Australian Labor Party
| It doesn't stop|
at the water's edge
The Australian Labor Party (ALP) is a political party in Australia, formed in 1891. The ALP's major competitor is the Liberal Party of Australia, who are often in a political coalition with the National Party of Australia.
ALP has been the opposition party since the 2013 general election. They currently control Victoria, Queensland (Labor-Indy again), Western Australia, the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory (Labor-Green coalition). The Liberals benefit from having a lion's share of the rural vote. Though Labor has a lock on most urban areas, the battlegrounds will always be the suburbs.
The constitution of the ALP states it is a "democratic socialist party" that is committed to the "democratic socialisation of industry, production, distribution and exchange". As with most mass-based social democratic parties around the world, this clause is basically meaningless in the modern ALP:
Conflicts in the party often arise around related issues as:
- Anti-austerity - ALP also support such things such as universal healthcare, public education (although they did introduce HECS fees) and social security.
- Regulation of heavy industries - which please progressive elements of the party, but naturally upsets the trade unionists who are employed in those industries.
- Climate change - Labor's position on climate change helped seal the defeat of John Howard; it made him look out of touch and old. Labor's failure to deliver on those promises under Rudd is what ultimately killed them; it showed them to be ditherers who can't hold onto power.
- Legalising same-sex marriage - which upsets the strong Catholic base within the trade unions, forcing Gillard to walk it back.
- Refugees seeking asylum - which, depending on the electorate you ask, are here to "terk er jerbs!" or just to escape persecution in their home countries.
- Labor unions - Mileage varies. Too many incidents of them caving on commitments (poker machines, the mining tax), or ex-ministers hopping aboard the lobby train.
Democratic socialists - a minority within the parliamentary Labor Party, but still exist in moderate numbers within the rank and file membership, hailing from the more left-wing unions and activist movements. They, however, are largely powerless, and leaderless. Within the Parliamentary Labor Party, Doug Cameron (Senator for NSW), Kim Carr (Senator for Victoria), and Christine Couzens (Victorian State MP for Geelong) fit into this category.
Social democrats, Progressives - constitute the majority of the modern Labor Left, can be described as mostly left of centre and progressive on most issues and support intervention in the economy, but don't let that fool you into thinking they're socialist at all. Anthony Albanese, Tanya Plibersek, Daniel Andrews (Premier of Victoria) and Penny Wong are examples of prominent figures that fit into this category.
Third way, Social liberals - this is where shit hits the fan. Progressive in social issues, but fiscally dry, and constitute the bulk of the parliamentary wings of the Labor Party. Bill Shorten (Federal leader of the opposition) and Sam Dastyari are examples of people who fit into this category.
Centrists, Christian democrats - see above, but have more socially conservative quirky bits. Some may also be more economically left but socially conservative. Richard Marles and David Feeney fit into this category,
Conservatives - would be in the Liberal Party if they weren't otherwise unionists. Usually hail from the most conservative of unions, such as the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association (SDA), which holds considerable sway within the ALP, but even they are seeing the writing on the wall and long held viewpoints are changing. Actual conservatives constitute a small minority in the ALP, but where they do exist, they exist in notionally conservative leaning electorates, or have been parachuted into a seat in a cross factional deal, and fuck things up for and embarrass literally everyone else. Michael Danby, Chris Hayes, and former Senator for WA Joe Bullock all fit into this category.
Keating (ALP, '91) sought to globalise the Australian economy: floated the dollar, reduced tariffs. That linked Oz's economy with the greenback, and once that happened, they had a vested interest in spreading the neoliberal gospel. (In point of fact, Hawke and Keating were the inspiration for the Clinton Democrats, Blair New Labour, and other left-wing parties jumping onto the economic rationalist bandwagon.)
That lay the groundwork for Howard (LNP, '96), whose party steadily gutted funding to education, science, the arts (and more) to "balance the budget" in response to recessions during the Keating years. Howard was in power for over a decade. Now Australians have become fat and apathetic and don't much like what they've become:
"Over and over we find these workers self employed in their own business, for example, as courier operators, truck drivers, handyman repairers or car cleaners; they are doing virtually the same work as before, but as sub-contracted providers for often large companies. They complain of stress, or irregular and long working hours, and of tasks that outstrip either their willingness or capacity to undertake them, or both. One has the strong sense that they feel spatially trapped, typically here in the outer western suburbs of Sydney, and shackled with housing and other costs that give an edge of desperation to their efforts to hang on and scratch for the work they can find and hold...Reactive, defensive, yet strong, anger is the dominant mood..." —Prof. Michael Pusey
The party was often accused of jumping into bed with the Australian Greens by its detractors. Although this was true to a certain extent in 2010, when Labor relied on the support of a single Greens MP to remain in power, it also relied on the support of three independents, two of which were former National Party members (and thus very conservative).
The truth was that Lab-Green tapped into a sense of revulsion going into 2007. Howard lost his own seat. It was like the hypnosis suddenly stopped working. Australians were capable of making the right choice when offered an alternative. A pity it didn't last a single term.
The party had a short bench, and Kevin "'07" Rudd was pushed up too soon. (Nobody worthwhile wants to become a pollie, since it's considered a stain to be one.) Combine this with 24-hour news cycle, Murdoch's constant smears, and Abbott saying 'No' to everything, and anything, without substance. Polls became too important. Rudd cracked the under the pressure: his projects were rushed and unfinished. Likewise, Gillard would have been an epic prime minister, if she hadn't jumped the gun and removed Rudd without cause.
Debacle aside, the Labor-Greens minority government was very effective: National Disability Insurance, Employment Training, Mining tax, and fibre-to-the-home internet were all nation-building, forward-thinking policies. The idealism of the Greens was tempered by Labor's expertise at turning ideas into policy, and the greater willingness of Liberals of the time to actually negotiate. For example, Rudd understood climate change was a critical issue, and he was prepared to raise taxes on the mining companies so Australians had something to show for it after the mining bubble burst.
Then along came a certain liberal attack dog with a fawning media, and out went any chance of Parliament being able to negotiate. Everything since then revolves around tax relief for the wealthy, cuts to public services or just plain privatization.
Under Shorten, ALP identifies more with the LNP than they do Greens, and they let their disdain for the Greens be known, particularly during election times.
The Liberal Party is gaining traction because they're playing up to what, by and large, Australians are: Middle-aged conservatives. There's no political will to make higher education available to everyone, regulate the banks, or legalise gay marriage. Labor is struggling because they can't get the message across that things need to change, so LNP wins. This disconnect is largely the reason as to why
Tony Abbott (ah, sorry, we mean "Malcolm Turnbull") remains in power.
Labor's biggest mistake during the Keating era was to abandon its traditional working-class base to go chase the inner city professionals. This created a vacuum which allowed the corporate right to control the working-class narrative. The mentality of class consciousness has been drummed out of the electorate by a terror campaign against government "debt", to the point where anything "left-wing" is associated with bad economic policy and a rump of wishy-washy social issues. The replacement of Bob Hawke's "The World Will Not Wait For Us" with Scott Morrison's "Get Ahead" society shows how badly Labor has dropped the ball.
Even Centrelink was cooked up by Labor: Ingeus, founded by Thérèse Rein, were the original "job placement" scammers. They got paid tens of millions to do do a mediocre job of (supposedly) finding jobs for people on welfare. For some reason people have a mental disconnect between Rudd's fortune and his wife's, even though they're collectively richer than Malcolm Turnbull and his wife. Rudd just bought a $8,200,000 penthouse in Brisbane, he's also got a $3 million holiday home and an $8 million New York City penthouse.
Members of the 'broad church'
- Anthony "Albo" Albanese (MP for Grayndler) - seen as the saving grace of the Labor Party, but in reality is a centrist social democrat who toes the party line. Also prone to brain snaps on occasion, such as red-baiting against Grayndler Greens candidate for the 2016 Federal Election, Jim Casey (a self-declared socialist and member of the firefighters union), and effectively begging the Liberal Party to indicate preferences to him ahead of the Greens, because you can't have socialists nor rank and file unionists in power, y'know?
- Bill Shorten - effectively an empty suit, and a compromise placeholder leader until someone more suitable and able comes along. His performance at the 2016 Federal Election was deemed to be competent, hence he warded off any leadership challenge. Is forever tarred with having engineered the rolling of two sitting Prime Ministers.
- Sam "Dasher" Dastyari (Senator for NSW) - lover of halal snackpacks, and is a young, ambitious, up and comer. Is a Labor Right heavyweight, however, and is part of the neoliberal shift within the Labor Party. With that being said, he is good at destroying the likes of Pauline Hanson and other such hate mongers. Found in bed with the Chinese in 2017, resigned from office the next year.
- Doug Cameron (Senator for NSW) - arguably the last remaining semblence of old Labor within the Labor Party. Effectively, he is an old style democratic socialist/social democrat. Also has an awesome accent.
- Daniel Andrews (Premier of Victoria) - played small target during the 2014 Victorian State Election, but has emerged to be what the ideal Labor leader. At the head of an entire state, he invested heavily in infrastructure, expanded abortion rights, defended refugee rights (despite the Federal ALP singing the opposite tune), and legalized medical cannabis. These are just some of the progressive policy that has been enacted in Victoria under his watch. According to the Liberals, he is the second coming of Stalin who is turning Victoria into the "Democratic Republic of Victoria". And of course, according to Labor Right, he's "unrealistically" left wing who would just screw with the deficit (that nobody cares about).
- Tanya Plibersek (MP for Sydney) - also seen as a future Labor leader, and a raving lefty in the image of old Labor. But in reality, like Albanese, is a centrist social democrat, if slightly better than him. Also has her quirky bits, such as her anti-Greens attacks (much to the disappointment to her own supporters). She is, however, on the record for opposing offshore immigration detention and has criticized Israeli policy on Palestine.
- Richard Marles (MP for Corio) - parachuted into a safe seat, and is now effectively invisible in his electorate as he seeks to advance his own career. A yes man if nothing else.
- Michael Danby (MP for Melbourne Ports) - arguably belongs in the Liberal Party, given his tendency to indicate preferences to them ahead of other progressive parties and candidates during election times. Is basically a seat warmer until a credible challenger comes along and unseats him, which will be a delight to most rank-and-file Labor Party members. As it stands, he is only there due to factional wheeling and dealing.
- New Labour - Fraser thought he was going to win against a really boring guy and get re-elected. Then, bam! Bob Hawke! Pow! Paul Keating! The Liberals didn't stand a chance.
- Third Way - Labor sits somewhere in the centre, and even tends to the Right on some key issues.
- PM Keating parody account - Totally nailed his style.
- Not necessarily a bad thing.
- Willingham, Richard, "Labor powerbroker Stephen Conroy joins new gambling lobby", SMH 12.7.16.
- Michael Pusey and Shaun Wilson, The Experience of Middle Australia: The Dark Side of Economic Reform, Cambridge University Press (2003), p.59.
- Robin, Myriam, "How Rein built her $254m business and why, this time, she'll keep it", Crikey 7.8.13.