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Julia Gillard's u-turn on selling uranium to India exposes Labor's decay

By Marko Beljac - posted Monday, 21 November 2011

Leadership is a technical term meaning catering to the interests of the rich and powerful despite popular opposition. That is why the Right faction of the Labor Party calls itself "the leadership faction."

Its job is to ram unpopular party resolutions through party fora from the National Conference down, despite what Julia Gillard refers to as "noise," that cater to the interests of the rich. It seems that Real Julia, formerly Comrade Gillard, is set to display tonnes of "leadership" at the upcoming ALP National Conference in December judging by the supportive platitudes in the corporate media.

Comrade Gillard will be able to transfix us with the virtues of leadership courtesy of the backroom boys of the leadership faction.


The Left faction's main role is to provide "the noise" for the troops back in the branches and, having reliably done so, then it shall do what it does best; roll over and let the leadership faction walk all over it.

Take, say, the proposed sale of Australian uranium to India to be discussed at the National Conference with the declared, crucial, support of Comrade Gillard. The proposed resolution has just about zero real support within the broader Labor Party. Despite that the fixers of the leadership faction will ensure that Real Julia will be able to strut her leadership stuff for the six o'clock news.

O my how she will be praised for bravely and stoutly standing up for the concerns of the rich and powerful in the face of the ritualised noise, that's all it really amounts to, coming from the Left. This game is now old hat and the members are basically over it, hence the dwindling level of party membership.

When Gough Whitlam began the key first steps toward taking policy making power away from the organisational wing he famously declared that only the impotent could afford to be pure. But this has things in reverse. Labor now hardly takes any step that confronts the interests of corporate Australia. Julia Gillard might be in the Lodge but she dare not do anything to advance the beliefs and philosophies that animated her initial interest in politics.

She is thereby impotent and she knows it. Leadership of the ALP now means being both impotent and impure.

The latest news therefore tells us something about the state of democracy and the nature of machine politics within the ALP. Were the Labor Party a democracy the sale of uranium to India would not even be an agenda item for the National Conference. The ALP's looming policy U-turn on uranium will further demonstrate the complete and utter hijack of Labor by a cynical and odious cabal within the parliamentary party.


Should the ALP change policy, as expected, the scuttling of a key pillar of Australia's nuclear nonproliferation policy, namely the non export of uranium to states outside of the NPT, will have bipartisan support (although declassified Fraser era cabinet documents suggest that this traditional policy was cynically interpreted by cabinet).

Public opinion is divided on the matter of uranium exports, with a majority actually expressing opposition to open slather export despite the massive propaganda effort made in favour of exports over the past few years. Such bipartisan support would not be an accurate reflection of public sentiment.

Within a democratic society, in theory, bipartisan support for any given policy stands as a reflection of the strength and uniformity of public opinion.

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About the Author

Mark Beljac teaches at Swinburne University of Technology, is a board member of the New International Bookshop, and is involved with the Industrial Workers of the World, National Tertiary Education Union, National Union of Workers (community) and Friends of the Earth.

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