Federal / Opinion

What now for the ALP?

by Nathan Batskos

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I don’t care what people say or try to say, Labor is not a left or right-wing party. It’s a party for working people. That’s why I joined Labor, I’m a worker, my parents are workers and so were their parents. So if the ALP is a worker’s party, why did a majority of the Australian working public turn away from the reds last federal election? Some say it was the toxic negativity portrayed by the media, some say it was the constant leadership speculation and others say it was because Labor was getting dry.

I agree with them, we got castrated in the media, cutting down a newly elected PM didn’t help and it just seemed Labor couldn’t get anything right, besides the fact we passed a record number of legislation. However these are the not reasons, these are all just symptoms of a bigger problem. The problem of-course is how Labor has lost favour with working Australia. We know the problem, how do we treat it?

The Labor party needs to get back to its roots, yes it sounds so simple. For too long the Labor party has neglected the working man for the inner-city coffee sipper.  The raise of the coffee-shop socialist has been detrimental to the party. A perfect example was the introduction of a carbon pricing scheme. The cost, $25+ a tonne only gave greedy companies and energy providers the chance to jack-up their prices and improve their already large profits, thus adding to the massive and unfair cost-of-living pressures applied by the various conservative coalition state governments. Gillard and Labor should’ve looked to make things easier for families, rather than put them at risk of further hardship by kneeling down to the latest political fad being sported by the inner-city elite. Politics isn’t a fad, it’s much more than that.

Strong job creating, public improvement policy is needed, like building roads, bridges. Improving health, education and lower taxes on low-income earners whilst getting big business to pay their fair share are all a must. The Labor party and the trade unions have to advertise this directly to working Australia, not hoping that the Murdoch press will run a story on it. This is the mistake we made with the NDIS, Gonski and the MRRT. We didn’t sell our product.

For Labor to change, we need to change the grassroots of the party. Rudd’s reforms of the ALP are a god send, no longer does the leader of the largest political movement in the country be chosen exclusively by just under a 100 people.  Everyone gets a say, which is something that has been lacking of late. This leads into my next point, the youth-wing of the ALP. Change needs to be enlisted into this section of the party, they must be educated in how ALP must help the working man.

Labor is the only party of government that produce better outcomes for working people. Young Labor party members are the future, their goals and desires should be to improve the lives of everyday working folk. We should be as young people, fighting for the rights of young workers, especially those in trades and at University/TAFE. I’ve seen too many Young Labor left members ask why we lose elections, these are the very same people who live in Perth’s exclusive western suburbs, without ever having to work. These fortunate sons, as I like to call them, are all too common in the Labor party. They talk down to those that disagree with them instead of talking to them, as if what they have to say is wrong and bigoted. Australian people don’t like being treated in such a way. That was a failing of Gillard. Maybe if they put down the silver spoon their parent’s gave them, they might learn something.

Labor needs a new way, it needs the way of the working people. The average working person doesn’t want to hear about how the environment has improved by x per cent in language that only someone with a masters in environmental science could understand. The Labor Party message needs to be simple, it’s needs to be like that of the WA Labor 2013 election campaign slogan: “right priorities”. That message should be drummed into the electorate from now until the end of time.  The public have to know that Labor is the only party that can give them what they need for a great economy, fair pay and work conditions, world-class education and health systems. Because, better work conditions, services and a strong fair economy are all on the top of our list, or used to be…

It’s time, let’s stick together for what we stand for (Yes, I just went full Whitlam-Hawke-Beazley), we stand for a better tomorrow not a polished yesterday that we’ll get under a coalition government. Change is needed to ensure Labor rises again; change must come from the grass roots and most importantly from the young members of this great political party. Labor needs it, so does Australia.

Nathan is the Labor Centre-Unity Convenor for UWA

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4 thoughts on “What now for the ALP?

  1. Well said. I would add that you missed the most significant factor: when Rudd stopped ‘selling the message’, and when the Caucus made the disasterous décision to sack him. After that, unity was impossible. We might then ask this, why did Caucus make such a disasterous décision? And in turn this leads to dark side of our factionalism.

    • It’s a bit like the AFL, everyone who isn’t a collingwood fan hates the pies, but we love playing them. A large portion of my YL comrades disliked Rudd with a passion but they loved votes he brought in.

  2. I do believe that Caucus should be a ‘Council of the Wise’. But it can only be that if it’s membership is altered, and that all former PMs and national leaders are automatically included. Whilst ‘wisdom’ is never assured, imagine the difference if Latham had been kept in the fold.

    • Pre-selection of candidates is always going to be an issue, for any political party. We must strive for better candidates, candidates that are in touch with their community and understand both local and state/national issues. You’re never going to get it 100% correct, but its a value worth striving toward. The best place to start, as I mentioned in the article is returning to our base and having a discussion around our values, the pragmatic policy will come. It won’t come from a fighting platform.

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