The wit and wisdom (if any can be found) of Shane Bradley.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Former ALP minister blasts ALP

Former NSW ALP Education Minister, Rodney Cavalier, laments the decline of the Federal ALP, placing the blame squarely on the ALP's penchant for preselecting political staffers and union hacks to safe Labor seats. The speech was given at a meeting of the Fabian Society last night. (Full transcript here.)

What is the portrait of the modern Labor Member of Parliament? She is cased at university where she is achieving less than academic greatness. He will have demonstrated a willingness to follow a leader, not to step out of line. She will join an ALP branch where the postage and the mail-out is met by an MP. His first serious employment is with an MP. Or a Minister where she will know nought of the subject area of the Minister's portfolio. Or a union where he will not have worked in the industry covered by the union employing him. Or her.

She is preselected perhaps for where she lives, perhaps for somewhere she has no association; he has minimal or zero community record. Her campaign is managed by people supplied by Head Office, it is paid for by Head Office, its strategy is determined by Head Office.

Having been elected, he enters the caucus of the faction to which he owes everything; she votes as the leadership instructs, he confirms for another parliamentary term the hegemony of the processes that made her possible. When she delivers her Maiden Speech, it is probable that the staffer of a Minister will have written it. Someone who hopes to walk in her or his footsteps.

Sounds a lot like Kate Ellis, ALP Member for Adelaide.

Kate grew up in a small town along the Murray River in rural South Australia before moving to attend high school in Adelaide's inner south-western suburbs.

She studied International Relations at Flinders University, where she was an active representative and President of the Students Association.

Kate entered the full-time workforce as a Research Officer for State and then Federal parliamentarians, and has subsequently worked as a Ministerial Adviser for South Australian Minister Hon. Rory McEwen, advising on trade related issues and was employed as a Ministerial Advisor to the Deputy Premier Kevin Foley before being elected to Parliament.

Cavalier's solution?

Unless the leadership at the machine level and the parliaments set about smashing the monopoly enjoyed by the political class the party is doomed. Rules changes are required which eliminate employees of the party and Ministers and parliamentarians from contesting selection ballots. The separate disaster of trade union officials should be addressed by legislation that requires each official to be drawn from the ranks of the working membership.

Impositions on the lines of Peter Garrett and Frank Sartor will occur more often during a transitional phase until the party membership rebuilds a catchment of candidates who can represent their fellow Australians and lead Australia's government. A good start will be candidates who are employees in productive employment where it is a dismissable offence during working hours to advance the cause of the ALP or your own preselection prospects.

That might work. Policies that Australian voters actually like would help, too.