I awoke to the news this morning ( ABC here ) that Bill Shorten has accepted Tony Abbott’s cruel Turn Back The Boats policy. A policy that Shorten now says is not only working but that he now believes is necessary for the Australian Labor Party to adopt if it is to win the next federal election.
I first worked on an ALP campaign in 1974; I joined the ALP in 1975. I joined and have remained an active member of an ALP faction since 1981. Over the past thirty years I have held numerous positions within the ALP at branch and state level. I have managed more than twenty individual federal and state campaigns … helping win and hold both federal and state seats.
I have spent far too many weekends pouring over agendas and order papers in the lead up to and at State and Federal Conferences. My more kindly friends would say I was a True Believer; my family have been known to say I’m an idealist … a polite way of saying Dad’s an idiot. The truth no doubt lies somewhere in between.
From time to time I have asked myself: Can I live with other serious decisions that I didn’t like or agree with? In the past the answer has been ‘Yes’ even though on occasions it was a very close thing indeed. So while I have previously thought about resignation I never followed such thoughts with action.
I won’t be in Melbourne this weekend … it will be the first National Conference I have not attended in more than twenty years. Not that I ever seriously imagined that my presence at conference ever made a real difference.
I have always known I was only ever a rank-and-file participant … at best a very minor factional player, a mere spear-carrier. But my beliefs were well held … based on thought, reflection, study and - at the risk of raising a sarcastic laugh or two - on sincerely held principles, which I know differentiated me from many of the delegates to our various conferences and committees.
Far too often I found myself working with and for self-interested greedy overly ambitious and far less talented people; not to mention from time to time a few very dumb people.
But still like - so many rank and file members - I held the ground and continued to work whenever and however inconveniently the timing when asked by the party. I was there leafleting, subscribing and donating both my time and money, doing my bit. Hard as it was at times I accepted that my donations went to people who wanted nothing so much as a better job which they alone believed they deserved.
Men and women who following their election forgot not only their helpers’ names but would often work against the very people who had helped them get their feet on the greasy political-pole.
Far too frequently it was self-preservation; the defence of salary, perks and superannuation that quickly became the all-important touchstone of those the rank and file, helped win a seat. It was my experience that very few successful candidates retained their core principles; even fewer lived or fell by them but thankfully a few did.
That is not to say that every candidate I have ever worked for, and with, did not deserve to have been elected because quite a few did. Some would have made wonderful members and ministers. Sadly and all too frequently the good ones failed to win a seat while the time-serving parasites sat back happily secure in the knowledge that their future was rich and secure just so long as they or their union had the factional numbers to hold a backbench seat in some mediocre upper house or in the Senate.
This morning’s news did not come so much as a shock, after all acts of political expediency and bastardry are hardly uncommon; no this morning’s news came as a blast of hard, cold reality.
Today’s news requires me to look carefully at my on-going membership of the ALP. Is it time for me to walk away? Am I willing to stand at a polling booth in the rain handing out how-to-vote cards for a man or a woman who supports inhumane treatment of refugees … a Tory light?
Can I continue to work for a political party that has moved so far away from those core principles and beliefs that I have held so dear for almost fifty years? Can I in good conscience continue to walk down the same path with a party and with people who can willingly accept compromise and political expediency on such a scale?
How I wish I could be at National Conference this weekend to add my voice in protest and help to protect the values so many of us continue to hold on behalf of those who are so less fortunate than ourselves. The fight may be proved to be - as so many in the past - futile … but that was never sufficient reason to avoid a fight for what was and remains right.
I have decided to reserve my decision on my future membership of the ALP until I see and hear the outcome of the debate … although past experience tends to predict the outcome: The Leader Tends To Get What The Leader Wants.
I fear that this coming weekend may well be my last as a member of the once-proud Labor Party.
If I do find myself resigning next week I will at least be sustained in the knowledge that it was the party that left me.
All I did was tear and bin a dog-eared bit of cardboard that had resided - albeit at times uncomfortably - in my wallet since 1975.
• Dr Buck Emberg in Comments: David I was once a Labor voter ... also rusted on. Then they seemed to lose their liberal roots and I joined the Greens. However, I continued to give Labor my second vote. NO LONGER. I will vote straight Greens and perhaps a few Independents if the ballot allows me. However, I have voted Labor for the last time too.
• Peter Bright in Comments: It’s disconcerting that Federal Labor is morphing into Liberal Lite. Supping with the devil provides him with opportunities to poison the food. Labor’s true Left should ponder some kind of amalgamation with the Australian Greens, the only political party that caringly formulates and then nearly always stands by its well considered humane principles, principles with which I intuitively agree. In contemplating the splendid work of the Australian Greens it still perennially astounds me that so few can do so much with so little - and for so many. As The Liberals raze anything that moves and half of that which doesn’t, and as Labor’s light dims through osmosis with the devil’s wine, the Australian Greens (bless them all) have become the newest Light on the Hill.
• Richard Kopf in Comments: Australians abhor asylum seekers. Labor seems to have two choices. Do the moral thing and watch Tony Abbott and his thugs win another election or adopt a policy that will steal Abbott’s sole claim to the throne. It is a hard call but it seems that Labor must adopt this cruel policy or be slaughtered at the polls and watch Abbott wreak more damage on all of us. Not an easy decision, but one Labor, unfortunately, must take.
• Chris Harries in Comments: This what happens when parties tart to respond to opinion polls rather than to take a lead. It’s where the media, who largely determine public opinion, take the reins from the politicians. Labor’s fear is that if it took a humanitarian position on asylum seeks they would be pilloried by Alan Jones and the like and it would spell deeper disaster for their next tilt at government. That’s all very true when you longer believe in taking strong leadership. When you have no self belief. When you’ve given up on parliamentary democracy and know that you are taking aback seat to whoever runs the media …
• Use the TT NEWS Dropdown Menu (top nav bar) for breaking news/comment on the ALP conference ...