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Labor insider fingers corrupt institution

By Ian Walker - posted Monday, 30 November 2015

I was somewhat surprised, but also gratified, to read the comments of Cameron Dick in Friday's Courier Mail about union involvement in the election of the leader of the parliamentary ALP, and by virtue of that the leader of our State.

Surprised, because I expect it is a frank admission by Cameron that while the present arrangements are in place he is out of the leadership race!

Gratified, because it has taken some considerable courage for him to raise this issue which goes to the very heart of confidence in our political system here in Queensland.


The issue is not only the corruption of the ALP voting process: it goes beyond that to clearly taint the workings of both the State Parliament and the Executive itself.

How can that be?

The recently adopted Labor rules allow their parliamentary leader to be elected by one-third ALP members (you won't know who they are), one-third union representatives (you won't have met them) and just one-third elected members of parliament - the people you voted in to govern this state.

There is an old political maxim: "you may have won the argument but I have the numbers!"

Power will always be exercised by those who have the numbers.

So if you were a potential parliamentary leader of the ALP where would you be courting favour to shore up your bid for top job?


It is that motivation that skews our system. You only have to count the numbers to explain why Police Minister Jo-Anne Miller, the CFMEU rep in cabinet, has retained her job for months when all around know she is not up to it. You can see why legislation was passed to allow the discredited CFMEU to create havoc on building sites under the guise of workplace inspections.

This is what drove the government to legislate to prop up the declining numbers of the Together Union (15% drop in members last year) by allowing union reps to go desk to desk and floor to floor throughout the public service in a government sponsored recruitment campaign. It's why the Treasurer made an improper parliamentary intervention in a local government award case before the QIRC, and why the state's Attorney-General continues to meet with CFMEU officials who are under investigation for  extortion and threats.

Most political parties, mine included, adopt this simple proposition: the parliamentary leader should answer to the democratically elected parliamentary members of her or his party and no one else. The days of faceless men running the show have thankfully gone, at least until the Labor Party brought them back last year.

Labor's future leaders requiring substantial union votes to secure that post are only one part of the problem for Annastacia Palaszczuk. Her party is in debt to the unions for bankrolling an election campaign that no-one thought they would win. That means that big promises were made to garner support.

And just to top it off, how many of the 43 members of the Labor caucus are trade unionists? Well 43 of them. Hard for anyone to have a reasoned argument in parliament if the power of the unions is under threat.

Cameron Dick acknowledged in his speech that the unions and Labor have a strong link. I acknowledge that link too - in fact I'd call it a proud tradition. But tradition and history have their place. They go too far when those elected by the people run a very poor second, or even third, to party hacks and union bosses. Annastacia, its up to you to fix it.

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About the Author

Ian Walker is Shadow Attorney-General in the Queensland Parliament and Member for Mansfield. He is a former managing partner for international law firm Norton Rose.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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