Whilst some commentators have written off the
Democrats, following the divisive personality ‘train wreck’ of recent
times, the Democrats trouble may also put sharper focus on the deepening
divisions in the ALP.
With many in the ALP uncomfortable with the party post-Tampa, one
wonders if some ALP members would jump to a reinvigorated and renewed ‘Liberal
Democrat’ party if they felt it served their beliefs better?
Ask an ALP member why they joined and the majority response would
include a belief in compassion, tolerance, social justice, and collective
bargaining in the workforce. You may get a discussion on a belief in
Social Democracy or Democratic Socialism.
You may even embark members harking back to the ideals of former
leaders like Doc Evatt. Of his negotiations in the lead up to creation of
the UN Doc Evatt said:
It only amounts to recognising a duty of decency towards helpless
people. If the Labour Movement does not stand for that, it does not
deserve to exist.
Chifley’s ‘Light on the Hill’ speech is one that inspires ALP
members and beseeches them to search out and assist people in need wherever
they may be found.
Paul Keating’s ‘True Believers’ speech warned of the dangers of a
coalition government – particularly the lack of tolerance he thought a
coalition would bring – and a withdrawal from a role of helping others
on the international stage.
Now many in the ALP rank and file look back on those speeches, finding
it hard to recognise today’s post-Tampa ALP. Some are questioning their
belief in an ALP that failed to measure up to its own historic standards
over Refugee and Asylum issues.
While they question, these members remain ‘true to the cause’ –
for now. They recognise the difficult political position the party was
placed in at the last election by a canny Howard. Yet their steadfastness
is temporary, awaiting final policy determination from the ALP.
This is Julia Gillard’s greatest test in reshaping Labor’s Asylum
She must come up with a policy that is true to the ALP’s fundamental
core beliefs of compassion, tolerance and equity. One that seeks out to
assist people in need - one that falls back on Evatt’s claim that it
only amounts to recognising a duty of decency towards helpless people.
For, if Gillard cannot win back party member confidence within the
political realities of the time, then many members may turn back to Evatt’s
other comment: If the Labour Movement does not stand for that, it does
not deserve to exist – or that it does not deserve their membership.
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