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10044Re: [GreenLeft_discussion] An open letter to ALP members on Senate preferences

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  • max watts
    Oct 16 9:12 PM
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      ----- Original Message -----
      From: "bobgould987" <bobgould987@...>
      To: <GreenLeft_discussion@yahoogroups.com>
      Sent: Sunday, October 17, 2004 12:29 PM
      Subject: [GreenLeft_discussion] An open letter to ALP members on Senate

      An open letter to my fellow ALP members about the deeply misguided
      Senate preference manoeuvres in the federal election campaign. A cry
      from the heart and an expression of bitter anger

      By Bob Gould

      As it happens, in March this year I notched up my 50th year of ALP
      membership. I joined the Labor Party in 1954 as a youth of 17, in the
      middle of the battle with the Groupers.

      In all my 50 years of ALP membership and activity I've never seen
      anything quite as dishonourable and stupid as the decision of the
      party managers in several states to preference the essentially
      right-wing group, Family First.

      A question of process arises. Who in the hell makes those kinds of
      decisions? They should be made by the federal executive of the ALP,
      but clearly the wheeling and dealing was delegated to individuals,
      mainly from the right, and indeed from the most backward sections of
      the right, in each state.

      The process of making such decisions is clearly deeply flawed. One
      issue is the dishonourable nature of the decision. The Greens have
      every right to be bitterly angry and disillusioned with the ALP and
      its managers.

      On the face of it the Greens had a preference deal with the ALP, which
      was announced with great fanfare, and it appeared to involve an
      ultimate preference exchange between the Greens and Labor before
      right-wing parties.

      The parliamentary leader, Mark Latham, ought to be very angry, because
      on the face of it he has been roped into a dishonourable tearing up of
      an agreement, to which he was very publicly party -- the agreement
      with the Greens.

      After the event of the deal with the Greens, whoever made the
      arrangements in the ALP to quietly preference Family First before the
      Greens engaged in an act of political bastardry of the highest order.

      The consequences of this decision will be disastrous. Why should the
      Greens, a formation likely to be around for a very long time, and
      growing that is steadily to occupy all of the electoral space to the
      left of the ALP -- why should the Greens trust anything ALP preference
      negotiators say to them ever again?

      The Greens, in fact, kept their part of the bargain and behaved
      honourably. On the basis of Labor's Tasmanian forest policy, the
      Greens ended up giving all their preferences to the ALP in all
      marginal seats and an ultimate preference to Labor before the
      conservatives in the Senate. For instance, Greens preferences will
      elect the ALP's Michael Foreshaw to the sixth Senate position in NSW.

      The argument put forward by the shadowy ALP preference negotiators,
      who made the ultimate decision, that they could not anticipate the
      electoral consequences, does not stand up at all.

      In a proportional representation vote, like the Senate, with the quota
      being about 14.3 per cent, the last position to be elected is always
      unpredictable, depending on the votes for small parties and the parts
      of quotas left by Labor and the Coalition after they have elected
      their first two senators.

      (I'm acutely aware of the vagaries of for the vagaries for the last
      position in a proportional representation ballot for six positions. In
      1971, in a much-commented-on ballot for six federal conference
      delegates from the ALP in NSW to the vital federal conference before
      Whitlam was elected, I won the last position by one vote over half a
      quota - the narrowest margin possible. One vote over half a quota is
      all that's needed for the last position, which is a sound reason for
      never treating preferences in such a situation as bloody-mindedly and
      as casually as the ALP managers did on this occasion.)

      If Labor preferences right-wing parties, the possibility always exists
      that the vote can build up to elect a right-wing candidate, in this
      instance Family First.

      The basic principle should be that there are no enemies on the left,
      and preferences should go first to other groups on the left and then
      centre formations such as the Democrats.

      For the many thousands of Labor Party members, including me, who
      worked hard on election day to elect Labor, that kind of preference
      approach is a principle, in addition to which it's the only practical
      thing to do if you want to beat the conservatives in the Senate.

      With six to be elected, even if the Labor and Green vote drops there
      should be no difficulty in Labor and the Greens finishing three-all
      with the Coalition and other conservatives.

      The electoral stupidity of the people who made the preference
      arrangements in the Senate for the ALP is demonstrated by the result
      of these manoeuvres, which has been to hand control of the Senate to
      Howard and Family First.

      The outrageous thing about this handing over of the Senate to the
      Liberals and Family First is that it wasn't necessary. A simple
      ultimate preference exchange with the Greens would have got a
      three-all result between the two sides of politics and led to a
      deadlocked Senate.

      The second aspect of it is the completely artificial way that it
      builds a neanderthal, fundamentalist, right-wing Protestant party into
      a major force very quickly.

      Thankfully, the ongoing demographic reality in Australia is that
      notional Protestant religious allegiance, which is at the core of the
      conservative side of Australian politics, is steadily declining.
      Notional Protestants are only about 30 per cent of the population,
      when they were 70 per cent 40 years ago.

      The number of Australians who either say they have no religious
      beliefs, or don't state a religious belief in the census, has gone up
      from nearly nothing to about 30 per cent, the number of Catholics is
      stable at about 30 per cent and Hindus, Buddhists, Jews and Eastern
      Orthodox combined have gone up to 10 per cent.

      There is certain revival of Protestant fundamentalism in outer
      suburban areas of the big cities, but it's a narrowly middle-class
      phenomenon, and very right-wing politically. It takes its inspiration
      from the reactionary association of fundamentalist Protestant religion
      and right-wing politics in the United States.

      Mainly because of the ongoing demographic realities, Australian
      politics hasn't, until this election, taken the US shape in this
      respect. Fred Nile has been battling to bring fundamentalist
      Protestant religion into politics for 25 years, with minimal success.

      Suddenly, the Family First preference deal has enabled these religious
      fundamentalists to leap from 1.2 and 2 per cent real votes to
      artificial quotas of 14 per cent, partly with the aid of Labor and
      Democrat preferences.

      As a secular, leftist, agnostic Australian of Irish Catholic cultural
      background, I find this sudden move to strengthen US-style Protestant
      fundamentalism in Australian politics deeply offensive.

      As many observers have commented, Mark Latham and the Labor Party
      conducted a very vigorous and effective, and in my view rather
      leftist, election campaign, but the economic conjuncture was not
      favourable, the conservative propaganda was effective, and we lost the

      It was a serious loss, but the basic Labor-Green vote of 47.5 per cent
      (preferred) is intact. The electoral shift was among the 5 per cent in
      the middle of Australian society who tend to shift from left to right
      and back again.

      By far the worst feature of this election result is the blind
      surrender of control of the Senate to the Liberals and Family First.
      Despite all the current sweetness and light, the Coalition government
      will use all its increased influence and power in the Senate to attack
      the trade union movement.

      The trade union movement should crucify, politically speaking, the
      shadowy party managers who made the preference deal. These people have
      ensured that the trade unions will have to fight for their interests
      from a very defensive set of circumstances with the Liberals in
      control of the Senate.

      PS. While we're at it, we should never forget that Labor preferences
      unfortunately helped to elect the conservative Democrat, the leader of
      the right wing in the Democrats, over the Greens in WA, three years
      ago. Labor members and supporters, and Greens members and supporters,
      throughout the country should raise hell to ensure that the kind of
      dishonourable bastardry involved in the ALP preferencing Family First
      over the Greens never happens again.

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