ALP National Conference a ‘mixed bag’

News Update2With the 47th ALP National Conference wrapped up for another three years, the results of the three day event have been described by some as both ‘exhilarating’ and ‘disappointing’. Despite a raft of positive policies being adopted in the areas of education, training, health, jobs, aged care, industry, climate change and foreign relations, and the long overdue approval of a 50% affirmative action target for women, many Party members have expressed deep disgust at the so-called ‘turn-backs’ policy for asylum seekers and the lack of resolve to bind ALP politicians on marriage equality.

Bill Shorten
Bill Shorten addresses National Conference

Many rank and file members have taken to social media to express their refusal to support the adoption of the controversial ‘turn-back’ policy, outlining concerns that this would put Labor in serious breach of its international obligations. Supporters of the changed policy approach, however, have been quick to defend the new position, stating that Labor would ensure that references to the Refugee Convention would be put back into the Migration Act and that the intake of asylum seekers would be boosted to 27,000 per annum.

On another front, pro Party reform advocates have expressed enthusiasm for the requirement that all state branches will now be required to ensure that a proportion of national conference delegates are elected by the rank and file membership – despite a failed last minute move to exempt some states. There has also been positive recognition of the need to increase the number of Indigenous parliamentarians across the Party. However, many reform advocates are bitterly disappointed that other fundamental democratic changes were not adopted by the Conference, especially with no real increase in the say for members in federal pre-selections.

Another bright light at Conference, however, was the adoption of the motion on Palestine, which was endorsed without any real opposition. The adopted resolution places recognition of the state of Palestine firmly in Labor’s new foreign policy platform.

In the end, this ALP National Conference closes with a mixed bag of ‘good points and bad points’ for many rank and file members. The lack of genuine reform and the adoption of a turn-back boats policy will be cited by some as serious deficiencies in Bill Shorten’s leadership, whereas others will see the development of new, innovative policies and a 50% affirmative action for women as a solid start to Labor’s road back to government.

One thought on “ALP National Conference a ‘mixed bag’

  1. It seems to me that it was more of a farce, particularly if we remember that a leader could do what he saw fit in the throes of avoiding an imminent defeat. That was how we got the Manus Island hell on earth for the asylum seekers.

    The central determinant of it all seems to be the need for the Conference to appease the faction bosses. And since they are not in a hurry to abandon their hold on their positions of power and privilege the Party gets on with apparent changes when no change is really ceded. Just like the way we went for the third-third-third charade on the Leadership ballot in Queensland when we already knew, from the ballot of the Federal Leader, that even the 50-50 split is still biased towards the faction bosses who seem to be able to pull their anointed delegates to the Parliament into line, at their discretion. And all this against the background of what Heydon’s laundry has exposed in the dirty linen surrendered by various union bosses.

    Reform on the never never. A disaster, in effect.

    Never mind the poorly paid, the vulnerable, the society we bequeath to our heirs, despite the smoking ruins left behind by erstwhile President Michael Williamson, Kathy Jackson, and a long list of union bosses now under arrest or investigation as a result of Heydon’s washing machine. (No doubt it was a political witch hunt, but we seem to have provided vindication for it, extensively, over a period of time. We might be able to discredit Heydon, but the voters are not likely to be impressed with our Party trying to whitewash the dirty linen already exposed. Just 52% of union members voted for us in 2004.)

    As for the turn-back cave-in it was another lost opportunity. No doubt some believe that this will be the only way to neuter Abbott’s crowing about turning the boats back as promised. I think it would have been cleverer, more dignified, and less leaning on some propped up moral high ground, to simply admit our mistakes in 2007 and say that in government we will not hastily dismantle what has been seen to be effective in stopping the boat people. However we will … a regional solution, etc, etc. The greatest moral failure here is our inability to admit mistakes, and so we end up puffing ourselves up on some seemingly unassailable moral high ground of stopping people from drowning at sea. We might convince our “red guards”, but most likely not the undecided voters, who tend to do a little of bit unaided thinking.

    Polls are on our side so far. Hope we have better luck than Beasley in 2001 though.

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