||Issue No. 155||04 October 2002|
Wrong Way, Go Back
Interview: The Wet One
Bad Boss: Like A Bastard
Unions: Demolition Derby
Corporate: The Bush Doctrine
Politics: American Jihad
Health: Secret Country
Review: Walking On Water
Poetry: The UQ Stonewall
Month In Review
The Locker Room
Shame on Murray
Use or Abuse of Long Term Casuals
Speaking in Tongues
Wrong Way, Go Back
Listen to the Conference rhetoric and you'd think that by cutting the formal union influence in the Party, Labor will somehow become a champion of the people. Talk to the workers of Australia and you get a very different story.
The Transport Workers Union has just completed focus groups - members of the contracting Labor heartland - asking them about their attitude to the ALP.
The findings reflect similar surveys for the ACTU and other unions: working people have lost faith with both sides of politics and are crying out for a champion.
Here's what the TWU members had to say:
- "Personally, I think Labor and Liberal are so close now it's not going to make any difference"
- on Labor politicians: "they've got a good looking CV, they've got a university education and they just want to get elected to that cushy job in Parliament. They don't care too much about the worker."
- and "I reckon there's a lot of union members who say you're not doing anything for me, I'm giving my vote to an independent.
In this context the challenge for Labor is not to water down its commitment to core values, but strengthen them.
With corporate excesses reaching breaking point, a war for Oil in the Middle East and increased pressure in the workplace Labor should be killing it.
That it's struggling, is directly linked to the reluctance of the parliamentary wing to move from safety first, white-bread, middle of the road, me-too policies.
That is why the formulation of refugee policy is such a fundamental issue. It is about the way Labor does politics.
Last election, Labor played its biggest card - cashing in its moral soul - in a desperate effort to win an election. It was a turning point for a party of principle; a statement that winning was everything.
This is the end-point of a slippery slope that frames every policy debate as a political opportunity and casts all principles as expendable.
Unionists and rank and filers have a similar agenda: they want a successful party, but they want a leader who is prepared to take a few hits, even a few falls, to ensure that when they attain power they have an agenda consistent with Labor values.
They don't want a political fix dumped on them and into a Parliament that is devoid of principle, compassion and integrity. In short, they want a genuine say in the Party's direction.
The real test for Simon Crean is his ability to create a political platform for Labor voters. There is a heartland out there wanting to vote Labor; they just need a reason.
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