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ALP: Faulkner's call for reform « Previous | |Next »
June 11, 2011

Senator John Faulkner's recent Wran Lecture points the finger at a the a process of ALP decline. He says:

We have lost a generation of activists from Labor and, if we do not face the challenges and opportunities of reform in both structure and culture, we will risk losing a generation of voters as well.The Party has now become so reliant on focus groups that it listens more to those who don’t belong to it than to those who do. This makes membership a sacrifice of activism, not a part of it.

The history of the recent past indicates that the ALP is unwilling to reform its centralization of power and its culture that has a deep antipathy to democracy. It assumes that politics is just an arena, a profession, rather than a concern for things brought to the attention of the fluid and expansive constituency of the public. The only way it knows how to make things public is through spin and controlled messages.

MoirAfaulknerreform.jpg The factional warlords control the ALP and they give no indication of giving up their power in spite of the ALP's low primary vote in recent elections. We should make that more specific: it is the Right faction that is dominant and it is not interested in reviewing the undemocratic structure of the party that it controls.

Trevor Cooke says that the causes for the ALP spiral downwards are many, each reinforcing each other:

Membership decline solidifies the grip of factionalism; campaign professionalism with its emphasis on messages, safe candidates in neutral tone suits and centralised control all leave little role for individual members and supporters. As more members drift away, factions get more insidious, centralised control gets tighter – so it goes on.

Faulkner highlights the death grip of those who resist reform, but his appeal to reason is likely to fall on deaf ears.
I say to those who resist the opening up of our structures to more participation and more democracy because they see their control over managed and pre-negotiated outcomes slipping away - do not act like the ship's captain steering for an iceberg, refusing to turn over the wheel to a more competent navigator in determination to remain captain, even if only of a lifeboat.

The ALP, under the control of the Right faction, has become increasingly ossified. The Right factional warlords have cut off the ALP's progressive leg--the educated inner city professional. They have reduced the ALP to a political force of the working class, outer-suburban "battler" vote; one that is finding the hard edged conservatism of the Abbott Liberals increasingly attractive.

The writing is on the wall for federal Labor: it will be forced into a coalition with the Greens if it wants to retain or to gain political power.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 5:49 PM | | Comments (10)


Trevor Cook says:

A wall has emerged between the ALP and the people it purports to serve. Each year there are fewer people inside the wall and more on the outside looking at the pile of bricks that grows higher each year. Focus groups are peepholes for the entombed insiders.

The only way to change the poisonous ALP culture is to dismantle the wall of exclusion that has built up around the ALP over the past quarter of a century.

The ALP has got some serious problems.

I suspect that, in the long run, pandering to the "outer-suburban "battler" vote" is a dead-end.

Those folks MIGHT support Labor as long as it is a low-fat version of the coalition, but they are LIKELY to swing towards the full-fat Coalition because of Labor's self-serving flirtation with the Greens.

It's important to remember that any nod towards democracy is undermined by the extraordinary importance of swinging seats. In effect, the only "democracy" that matters is the sort that brings in the swing vote.

And the number-crunchers in both major parties know it!

I've always found it strange. The percentage of the population that is university educated increases yet political parties swing away from the university educated.

Charles, maybe that's because the migrant vote is very important to both parties. That's also a reason why a "Big Australia" population policy is embraced by them both, and will be for the foreseeable future.

Good grief, Charles!

Don't you know that those university-educated types are a bunch of elitists????

Nah, mate! Geez... ya can't have those egg-heads running the shop! They use too many big words 'n stuff.

(Oh... btw, I've never been to uni... so I'm just GUESSING that's how it works)

I read some research findings the other day to the effect it can take up to 10 years for an organisation with an entrenched culture to change direction even after it's obvious they are uncompetitive. I suspect if we included the ALP in the sample we might substitute 20 years for 10.

If the increased inclusion and empowerment of the rank and file is deemed essential to the survival of the main political parties I cannot see it happening in the ALP.

They are also happy with their MP's as 'mindless robots' repeating the script of the day that they have been handed from central office.

Federal Labor has caught the NSW disease. It has become solely concerned about power and government, and its historic ALP values that defined it as a political party, have been hollowed out.

it's going to take a long time for the ALP to change as the spiral is ever downwards.

The ALP is no longer connected to a social movement like The Greens; its core base is shrinking to a bunch of oldies and its branches are full of stackers playing their factional numbers game. The factional union bosses who control the policy are hollow men who have little interest in policy. Their interest is in power for its own sake and they have no interest in reform to give power back to the membership so they can have a direct say in party affairs. That means taking power from the trade unions.

The ALP's downward spiral means that it has been abandoned by the general public.

Why would anyone want to join the Labor Party?