opinion'.
Satire: Crean 'Listens To Australian People': Will Sink Refugee Boats
Simon Crean, the most likely candidate to replace Kim Beazley as Labor's leader, says he will take heed of the message sent to the ALP by Australian voters at the Federal Election.
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Last Modified: 15 Nov 2005