Amongst the letters in response to Shaun Carney’s article “Labor crisis of faith” in THE AGE on New Year’s Day are these two:-
Where are all the true believers?
SHAUN Carney – “Labor crisis of faith” (Opinion, 1/1) is spot on. A primary reason for the downturn in support is that Labor too readily compromises its values and core constituency for short-term electoral gain. Few people have any idea what it really stands for.
Prime ministers Ben Chifley, John Curtin and Gough Whitlam were strident champions of social justice and the advancement of workers and their rights, and they had strong community connections and respect for the Aussie battler. The ALP of yesteryear valued its grassroots membership and the views of unions. It would not have permitted self-interested, right-wing factional warlords to wrest control.
Old Labor was a party of true believers who kept the light on the hill shining bright and clear. This light has been substantially dimmed by the current mealy-mouthed leadership, many of whom seem hell bent on appeasing big business and their financial interests at the expense of the little person. This can be seen in Labor’s policies regarding planning and industrial relations where the average person is made to feel as though the government is at war with them. There is no point to the ALP unless it changes its name to the Alternative Liberal Party.
Rex Solly, Bolwarra
A soulless party
THE ALP is in a precarious situation because it no longer stands for anything except clinging to office. Driven by focus groups and with MPs largely drawn from recycled union apparatchiks or ministerial advisers such as ”Captain America” Mark Arbib, who spends an inordinate amount of time at the United States embassy, the party has no soul.
The weekly focus group reports often result in sudden policy U-turns and any talk of social justice provokes looks of genuine incredulity. The Greens have a purpose and policies, and will continue to attract disillusioned Labor voters as the party follows the Titanic to the bottom.
Thos Puckett, Ashgrove, Qld
I’m not so sure the Labor Party used to be as responsive to its membership as Rex Solly suggests, but both letter writers and Shaun Carney make several good points.
In its cleverness to be modern and ‘with it’, Labor has become so responsive to focus groups that it now stands for everything and for nothing.
WHERE THINGS STARTED TO GO WRONG
The rot really began to set in when federal secretary, Cyril Wyndham, simply wrote the longstanding plank of the Labor Party to introduce a tax “on the unimproved value of the land” out of the Labor Party’s platform in 1964. It was never voted out. (Maybe some Australians mightn’t like it?)
A speech “How Labor Lost Its Way” given by Clyde Cameron four years after his retirement from the national parliament, on the occasion of the opening of the South Australian headquarters of the Henry George League on 13 May 1984, documents this to have been the point from which Labor began to backslide on matters of social and economic principle.
Cameron records Labor Party leader Arthur Calwell’s parliamentary reaction to the Menzies Government’s Bill to abolish the federal land tax in the early 1950s: “We have always believed in the land tax, and when happy days come again we shall restore the measure imposing the tax to the statute-book of this country.”
Clyde Cameron’s “How Labor Lost Its Way” concluded: “This speech may even cause present day Labor leaders to once again take the road to social justice and fiscal decency.”
It didn’t. They haven’t.
Although Ken Henry’s tax review panel has also recommended both parties take the same road to social justice and fiscal decency, they refuse to do so, having a preference for the road that, privatising economic rent, has always led to the collapse of civilisations.
Such is the wit of our parliamentary ‘representatives’.