Crisis : Victorian ALP faces members strike

Just one day after the launch of the Victorian State Election, the Bracks Labor Government is facing a crisis with members across the State threatening to ignore the voting directions of the Party bosses by voting below the line on the ballot, and in an even more significant move, withholding volunteer support on election day itself if the Machiavellian party bosses cut any sort of sleazy preference deal with Family First.

Local campaign organisers and booth roster arrangers have been flooded with calls from concerned members who would like to help, just like they’ve always done, but find it morally wrong to support their own party if there is any hint that Family First will be preferenced anything other than last.

Cult-like and secretive, Family First is scary. With a dangerous anti-Green agenda that ignores the threat of Global Warming in a Bolt-like anti-Planet binge that also includes the imposition of strict wowserism and sticking their puritanical bib into the lives of ordinary hard working Australians who just want to have a little fun after a hard day’s work.

ALP members know in their hearts that Family First, despite their name, is not about families at all, but about tightening and straightening (and polluting). Family First values are not values that ALP people want to see pushed on the people of Australia.

To add to this, ALP members, despite their ageing and fading memories, still remember the ill-conceived deal done by the Labor Unity power brokers, that put Family First’s Steven Fielding in the Senate and effectively handed control of the Federal Senate to John Howard,

Threats of a member’s boycott this coming election are not new. The Broadmeadows branch announced way back in June that it wasn’t going to play ball, and now ALP members across the State are livid that the Victorian ALP is considering playing sneaky buggers in the same way again.

The Brack’s Government in Victoria has done too much that’s good, most notably toward the cutting carbon of emissions (despite the intransigence of the HowGov), to start handing preferences over to a group that would have us turn back the clock even more than the Howard Government already has.

The ALP Membership base is shrinking and aging, and the number of volunteers is small. So as the smarmy deal makers and political hacks do their number crunching, tradeoffs and deal cutting with the other parties over the next week, they need to factor something else into their calculations, and that is this: How may potential ALP voters will be lost because they were not handed a how to vote card by a grizzled but smiling and committed ALP member? It won’t just be the loss of those of us who have difficulty figuring out where to write the “1”, but it will also be the loss of those who hoped that the ALP wasn’t just a machine, but did have real people too?

We’ll know at Midday on November 12th what their decision was.

(Crossposted at LF)

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Corin
15 years ago

Rex, Bracks would win anyway – so this is a pityfull display. Mate – you miss the point – dream bigger – discuss primaries or mixed primaries.

Indeed I think the idea of ‘membership’ is a factor in the decline of peoples willingness to become involved in politics. ‘Middle’ ground people want a say in the direction of the ALP – they don’t want to devote their soul to the ALP.

I’d also suggest that Labor Unity will eventually embrace mixed primaries as a mechanism to stop the rampant Left from controlling the ALP – yet at the same time promoting democratic ‘engagement’: give it 10 years you’ll see. i.e. if you give up the current pre-selection system, you have to replace it with something that sees the ALP become more engaged and still embracing the centre-ground: In short the kind of Barry Jones garbage about engaging with the rank and file would see the ALP walk off a cliff of unelectability in much the same way as Labour in Britain did in the early 1980’s.

Rex
Rex
15 years ago

I’m always willing to defer to your superior knowledge on the matter of Primaries Corin, and I agree that Bracks will win, but the question is will he control the upper house? And that my friend, is far from a lay down misere, hence the consideration of deal making with FF.

You’re thinking strategic which is commendable, but you can’t forget the tactical, and the purpose of this little missive is to remind those that care, that they currently do rely on the loyal footsoldier. The footsoldier’s impact might be marginal, but in a marginal contest, that might make the difference.

D.W. Griffiths
D.W. Griffiths
15 years ago

Not all ALP members are strong Greens. And some ALP members are socially conservative. Indeed, back when the ALP really was a mass party, ALP social conservatism was much more common. You can be the very opposite of a Family First supporter and still find it ridiculous that Family First’s policies somehow put them off-limits from any preference deal.

Note also that the media release under the anti-Greens release linked to in this article is headlined “FAMILY FIRST wants better roads, cheaper public transport and tram conductors”. Wild populism, maybe, but hardly “about tightening and straightening”, and hardly incompatible with the beliefs of most ALP members.

There are, of course, a few people in the ALP who want the ALP to adopt Green policies wholesale. In effect, they want to be Greens, but don’t want to give up the association with a party that is mainstream enough to actually govern.

Leave aside the cynicism of this approach. Around election time, these are the people you need to ignore. Around election time, you want a severe outbreak of practical politics from your political party. A longing to avoid “sleazy preference deals” (i.e. normal preference deals) can easily lose you the election. The last Victorian Premier to decide he could win on his principles was Jeff Kennett.

Ken Parish
Admin
Ken Parish(@ken-parish)
15 years ago

The problem with Corin’s longer term strategy, at least as I see it, is that establishing a widespread American-style system of primaries would require significant funds and resources. Given that we’re talking about an ALP with a dwindling, ageing membership base, how would a primaries system be operated? It would presumably take at least as many volunteers to run primaries as to staff polling places at the election proper. I guess you could run them over a period of time as in the US, so that at least the polling staff could be moved around, but each local candidate would still need to rely on a dedicated team of volunteers to campaign, hand out how-to-votes etc on the day of the primary. Since this will be the same small, tired group of volunteers who are then expected to turn out all over again and campaign for the candidate pre-selected by this process, how is this going to improve the current situation?

I agree that primaries would be a great idea in principle, because they open up the preselection process and make it genuinely broad-based and democratic instead of the current faction-ruled, union-dominated, branch-stacking fiasco. But I just don’t see how one gets there given Australia’s current disengaged political culture and small active party membership on both sides.

Patrick
Patrick
15 years ago

Mate, ditching the greens for family first is hardly bad policy – don’t forget that nearly four times as many people read the Herald Sun as read the Age, and twentyfive times as many read the age as read Green Left Weekly, plus what DWG said. My parents are an example of people who would usually prefer to vote Labor, but not at the price of enfranchising the greens.

Now this is bad policy!

Francis X Holden
15 years ago

I can’t see why people get so excited. Presumably the local branch can teach each other to vote below the line?

Ron
Ron
15 years ago

Yes, Patrick, but people who read The Age, read the news, letters and opinion columns. Hun readers rarely get past the the sports pages. :-)

(I had a friend who did a survey for a uni project: he spent quite a few mornings outside newsagents’ shops in various Sydney suburbs. The majority of SMH readers emerged reading the front page while most Daily Telegraph readers the sports pages.)

Rex
Rex
15 years ago

GWD and Patrick,

The ALP is in a difficult situation. Declining and aging membership, and being caught between two parrallel trends: The rise of the evangelical, and the increasing appeal of the Greens to the youth of the country.

Turn toward Family First, and you’re competing against the Tories natural affinity for that sector, or turn toward the youth vote and you’re in bed with the Greens.

The Greens have been deliberately stigmatised in the Murdoch press, but clearly the youth don’t give a toss what Bolt, Acklerman et al have to say. They like what they see in this funky green triangle. And I might point out that increasingly the issues that the Greens have been hammering for years, Climate Change, the Failure of Iraq are now completely accepted mainstream positions.

What appeals to many is that people like Bob Brown have the guts to get out there and have a go. Perhaps put a radical position from time to time, and suffer the oppobrium of the establishment, but they’re gutsy, and they offer stark contrasts and thought provoking alternatives.

Many of the grass roots ALP members, who want to see a display of guts from their representatives, rather than craven submission to an imported ideology, understandably feel agrieved, and understandably have a soft spot for the guysiness that they see lacking elsewhere.

These concerns and threats by ALP members are real. No doubt its a reaction created by a disenfranchisement and disempowerment, but it is clearly heartfelt.

PS. I’m a great fan of the Hun (principally for its writing style), and I never read GLW.

D.W. Griffiths
D.W. Griffiths
15 years ago

“Many of the grass roots ALP members, who want to see a display of guts from their representatives, rather than craven submission to an imported ideology, understandably feel aggrieved.”

Maybe they do (although I’m not sure whether many Family First policies are “imported” – bashing gays, demanding more public transport and cutting down exquisite forests, to take just three, all have a rather long local history). But in my experience, quite a few of those grass roots members also want to win a federal election sometime in the next decade.

At which point, let me introduce some blokes that Gough and Hawkey used to know – Dunc, Tony and Harry:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Median_voter_theory

Patrick
Patrick
15 years ago

Rex, off the top of my head doesn’t every survey indicate the ‘youths’, as opposed to the 30yos, don’t care less about greens, global warming, etc?

Rex
Rex
15 years ago

DWG, I’m no statistician but that medium voter theorem must surely be based on an assumption that there is a static landscape of ideas and world events, and all a politician has to do is have a response to these things that satisfies the majority whether approached from the blue or red side. We don’t have such a static landscape, and we don’t have just two parties playing on it.

Patrick, I don’t know of any surveys, but anecdotally the Greens are a young Party, and I can assure you that the ALP is ancient.

D.W. Griffiths
D.W. Griffiths
15 years ago

… Anecdotally the Greens are a young Party …

I think this is right, but I’m not sure. A little data is here:
http://www.roymorgan.com/news/polls/2006/4100/

Anyone got more?

Patrick
Patrick
15 years ago

I still get to uni campuses every now and then (albeit mainly at night), and walk past stands etc… they may be ‘young’ but many of them are well closer to 40 than 20.

HA! I just read that poll – the environment only takes off as an issue from 35 onwards :) music to my eyes.

Corin
15 years ago

Ken, this is what I wrote in 2005 .

You will see it is only about 20 to 30 federal primaries per election. As it would only be for 65% of seats, I’d suggest done every two elections (6 years) – and ministers and shadows could be made exempt.

I would now consider in addition – some mix – like 70% primary and 30% executive – with executive capacity to deselect the truly outlandish choice – but largely that would happen by exceutive mix anyway. Perhaps executive could have 40%?

There you go.

Also you could limit the use of media advertising.

I’m not convinced it should be pursued for state preselections – as the seats are so small that it could be too onerous. But for the Feds it would work only a limited basis as I outline.

Alan
Alan
15 years ago

The problem with Corin’s longer term strategy, at least as I see it, is that establishing a widespread American-style system of primaries would require significant funds and resources. Given that we’re talking about an ALP with a dwindling, ageing membership base, how would a primaries system be operated?

We can run primary elections through the electoral commission, as already happens in Tasmania, the ACT and the various upper houses elected by STV.

All that is required is to nominate more candidates than the party is likely to elect and the electorate can make its own choices. I’m unsure about the ACT, but in Tasmanian elections the parties do not bother printing how-to-votes because experience has shown that it’s just not worth their while.

Corin
15 years ago

Alan, Primaries would be an internal ALP selection device though. So whether best done by AEC oversight not sure.

Ken, Also in addition to the above – they wopuld have to be done say in the 12 months up to 24 months after an election. Also clearly if a snap poll was conducted there’d need to be emergency measures. So say – ‘party on a war footing’ exception perhaps.

Alan
Alan
15 years ago

Corin, why? Preferential voting obviates the need for primaries and that’s being pushed as an advantage in a couple of US counties and cities where it’s on the ballot next week.

Electing party leaders by a more democratic process than caucus elections may be a good idea, and actually caucus leadership elections are now quite rare in the democratic world.

Corin
15 years ago

Alan, in a safe Labor seat there is no choice of candidate/winner even with preferential voting. ALP needs to engage at a community level too – so primaries are a device to connect. If alternatively I understand you to say that the ALP could run multiple candidates in a general election in safe seats, I think that wouldn’t work and would remove community identification with a candidate. Also the other parties would select the winner wouldn’t they – like the Libs choosing the one that is least preferential to the Labor brand. It makes more sense as two processes – i.e. primary to pick a single candidate.