Queensland ALP powerbrokers who are planning to turn this year’s State Annual Conference into a Bligh-bashing exercise should think again. Any factional warrior who wishes to push a narrow personal agenda may as well quit now and join the Greens. At least then there will be no pretence about what their intentions are and whose side they are on. Campbell Newman’s unconventional but popular rise as LNP leader means that the Queensland ALP has little time for internal power-struggles. For Queensland Labor to avoid a fate similar to that suffered by NSW Labor it needs to focus all of its energies on providing good government with no time left over for sour grapes.
It is unfortunate but true that are elements within the Labor party who are angry over their loss of power and authority because of the Bligh government’s asset sales. Tough. The first priority of any ALP government to the secure employment of as many workers as possible. It is true that the asset sale decision was politically damaging, but it was a sound economic decision that has enabled the employment of many tens of thousands of Queenslanders who would otherwise have been without work during the GFC. I am proud to be a member of a party which had the audacity to make a politically costly decision that served to benefit Queensland as a whole. It may yet prove to be too hard to recover from electorally but courage never comes cheap and more Queenslanders will reap the benefits for years to come.
The ALP has always sought to be the voice of the working people and has traditionally served as a counterbalance to the political forces of capital and industry. Conditions, fair pay, safe workplaces and family-friendly employment practices have always been central to the ALP’s mission and they remain so today. To this working core of priorities has been added in recent years social and environmental concerns as well as a more sophisticated understanding of the needs of small businesses and the growth of the economy as a whole.
This economic maturity has presented a problem of image for the party however. So many of the causes for which the ALP has fought for in the past have been won. Indeed the ALP’s success is so great that some might think that the reason for having a Labor party no longer exists. This might have been true if the ALP had been a one issue party, but it is not now and never has been. The Hawke-Keating era swept away the old Labor conception of the economy as something that could be made to simply serve the government of the day. Today the ALP has accepted the needs of embracing a market-driven economy. In the coming years the Labor Party will need to hold its nerve and remain dedicated to ensuring fairness for working people while doing so without deliberate rancour towards business.
This Saturday May 7 will see the Queensland branch of the ALP hold plebiscites across the state to elect delegates to the State Conference. By way of disclosure, I am running as a non-aligned candidate in the Dickson plebiscite. I have no expectations of winning, but decided to run as a candidate to be able to make the case for where I believe the party should be headed. It is my hope that the candidates who are elected on Saturday represent the moderate-progressive core of the party which I believe reflects the heartland of Australian society. It is true that the ALP does need to polish its social credentials a little more, but it should stand proudly on its record of economic reform and balanced fiscal judgement. Out-dated left-wing economic agendas and right wing social ambivalence should be quietly left behind. The ALP needs forge a twenty-first century identity that embraces fairness for working people, rational economic policies and social inclusion.
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