Why I resigned from the ALP
It is with a heavy heart I submit my resignation from the ALP.
I joined this party in 1983 with the youthful enthusiasm of a sixteen year old inspired by the leadership and vision of Bob Hawke and how our party could create a fairer and better Australia. While after all these years my deep respect and admiration for Bob Hawke remains I no longer believe that the ALP remains committed to that vision for our state and our country.
The party I joined was a vibrant organization where members were encouraged to debate our competing ideas on how to build a better society. Our election campaigns were an opportunity to show these ideas to the broader community and when we won in Australia in 1983 and in Queensland in 1989 our party was elected because we convinced the community of our vision. These governments fundamentally changed our society and our economy and we all continue to benefit from these reforms.
Our party no longer provides a vision for the future. Our party no longer encourages debate on ideas, ideals or ideology. Our parliamentary wing announces policies, normally during election campaigns, which often are anathema to everything we believe in and any attempts to challenge these policies are suppressed. We take the community and community debate for granted in between election cycles.
I applaud the Gillard government’s commitment to address climate change but our party’s inability to maintain a consistent position on this issue, which truly is the moral challenge of our generation.
Inconsistency is an indictment of the policy vacuum which our party has become and the broader community has recognized this.
Rather than providing leadership on refugees, as Malcolm Fraser did, we attempt to replicate the opposition policies but choose a different island to lock away the refugees, away from the media and community’s attention.
This might play well to the focus groups but it damages the moral core of party because this policy is only about winning votes not making a better world.
The issue of refugees is a dog whistle issue for a deeper concern held by many Australians about the insecurities they feel about the future.
By chasing the conservatives’ policies we are reinforcing those attitudes.
We should be better than that. We are a party that used to believe in fairness and compassion, values which all most all Australians share. When we have policies which are part of a broader vision of our society we will win but currently we are selling our soul because we are afraid of argument. We should be leading public opinion not determining what we believe by what we think people want to hear. We can change what people think if we are right.
Why have we not prosecuted the argument against the ABCC? As a unionist I am appalled that the parliamentary wing will not forward the policy that rank and file union delegates can have less rights that criminals. We will be criticized for any move against the ABCC but that does not reduce the basis for our position to defend workers rights. They are wrong. We are right. Bring on the fight and the community will support us just as they did when the parliamentary and industrial wings of the movement stood together on the waterfronts of Australia.
At the state level the current term of the government has been dominated by the decision to privatize key public sector assets. This policy was announced without consultation with the party and yet this decision will frame the position of our party for years to come. All attempts to have this fundamental issue debated at a state conference were thwarted. This is in stark contrast to the heated and vigorous debates about privatization during the Hawke government. Those proposing privatization at the time took their position to the party and had the debate in full public view. Disunity was not death. Our party was stronger for the debate because members had their say. Why was this time different?
Now the state government is seeking to outsource and privatize our schools, our hospitals and our prisons. Workers and the broader community will fight these attacks on core government services because we know what it means for Queensland if our services are run for profit and not for people. We will win the argument because we are right and because we talk to the community about our ideals and our vision. We are working for a better Queensland and a better Australia. The ALP is concerned solely with the next election and the community knows it.
Unless the party changes, the community will punish this government, just as they punished the arrogant and out of touch New South Wales government.
There is little left to the party but political machinery. As agents of social change we should be focussing on more than just winning elections and maintaining government. We have a responsibility to try to change the nature of our communities, to build greater empathy amongst citizens and encourage a more socially just and considered society. In my view the ALP is no longer an effective vehicle for achieving this sort of change.
There are organisations doing wonderful work in communities and achieving real, genuine and lasting social change, and I intend to devote much of my time to helping them, because I believe that my aims will be best served by resigning from the party.
I believe that the party can one day reform itself to put the community first and be effective at creating real social change. Given the way that party power is entrenched in the hands of such a small group of people I do not see any scenario where this reform happens quickly. While I will encourage my friends and colleagues to stay active within the party and push for reform, I’m not willing to wait for reform before trying to make a difference.
The last term of the Queensland Government has been an administrative, political and policy nightmare. The machinery of government changes, the health disasters and privatisation have created a dark legacy for those involved.
The Australian Labor Party has wasted a golden opportunity to make Queensland a more progressive place.
No party has ever grown stronger by getting smaller.
When I became Assistant Secretary of my union, back in 1994, I stepped back from party activity. This was a choice that I made to make sure I put QPSU members, and Queensland services first. I committed myself to working for a better life for Queenslanders through the trade union movement. Maybe I should have remained active to fight to keep the ALP a strong and vibrant organization which valued democracy and debate but when I made my decision in 1994 our party was not in crisis.
Now it is. I remain passionately committed to fighting for Queensland.
Given the state of Queensland politics I can no longer remain outside of the political debate.
I believe I can achieve more for the community and for my members working outside the current party political structures. Queensland deserves better from all our politicians and their parties.
I want to stop the strip mining of Queensland politics, where voters are resources that get used and discarded every election. As a community we have important things to say.
The community needs a strong voice not just at elections but throughout the year so all Queenslanders can have their say about their government and their state. To create such a voice will require leadership, but even more importantly it requires the ability to work with members of the community who have been sidelined by the current processes and are justifiably cynical about all political parties. To engage genuinely with them I cannot be a member of any political party.
It is for that reason I have decided to quit the ALP because membership of any party will reduce my ability to help build a real voice for a better future for all Queenslanders.
I wish you the best in any endeavours to reform the party.