There can be little doubt that the Labor Party in Australia has some major issues. It is not that far back that the unusual situation existed where we had cost to coast federal and state labor governments. The Western Australian Liberal Government was returned with a swing in their favor and against Labor of about 6%, yesterday.
There has been an assumption that the labor Party will be trounced in the September 2013 poll, and that the Coalition will be returned to Government Federally. I would be reluctant to assume that is the case, and the media have got this stuff wrong before. A week is a long time in politics, and who knows what cats will come out of what bags in the meantime.
The coalition and various members of the Labor party have been quick to recognize that Labor fortunes in the west have been dogged by the association with the Gillard led Federal Party and policies introduced by them, most notably for the west the Carbon tax and the Mining Industry super profits tax. On the other hand Mark Latham has identified the failure of the State Branch in WA to perform credibly in it’s own right, and so failing to engage with the electorate simply mouthing worn out slogans.
The is a general opinion among many political commentators that the Labor Party has a credibility issue. This may be true, however the more important issues are involved with understanding why Labor has a credibility problem.
One area which has to be considered is the margin for error in understanding what the words we hear from Julia Gillard and the actions that follow. There is some sense in which the is a problem in reconciling the two. Here are a couple of examples.
- “There will be no carbon tax under a government I lead”. In order to broker the deal with the greens so she could lead she had to have a Carbon Tax. This presented a notion of power or principal which sits not well with the Australian People.
- “I stand right behind Prime Minister Rudd, I only want to be the Deputy Prime Minster”. Please try and exclude the knife I am wielding from the field of view of the camera.
- “I have a plan to address the rise in asylum seekers”. Several efforts at various options the whole hings seems to be in tatters and we have unprocessed asylum seekers being processed on shore.
- “The Budget will be returned to surplus in 2013, no if’s and no but’s”. We maybe that was the most prudent thing to say, however we have failed to see this government having any capacity to reign in spending.
Another area where there has been a number of outstanding questions is the Performance of NSW Sate Labor. After 14 years they suffered a major rout in the last state poll and decimated their numbers in parliament. They were to have a long hard look at themselves and come up with a new strategy. As best I can tell they long hard look resulted in two findings, one that they had been in office for too long and secondly that they was robbed. This clearly demonstrated a capacity for review.
- There were way too many scandals, suggestions of corruption, and clearly doubtful dealings. There was so much of this that people began to doubt the integrity of Government.
- A failure to have transparent processes so people could see what was going on. The was the ever present suspicion that the decision was taken in Sussex street and sent up the hill the Macquarie Street to be put into practice.
- The repetition of names like Tripodi, Roozendaal, Sartor, and Obeid left us wondering what was going on, and how much we were being ripped of.
- It was so bad in NSW that even the Federal labor Party didn’t want anything to do with it. They went about trying to distinguish Federal labor from State Labor as if the were two quite separate identities.
It would seem that the Labor Party has some internal issues that it also needs to address and the call for change is present within its ranks. This is about whose party it is. The traditional Labor Party was formed as the voice of the unions, politically. People didn’t need to join the party historically, they were just part of the union. Changes in the workplace have changed the role and significance of unions in many industries and the rise of the importance of Labor Party Branch membership ha seem some real changes. The branch membership is no represented at the Labor Party State and Federal Conventions, which means that some of the delegates are elected to be there, whilst others represent the might of the unions and are appointed (the unions groups are often called the factions). The question that the Labor Party now faces is how much more power will the unions cede to the Branches. A look at the elected representatives in the Federal Parliament allows one to conclude that the Unions have the upper hand well and truly at the moment.
None of this is helped by the ongoing sage of the Thompson Affair, the Slipper Affair, and a style of Government that seems to place more emphasis on announcement than it does on performance.
I for one would like to see the Labor Party re-invent itself. That wont happen, I suspect, while they are in office. Interestingly The ICACC inquiry into various dealings in New South Wales may be the catalyst for this, and although painful, it may well prove to be the best thing ever for the Labor Party.