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160 responses to “Factional Labourism: An Infantile Disorder”

  1. Alison

    Well done, Mark – a great post. I doubt they are listening, only to themselves!

  2. adrian

    Great post Mark. Sanity in a sea of dross.

  3. jungney

    Well, pleased to see you firing on all cylinders, Mark. To exercise a vote within the ALP of course, you’d have to be a member. Not a bad idea from where I sit.

  4. Lefty E

    Well said Mark.

    The factional overlords will save us! Oh I do hope Conroy and Shorten reach some factional elite fiat on the leadership question!

    ….. said no one sane, ever, post 2010.

  5. Paul Norton

    Mark, you wrote:

    It’s of a piece with now very former ALPster Tony Mundine’s claim that Western Sydney-ites didn’t vote for the ALP because of its cultural elitism. Or something.

    The former 1970s Australian boxing champion in three weight divisions and contender for the world middleweight title has been grievously defamed!

  6. Paul Norton

    The main thing, though, that I wanted to say is that there’s now quite a literature on long-run degenerative trends in the ALP beginning with the articles that Lindsay Tanner and others wrote for Australian Left Review in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and exemplified more recently by Rodney Cavalier’s book Power Crisis, pieces by Mark Aarons, among others, and the Faulkner et al review. The question must be asked whether the difficulties Labor has found itself in during the past few years (most notably in NSW) represent the culmination of the trends identified by these intelligent internal critics. If this is so then proponents of the renewal of Labor certainly don’t need to reinvent the wheel, as these critics have managed, between them, to propose a range of remedial measures (admittedly not all pulling the same way).

  7. Liz

    I’m also grumpy about what’s happened with Labor. There’s part if your diagnosis I agree with and others with which I vehemently disagree.

    I have to say your diagnosis that grassroots revival only started with Rudd’s resurrection and everyone knows it, is too put it mildly, bullshit. It maybe true in Brisbane. I wouldn’t know. But, I certainly it isn’t true in Melbourne, where I know Labor members who withdrew their volunteer labour when Rudd returned.

    Again, you’ve written a post the purpose of which seems to valorise Rudd and minimise the contribution Gillard made. You seem to have ignored the many people who are furious with him. Many of them happen to be women. This is something which the women at LP have been yelling about for ages. You might want to listen to them.

    To repeat a question asked by the good Dr. Pav in another post; why did there have to be so many marginal seats to be defended in the first place? The answer is obvious. But, hey let’s ignore that particular elephant in the room.

    As for the ‘The Stalking of Julia Gillard’; it’s a fine piece of journalism. But, of course it’s just easier to ignore it. Because Rudd is the Messiah, or something.

  8. jungney

    PC: you’re blowing a one note instrument. Yes, Julia was stalked and harassed out of the PM’ship by the male establishment, of which Rudd is a member. However, the other members include, roughly, the entire Canberra press gallery, most editors of all media, the shock jocks and key ALP men.

    What do you make of this? Surely, it has to be something more than that Gillard was victimized? I reckon that reasoned analysis of the issue should lead to more than some sort of Jacobin list of who took what position in relation to Gillard and when they did it.

  9. Lefty E

    Yes but look at whats happening now Liz.

    Gillard gone, Rudd gone: and here we are again, wondering if the ALP factions will allow a vote for rank and file members, or stick with some elite factional stitch up – between two overlords who hate each other (Shorten and Conroy) – to install the one who was most instrumental in the whole Rudd/ Gillard/ Rudd circus. With repeat offender idiots STILL going on camera to trash other members of the same party, even when its all over.

    Yeah that’ll solve the problem! Even if its Shorten, he needs an imprimatur from the rank and file or he’ll inevtiably always be protayed as the faceless knifer by the LNP.

    In fact, he needs it more than Albanese would.

    Wood for the trees, people. Its not about Rudd or Gillard in the end.

  10. PavCat

    PC: you’re blowing a one note instrument.

    Since there is nobody commenting on this thread whose initials are PC, jungney, I can only assume that you are referring to me (because of Liz’s reference to me in her comment), and that you have got those pesky female commenters mixed up again because everybody know they’re all the same and who reads their comments anyway, eh?

    But then, since I have never in my life called Gillard ‘a victim’, perhaps you weren’t. Who can say.

    It is not, however, moi who is blowing a one note instrument, and I can tell you exactly where to find yours.

  11. Richard

    A well written piece.
    While leadership speculation and disunity were clearly significant factors in Labor’s demise, in my view the greatest failing of the Rudd & Gillard governments was their inability to clearly articulate their aims and visions. Policy decisions were judged (usually negatively by the media) on an individual basis rather than as part of an overall platform with clearly defined aims.
    The achievements of past Labor governments have always been judged (by those with an objective viewpoint) in relation to the how those governments defined themselves. The Curtin & Chiffley governments were defined as, among other things, strengthening Australia’s independence, the Whitlam government for their social reforms and the Hawke & Keating governments for their fiscal reforms and how these reforms benefited the nation.
    Most important of all however was that these governments represented generational change at times when there was a clear need for such change. These governments defined themselves not according to the opinions of party elders but buy embracing new ideas and approaches.
    With Abbott being a prime minister who’s ideas are clearly those of a past generation, the need for new ideas to deal with new challenges will only become more urgent.

  12. jungney

    MOD: Comment redacted as personally offensive.

  13. PavCat

    I suppose you are serious? That’s all you’ve got, a schoomarm reprimand about me referring to you as PC rather than PavCat?

    No, duckie, not at all. Now that I have actually made a comment, I see you haven’t bothered to read that properly either. People have been referring me as PC on this blog for many years, nor has it ever bothered me. My point was that since I hadn’t actually commented here, you appeared to be getting me mixed up with another commenter, as male commenters here so frequently do with the wimmins.

    I gave lectures to undergraduates for 20 years, yes. That tends to be what people do when they have jobs as lecturers in universities. Said lectures were for the most part moderately well received, since you’re kind enough to ask. And the fact that you think your sexist, clichéd epithet ‘schoolmarm’ is a witty insult tells us more about you than it does about me.

  14. Russell

    About the factions …. aren’t they likely to exist given the range of views in the ALP?

    From W.A. you’re getting Melissa Parke, Gary Gray, and now, God help us, Joe Bullock – what could these people have in common? Parke will be on the left and Gray on the right, and Bullock will be with the DLP. Birds of a feather etc. so in a party which seems to cater for every ideology, it looks like factions will naturally form. No?

  15. Alison

    How about some more debate re the issues? Like silly Labor, you all can only talk about yourselves? Life in the real world is not just about you, Kevin Rudd or Julia Gillard! Thank you, (utterly disillusioned).

  16. Liz

    If you haven’t written a post to adjudicate the two, then you’ve spent a great deal of space comparing Rudd ( a reinvigoration of grassroots action when he returned. Apparently everyone was overjoyed he was back) with Gillard ( no grassroots action here. All top down. Not nearly as good).

    You’ve spent a lot of space complaining loudly about the behaviour of Emerson, who’s speaking the truth, as he sees it, because he’s criticising Rudd. But, you’ve ignored Rudd leaking and whiteanting for three years, doing his best to ensure the Party would crawl back to him. So, it’s bad to write articles for News Ltd, but all right to leak to them for years.

    You’ve spent a lot of space denigrating in the most vitriolic terms Kerry-Anne Walsh for writing about Rudd’s dysfunctional behaviour. You’ve spent a lot of space being appalled about the Lib’s psychiatric assessment of Rudd. It may well be bullshit, but they managed to nullify Rudd pretty well during the campaign.

    And yes Pav, jungney does think all women are the same.

    LeftyE. Rudd’s still there. Just waiting.

  17. PavCat

    Couldn’t agree with you more, Alison, but when attacked, I respond; what do you do? As to ‘the issues’, it seems to me that the post is very much about personalities, and that ‘the issues’ cannot be disentangled from them.

  18. Lefty E

    it looks like factions will naturally form. No?

    Of course, but that doesnt mean you bitch at each other in public, and more importantly for Mark’s piece, allow them to scotch rank and file participation in leadership selection – which is, I would remind people, absolutely the norm in selecting party leaders everywhere in the westminister tradition except here.

    UK, NZ, Canada, even the US all do this.

    Party reform is the issue today, not Rudd or Gillard: they are gone.

  19. PavCat

    Lefty E, Gillard has gone, which she knew was the best and appropriate thing to do, and which she did with enviable generosity and grace.

    Rudd, as Liz has just pointed out, has not gone.

  20. Lefty E

    [LeftyE. Rudd’s still there. Just waiting.]

    Hah, yes over at Poll Bludger the people most likely to make this sort of claim this were also suggesting he’d run for the leadership after the loss.

    They were completely wrong of course.

    My guess now is that he feels completely vindicated by the return the PM ship, and saving 15 seats over where Gillard was taking the ALP electorally, and he’ll move on once the normal conditions pertain in Griiffith: viz, by-elections go against governments.

    Resign now and its Glasson’s seat, no question. I dont want him to do that, and I cant see why anyone would. (save LNP supporters,of course)

    I know those obsessed with Rudd hatreds will disagree, but frankly, given their track record on his actions – Im in no doubt I will be proved correct, and they will again be proved wrong.

  21. adrian

    Way to miss the point Russell.

  22. Russell

    But Lefty E those factions have opposing views, and they fight each other to have their views win. Which I guess is why so many of them seem to hate each other.

    The environmentalists and social progressives left – they went to the Greens. But the ones still in the ALP – the neo-liberals and Keynesians and whatever – are fighting for control of the organisation, the power, and just keeping quiet in public isn’t going to create a functioning team.

    Isn’t the President of the ALP elected? We’ve had Carmen Lawrence and other ‘left-ish’ presidents, but what difference has that made? It didn’t affect those who really hold the power in the party. Is it the unions that are the problem?

  23. jungney

    PC, I think I made a reference to a comment of yours from another thread. Or maybe I was addressing a monolithic liberal feminist consciousness? It all seems interchangeable to me.

    Duckie? You called me duckie? Time for bed, for me at least.

  24. jules

    Russell – factions should be loose associations of people with very similar views about a limited number of issues, not monolithic institutions using the party to wage war in heaven or whatever the fuck it is they do now.

    The best way to do this is to put leadership and all representation (preselection) in the hands of the rank and file.

    However KRuddley’s idea is a reasonable compromise. Pity he couldn’t.

  25. adrian

    And way to miss the point Liz, a point incidentally you’ve made over and over and over again. Really what’s the point, apart from indulging your obsession?

    And way to miss the point PavCat. Gillard didn’t leave just after she’d been elected.
    The voters of Griffith don’t deserve to have their elected representatives at least serve some of his term, even if he is one of the never dead?

  26. paulie


    Every Labor politician needs to watch this four part series and pull their heads in. Or it will be 18 years in opposition just like it was for Labour in Britain. 18 years!!! Senator Conroy should be locked up in a rubber room and left to watch this series over and over for a year.

  27. Mark Bahnisch

    I’m just going to delete any further comments which are personally argumentative, or which seek to rehash Rudd/Gillard issues or which want to argue about what Rudd should or should not do. These are not issues core to the argument of the post. Please respond to the OP.

    If I wanted to write something about the relative merits of Rudd and Gillard (and they both have merits), and write it here, I would. I have chosen not to.

    So please respect the intent of the post. As I’ve said, you have other outlets to canvass these questions. For the life of me, though, I can’t see what purpose is served by picking over the entrails further. Surely the point is to move forward?

    Anyway, I’ll check in again when I get home, and if people can’t stay on topic, I’ll put the comments setting on to moderate everyone.


  28. Paul Norton

    Russell @18:

    About the factions …. aren’t they likely to exist given the range of views in the ALP?

    This is part of the problem. The factions (and the increasingly balkanised sub-factions and sub-sub-factions) only very weakly coalesce around points of view on policies, or perspectives on the ALP’s direction, these days. They are increasingly becoming patronage networks comparable to those in the Japanese Liberal Democratic Party. That a certain former PM was formally aligned with the Left but was consistently to the Right on policy, and had her main support base in elements of the Right, is a case in point.

  29. GregM

    And the fact that you think your sexist, clichéd epithet ‘schoolmarm’ is a witty insult tells us more about you than it does about me.

    PC I’m saying this because I respect you. Don’t bother responding to Anthony any more. It’s a waste of time. and it will move you into territory of breaching LP comments policy.

    Your comment above sums up all we need to know and already know.

    I’ve told the story on LP more than once before of the Hare Krishna representative being interviewed on a current affairs program, where he had been invited to explain his organisation’s beliefs, along with a rabid opponent of his organisation invited, without his knowledge, to criticise him.

    When asked to respond to the rabid and fanciful claims of his critic he would not.

    When asked why he would not he replied “Just because there is a dog in the gutter barking at you does not mean that you should get down and bark back”. He then said that having been invited onto the program to explain the beliefs of the Hare Krishnas he would be glad to do so.

    As Anthony is incapable of engaging with you in respectful dialogue then there is no point engaging with him.

  30. Kevin Rennie

    Is your use of ‘Labourism’ rather than “Laborism’ an unconscious slip? The hardest question in any reform process is the nature of the relationship of the labour movement, especially the affiliated trade unions, to the party. Labor has survived potential electoral oblivion in the past because it remained a labour party. Now it is strangling itself because of union leaders’ dominance of factional politics and caucus politics. That’s the central conundrum for democratising the party.

  31. Mark Bahnisch

    GregM, I don’t need metacommentary either, thanks!

    Kevin, no, “labourism” isn’t a slip. If you look at how the ideology of the Labor Party has been characterised, that’s the term used. It suggests a narrow union consciousness and a rather simplistic class analysis.

  32. Liz

    Rudd saved 15 seats? That’s a total unknowable. And to ask the question again; why were those seats in danger in the first place? Why would he be vindicated when Labor had the lowest primary vote ever? When the vote dropped from the start of the campaign to the end of the campaign?Not all Rudd’s fault, but please don’t behave like he was the saviour.

    I also remember people saying that Rudd would never comeback after his 2012 non-challenge. Maybe you were one of them LeftyE. Of course, that was a completely incorrect prediction.

  33. GregM

    Whoops, sorry Mark. I wrote my post @32 while you were posting yours @30. If you feel it doesn’t help please feel free to delete it.

  34. Val

    Mark Bahnisch @ 12
    As I’ve argued on another thread here at length, sexism contributed to what happened to Gillard. It is not irrelevant and it does not become so simply because the Rudd Gillard leadership battle is over. Sexism was directly used as a weapon against Gillard by the conservative forces, and Kevin Rudd facilitated and utilised this by his undermining. Any commentator who refuses to look at this issue is complicit in it.

    As some here know, I’m finding it incredibly hard to keep my patience seeing so many women ( and some men) repeatedly being ignored, misrepresented and put down. We are not stupid, we are not irrelevant and we are not trying to re- fight the Gillard-Rudd leadership battle. We just do not agree with your version of what happened. Is that so hard to understand?

    By all means let’s have a debate, but let it be real debate, rather than simply asserting that other people are off topic or don’t know what they are talking about. Until there is a genuine attempt to understand the role of sexism in what happened to Gillard, and the complicity of Rudd and his supporters in this, there cannot be a good faith discussion.

  35. Peter Murphy

    Rudd remains member for Griffith, which is where I live, and more importantly, where my wife lives. It was her first Australian ballot ever. She elected him – number 1 on her ballot paper, no less – on the basis that she would be PM, but also MP. Ok, he’s not PM any more, but he remains my local member, and more importantly, hers.

    Can you understand why I am extremely contemptuous of those who ask Rudd to step down? I know there are people here who fear him returning. Fortunately, there’s a very simple solution to the problem of the re-appearing Rudd. Institute the rules for ALP leadership he proposed in the first place: 50 % to the caucus, 50% to the rank and file. I cannot see him being re-elected on that basis at all. The vibe is get is for Albanese, and Plibersek and Wong; there’s probably a few Shorten supporters out there, but they’re keeping mum. But re-elect Rudd again as head? Neither the factions or the ALP members want him back as leader.

    Am I wrong?

  36. Liz

    Sure, I’ll shut up now Mark. You’ve written the OP precisely in terms of personalities, which a couple of people have pointed out. But, if you don’t want further discussion on what you started; your call.

  37. Russell

    “I can’t see what purpose is served by picking over the entrails further. Surely the point is to move forward?”

    Mark, I made a reference, as an example, to colonialism on a previous thread … there are people who say “well, they’re not taking children away now, so why don’t they move on’, or ‘well, people say there were massacres, but that was generations ago’ and so on. But when people feel a serious injustice has been done, and the nature of the injustice is still disputed, it’s not actually constructive to say that they should just forget about that and move forward.

  38. Liz

    And what Val said at 37. Mark, I would have thought as a progressive man, you’d be concerned many multiple feminists have a complaint. It’s not useful to tell us to stfu.

  39. Peter Murphy

    I want to say another thing: I am utterly sick to death of leadershit. It’s a bloody cancer on this site. As a long-term commenter on this site (9 years, part of that under a pseudonym), can we have a rank-and-file ballot to banish it from this blog (or at least relegate to an overflow thread)?

    I want to hear people talk about the meat of the thread (i.e. Factional Laborism). Leadershit bores me utterly.

  40. amortiser

    You are absolutely correct about your comments on the armchair psychologists.

    It’s very heartening to see reports that Rudd wants to emulate the feat of Andrew Fisher in being a three time PM.

    It is clearly self evident that Rudd was the only hope for the ALP and although he would feel a little down hearted by the result it was far from his fault.

    Give him some time – less than a parliamentary term which he now has, and his undoubted talents will again come to the fore and he will lead the ALP to a comprehensive victory again. All that Rudd needs to rise again are the conditions that pertained on the previous occasions of his triumphs. Beazley was dead in the water with the opposition facing another disastrous defeat. Gillard had spent all her political capital in holding together a minority government. On both occasions Rudd was the solution to intractable problems. With the factional wars starting again with the inevitable consequences, Rudd will again provide a solution and the prospect of another triumph despite the ramblings of armchair psychologists.

  41. Mark Bahnisch

    Liz, I am not telling anyone to stfu. I am requesting that people treat each other with respect and be germane to the intent and argument of the OP. That applies to everyone alike. If the comments policy has not been enforced on other threads while I am away (and I am sure overworked mods have done their best), I am going to enforce it on this one. I do not want a rehash of Rudd/Gillard on this thread, and will not tolerate it. You know there are other places where you can argue the toss on it, should you wish. Thanks again.

  42. Mark Bahnisch

    Also, what Peter said!

  43. Mark Bahnisch

    We just do not agree with your version of what happened. Is that so hard to understand?

    No, but it shouldn’t be hard to understand either, Val, why I don’t want either version argued on this thread. We haven’t interacted before to my knowledge. Of course, I would be happy to argue the rights and wrongs of the issue (and I think sexism did have a lot to do with what happened with Gillard), but this thread is not one on which I wish to have that discussion. I would ask that you respect that.

    That, as far as I am concerned, closes this thread drift. Future comments I do not consider germane to the OP will be deleted. Thanks.

  44. Val

    I am talking about sexism. Is it possible to say that any more clearly? If people on this thread are determined to ignore that issue, then say so. Be honest. But don’t keep calling it leadershit.

  45. PavCat

    your comments on the armchair psychologists

    Okay, that’s a new angle and directly germane to the OP; am I allowed to comment on that? I’d like to know why it’s okay for non-specialists to comment on politics, sociology, history, literature, medicine, the history and philosophy of science and the Goddess knows what else, but not to comment on and speculate about the observable personality traits and behaviour of high-profile people.

  46. Russell

    Paul N – do those patronage networks originate with the unions having the power of numbers over pre-selections?

  47. Terangeree

    I’m in Rudd’s electorate, which he was re-elected to represent last week-end with a winning margin of about 4,000 votes.

    Why should he resign?

    He is a reasonably good local MHR, although that’s probably as far as he should have risen, and the electors of Griffith elected him to represent them until 2016.

    Why should he resign?

    I agree, he ought not contest the Labor leadership in future. His job is to represent the electors of Griffith in Federal Parliament.

  48. jumpy.

    Labor has been telling the punters what to bet on and how much.
    The punters prefer to read the form guide and don’t trust them.
    Given the 6 to 9 years in opposition they face, it’s time they started to know the horses and not focus on the trainers.

  49. Val

    Mark Bahnischn @ 48
    in terms of whether we have interacted before, no i dont think so – I may possibly have been confusing you in my mind with Dr Tad at Left Flank, who has written some similar things about Rudd/Gillard (which, as Liz pointed out, you did actually introduce yourself – I think it would be fair to acknowledge that) in a different context. And John Quiggin has also written similar things, though I wasn’t confusing you with him.
    There is a real problem here, partly expressed through this confusion between several male blog authors vs the similar confusion others have shown over certain feminist commenters. It’s because there are two clear lines of argument, although you seem reluctant to allow one to be heard. I will leave it there for now, respecting your limited time.

  50. faustusnotes

    This post and the other post on leadership selection and democracy are ridiculously naive. Here is why.

    1: The factional system has delivered us Hawke, Keating, Beazley, Crean and Gillard. These were all solid policy performers and solid in parliament. The biggest dud it delivered was Rudd and there was no reasonable way anyone – no matter what the democratic composition of decision-making – could have predicted his problems. When they were realized, the factional system very quickly organized his replacement by Gillard, who is a policy heavyweight. The other dud, Latham, probably should have been recognized as such but every party produces the odd dud (anyone remember Downer?). So the calls for greater democracy need to recognize that the existing system works just fine.

    2. The other parties aren’t democratic. The Liberals aren’t. Why, as a lefty, are you beating up on the ALP for having an undemocratic but functional system when our opposition has an undemocratic system that produced a misogynist catholic corporatist?

    3. Rudd designed the current “democratic” system because he thought it would protect him against his colleagues. That tells you all you need to know about the judgment of the rank and file. And how could they judge Rudd? The problems with Rudd were in his management and working style, which the rank and file know nothing about. Under Rudd’s system, replacing him would have required a months-long ballot during which all of his dysfunctional problems would have been sprayed across the national media. It may not ultimately have worked, but the factions’ system of a knife-in-the-dark was a much tidier solution to that problem. And other similar problems will flow from such a democratic system.

    4. The reason people like Emerson are spraying their bile across the front pages of newspapers has nothing to do with the factional system, and to think it does is hopelessly ignorant. They do this because they think their own party is so important that its internal travails should be everyone’s business. And why shouldn’t they? The ALP has saved Australia from every major crisis it has ever faced, and had Gillard stayed in power we would have been contributing to the solution to AGW, the worst problem the world has ever faced and a problem that “democratic” Rudd squibbed on.

    5. The factional system delivers democratic representation to the Unions, the most important force for social change in Australian society. The “democratic” system proposed by Rudd reduces this influence, and replaces it with the votes of a (comparatively smaller) cadre of party members. It’s naive to think that “democracy” always has to occur through individuals stuffing paper into ballot boxes. This suits Rudd because he can manipulate that system far better than a disciplined system of union representatives.

    6. You say that the Rudd vs. Gillard stoush is irrelevant, but then you talk about Labor having to “rebuild.” Why is it rebuilding? There are important voices – from deep within the party system – saying it has to do this because of Rudd vs. Gillard. You may not agree with them but saying the issue is irrelevant is just ridiculous. Rudd dragged the ALP into the gutter, and when it was its most desperate he forced it to accede to his dictatorial wishes, then proceeded to fumble an easily winnable election. This election loss is an aberration, that would never have happened but for Rudd’s poisonous influence, and so the party does not have to rebuild. It needs to draw out the poison and proceed with its vision, which is the closest the ALP has ever come to a vision that conforms to the needs of modern Australian society. That vision was formed under Gillard. If you want to talk about improved democratic processes, you need to recognize that the current democratic process was introduced by a man who is essentially a policy-free zone: he achieved almost nothing while in power, and is committed to only one goal, himself.

    Nowhere in this post is any argument presented for how “democratic” processes will improve the ALP, nor is any thought given to who was responsible for its current parlous state. The post is also ignorant of – or deliberately elides – the role of the factional system in producing the best leaders Australia has ever seen.

    I think more thought about the Rudd vs. Gillard issue, listening to the women on LP who have been repeatedly making these points, and deeper consideration of the history of the ALP, would improve the content of this post considerably.

  51. Daniel

    Thanks once again for a well written piece – and I read enough of “Stalking” myself to get the sense that the evidence was found to match the theory rather than the other way around.

    On Emerson, what I don’t understand is that for many of us Labor people, the thing which really crushed our spirits in the latter end of the Gillard days was the cruel policies aimed at disadvantaged people. Emerson was responsible for one of them – the uni cuts – and had a hand in another – the single parents changes. We know from surveys done that these had a monumental effect on the Labor vote, but we do not hear Emerson taking any responsibility – instead pointing the finger at everyone but himself. I’m surprised this angle hasn’t been covered in the mass media.

  52. jules


    re your point 3 – whether Rudd designed it or not it will encourage engagement with the ALP. The ALP has low membership for something that is sposed to represent around or at least half the country. There is a perception that factions will deny ordinary people access or a say even if they join the party.

    This process will force more engagement with ordinary people. if the faction system is as useful as you’re saying then proper engagement will enable the reps of the factions to make their case and have it judged on its merits.

    Furthermore some of the problems Gillard faced may have been avoided with a messier drawn out process. People didn’t know why what happened really happened. This gave the opposition something to work with. Ultimately his dysfunctional side was sprayed across the national media and to the ALP’s cost. A messy fight followed by Rudd being voted out or running away would have been less damaging to the party and to gillard. Hindsight obviously, but all experience is built on hindsight.

  53. jules

    Peter Murphy and terrangeree.

    Its fair enough that your rep stays, but if he appears to be messing with the ALP perhaps he should should be booted out. He could still represent Griffith as an independent.

  54. Chris

    5. The factional system delivers democratic representation to the Unions, the most important force for social change in Australian society. The “democratic” system proposed by Rudd reduces this influence, and replaces it with the votes of a (comparatively smaller) cadre of party members

    Perhaps the numbers of party members is low comparatively (and shrinking) because people know in the end they don’t get much of a say. And given the views of some of the union leaders on social issues such as same sex marriage I question how representative they are of their members (ex-Senator Don Farrell as one example).

  55. Russell

    How were these ‘democratic’ changes made? I would have thought that these were matters for party conferences – isn’t that how the party rules are made?

  56. Nickws


    Rudd designed the current “democratic” system because he thought it would protect him against his colleagues. That tells you all you need to know about the judgment of the rank and file.

    Rudd is no more, so throwing up this angry rhetoric does nothing but pre-delegitimise the results of a Shorto v. Albo grassroots election.

    The factional system delivers democratic representation to the Unions, the most important force for social change in Australian society. The “democratic” system proposed by Rudd reduces this influence, and replaces it with the votes of a (comparatively smaller) cadre of party members.

    Can someone confirm that members of affiliated unions are prohibited from voting in this leaders election? I’d assumed they were.

    Or, maybe, faustus is angry that the union block vote isn’t being used in this election. But union block votes are never used in federal conference, nor, more pertinently for the leadership question, in federal caucus.

    No, you haven’t rebutted M. Bahnisch’s argument with your claim that this thing is an anti-Labor process.

    If it happens, Shorten’s best bet to win this thing is to get union endorsements, and to motivate indidual union members to get down to their local branches to vote for him.

    How have you not even considered that? How does (now anachronistic) anti-Ruddism explain away those simple dynamics?

    People, she’s gone, accept it, move on.

    As a former Rudd enthusiast, I’ve jumped straight onto Bill’s bandwagon, didn’t hurt a bit. Most natural thing in the world when you compare the respective sales pitches of those two jokers.

  57. mindy

    If Albo decides not to run, I’m guessing that this is an option since he has said – or someone has said – that he is tired, how will we know that it was his decision and not a factional stitch up? There is always going to be talk and it doesn’t matter if Albo comes out and says it was his decision there will always be the ‘of course he would say that’. How does Labor get past this suspicion and move forward?

  58. Lefty E

    I also remember people saying that Rudd would never comeback after his 2012 non-challenge. Maybe you were one of them LeftyE. Of course, that was a completely incorrect prediction.

    Not that it matters to this thread, Liz, but I not only predicted he’d be back, I agitated strongly for it, and also won a bet or two upon his return!

    He came back too late, for my money, but I was glad to see it happen.

    Now, like Mark, Id like to see the whole era behind us, and ALP party reform is the only route that can be taken.

    The frontrunner, Shorten, is deeply implicated in the curse of NSWitis of the ALP, and the only thing that can cure that is his being anointed by the caucus AND rank and file.

    Already the jokes are these, on Chaser “Shorten denies moving against himself” etc. If this is to be moving on, the dead hand of factional system needs to be seen to be breaking down, especially key public engagement issues like the leader.

    These are now problematic issues of trust between the ALP and the public. For this reason, and the point of the post, I simply cant understand the arguments against a wider vote, especialy given everything that happened to Rudd and Gillard. This is the cure to NSWitis, and Shorten/ Conroy want to shun it, because it threatens their control.

    None of that surprises me – but to find defenders of this broken system rather does (not that Im suggesting you are one of them, Liz, but evidently they exist!)

  59. Chris

    Mindy @ 64 – I think its pretty important that someone, anyone (ok, maybe not Rudd) run against Shorten to ensure that there is a contest and an opportunity for the membership to participate.

  60. mindy

    Shouldn’t that be suppositories of wisdom? Thanks I’ll be here all week, try the veal.

  61. faustusnotes

    Another thing I wanted to say: both Shorten and Albanese are perfectly good opposition leaders. We’re looking at a month-long drawn-out process to elect one of two perfectly decent leaders. Will the judgment of the rank and file be better than the faction system in choosing between these two? Is the labor party defined entirely by its leaders to the point that this is important?

  62. Nickws

    A number of MSM reports about Shorten’s announcement today failed to mention that the election reform is triggered if Albanese throws his hat in the ring.

    Forget about ex-MPs and Conroy; I think our media gatekeepers are trying a last ditch groupthink campaign to stop this from happening.

  63. Adrian

    Will the judgment of the rank and file be better than the faction system in choosing between these two? Is the labor party defined entirely by its leaders to the point that this is important?

    At the very least it will give the elected leader added legitimacy. What is the problem?

  64. Nickws

    At the very least it will give the elected leader added legitimacy. What is the problem?

    The rejoinder to this, if it’s honest, is actually something about caucus leadership stability being best when it’s governed by an unwritten constitution.

    Prolonging that into the 21st century, that’s somewhere between the Kirribilli Pact, and real tory ‘golden circle’ thinking.

  65. Chris

    Will the judgment of the rank and file be better than the faction system in choosing between these two? Is the labor party defined entirely by its leaders to the point that this is important?

    Not entirely, but have a look back at a few controversial policies introduced by the ALP. eg. Cuts to single mother’s pensions, Malaysian solution, PNG solution – would any of those have happened if the party leader didn’t want them to? Decisions that the ordinary members of the ALP had no input to at all.

    I saw some video of Conroy complaining that it would be a disaster if the rank and file overrode the opinion of caucus – whilst it would be awkward, if that happened perhaps its a sign that caucus should be listening a bit better to the opinions of their members.

  66. Katz

    While it cannot be argued with certainty that ALP members would do a worse job than Caucus at choosing a parliamentary party leader, nevertheless it must be borne in mind that the current pool of potential leaders (i.e., the Caucus) was chosen by the various factions.

    One and a half cheers for “democracy”.

  67. Patrickb

    Nice work Mark. Interesting that today we had bad news on unemployment but all we had from the ALP was leadership drivel. My immediate thought was, why aren’t the ALP hammering Abbott with this? The slack bastard isn’t going to convene parliament until November, he should recall parliament now and explain to the country how he intends to deal with this rapidly emerging employment crisis. They have a chance to hit him early and hit hard where it hurts but they’re to busy talking to Sky about leadership or Rudd or any effing thing except something that might cause the LNP to look up from their brandies with surprise and perhaps some alarm.

  68. faustusnotes

    Cuts to single mother’s pensions, Malaysian solution, PNG solution – would any of those have happened if the party leader didn’t want them to? Decisions that the ordinary members of the ALP had no input to at all.

    That’s right, because if the rank and file had chosen in the Rudd vs. Gillard stoush, rather than the factions, these policies would never have been thought up or enacted, right?

    I mean really, do you think “democracy” is some kind of magic wand that makes all policy suddenly good? And what democracy is “a good”? American-style oligarchy? How long before rank and file votes become factionalized? It’s just so naive to think that the ALP’s problems can be solved by “democracy” or even that such a concept applies in the membership of a political party. Do you have any proof at all that parties function better under these conditions? Because there is powerful proof they don’t: the Democrats under Meg Lees.

  69. Katz

    E. M. Forster, actually.

    Forster goes on to say: “If I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend I hope I should have the guts to betray my country”, which fits rather nicely with your disapprobation of Kant.

  70. Paul Norton

    Russell @52:

    Paul N – do those patronage networks originate with the unions having the power of numbers over pre-selections?

    The word “originate” may be too strong but certainly the power of union officials (who are also key factional figures) over numbers is a big part of it. Some of us are old enough to recall AWU National Despot Bill Ludwig in 1991 threatening that any Queensland Labor MP who voted for Keating in the Hawke-Keating leadership ballot “will die”, which was a colourful way of saying they’d lose their preselection. There have been more than enough examples since then to illustrate what I mean.

  71. Val

    Mark Bahnisch @ 69
    I don’t think you have understood my point, but anyway at the moment I’m tired of arguing this. I left the ALP over ten years ago and this discussion just confirms why.

    You (ALP) people go on and on about process – how you should do this, how you should do that. It seems that you cannot stop. The ALP has lost its moral compass – it’s a cliche I know, but sometimes cliches work because they say things clearly.

    Many women, including myself, and some men, have repeatedly pointed out that there is a fundamental moral problem in what Kevin Rudd did (it is impossible to talk about this without naming the key agents, and foolish to try). His eventual victory over Julia Gillard utilised the fact that an inherently sexist campaign had been used to portray her, and the government, as incompetent and untrustworthy. Rudd contributed to this picture by his ongoing destabilisation, and then, in the end, he took over again, because a sexist campaign combined with his undermining, had made the government’s position untenable.

    Let me stop here to point out two things which should be obvious, but possibly won’t be to some here, at least partly because I am a woman. Firstly, I am not talking about personalities. I am talking about a fundamental moral issue: is Labor opposed to sexism and committed to equality for women? Secondly, I am not trying to defend the Gillard government. Julia Gillard and the government made mistakes and did some bad things, I agree with that. Nevertheless, they were no more incompetent or untrustworthy than other Australian governments, and possibly less than many.

    There is a fundamental moral problem here: Kevin Rudd, and his supporters, utilised and were complicit in sexism in his campaign. And yet every time I or others point this out, it is met with trivialisation, if not denial; oh yes there was ( or may have been) some sexism, we’ve got more important things to deal with now.

    The ALP seems incapable of dealing with moral issues, of deciding what is right and what is wrong, and what are its basic values. This is not only shown in relation to sexism but particularly on asylum seekers, and on welfare recipients – and yes Gillard was guilty there too. But that does not mean it was right to use immoral and unethical tactics against her.

    I understand also that some of this is political, related to the rise of the Greens, who have taken some of Labor’s traditional ground, leaving it confused. Similarly, I could even understand if there were a real politik discussion about sexism in politics. But what I can’t cope with is this continual avoiding of the issue and trying to sweep it under the carpet.

    At the moment it looks hopeless. So many Labor people, as this discussion shows, just want to focus on process: who is going to stand for leader, how will you elect him (it appears likely it will be him)? Any attempt to get you to focus on moral issues and values is side- lined, and those Rudd supporters like yourself who are partly responsible for this great moral debacle try to silence discussion. I’m sorry, I know that’s harsh, but I’m tired of reasoning with people. At present it just looks like Labor is hopeless.

  72. Chris

    The rejoinder to this, if it’s honest, is actually something about caucus leadership stability being best when it’s governed by an unwritten constitution.

    I’d agree that unwritten rules/constitutions can be just as good. But when it comes to leadership the ALP don’t have that any more so they need a written one at least for a while to re-establish norms.

  73. Tyro Rex

    A party that seeks to represents the nation’s interests via democratic elections ought to democratic itself, no? And if not, then why should the voters in elections trust it? I don’t understand the demonisation of the party membership @56.

    As for who is a ‘member’ of the party, this will be the actual members, who joined and go to branch meetings (which is not me any more, I’m lapsed), not the members of affiliated unions unless they’ve joined via the usual mechanism.

    Affiliated unions, through their affiliation fees get votes at state conference for the memberships of the state admin committee. This is not addressed by the Rudd leadership election proposal: Crean addressed it somewhat by reducing the affiliate’s vote share at conference.

    It is in fact via (struggles for control over) the affiliated unions where most of the “factional” nonsense is carried out. They serve as the factional power bases that then try to control the branches, especially from the right (a lot of the membership is actually pretty left-wing in most of its attitudes).

  74. Tyro Rex

    Also Unions don’t actually have power over pre-selections. Members do. As long as the pre-selection isn’t bypassed by the part executive or admin committee then the members control the pre-selection. Of course, large portions of the membership may give their allegiance to a faction and the faction power base gives you resources to lobby the membership. Ballots are typically secret and I’ve both voted for and against right wing faction candidates based purely on the basis of what I thought they were worth to the area they sought to represent: and I’m not a member of that faction, to put it mildly.

    If you want a say in how the party is run then bloody well join it.

  75. desipis


    The ALP seems incapable of dealing with moral issues, of deciding what is right and what is wrong, and what are its basic values.

    Why don’t you keep things on topic, and give your opinion on how the factional mechanisms of the ALP contribute to (or minimise) this incapacity? Doesn’t locking up the power with the factions enable them to effectively ignore any issues that aren’t front and centre in the media? Wouldn’t give the membership influence over the leadership provide an opportunity for feminists to campaign against sexist behaviour in the caucus?

  76. mindy

    If no one stands against Shorten will that damage his claim to legitimacy as leader? Will everyone be able to unite behind him or will the media pounce on this as more evidence of future leadership struggles to come or will they just start on Shorten v anyone they think might go?

  77. faustusnotes

    British labour in opposition are a joke, a one trick pony depending on economic ruin for political traction, with a deeply unpopular leader and no policy substance.

    I am arguing that badly designed democratic systems are not a “good” and can be harmful. I am also arguing that the alp’s problems are not a result of its undemocratic structure, and the proposed structure was put in place by the chief author of their problems because he thought the membership easier to hoodwink than his colleagues. I am also arguing that “the ballot box” that you romantically idealize here is not the only democratic mechanism and not every institution needs to be democratic.

  78. Liz

    I heard on the 9.00am news that Albanese is definitely standing. But, of course Val is correct in everything she says.

  79. Paul Norton

    Mindy @94, IMHO to a considerable extent it’s a matter of perceptions and expectations. After what’s already been said publicly I think it would be hard for an uncontested Shorten candidacy to be seen as not arising from a backroom stitch-up. It would also be disappointing to ALP members whose expectations of a say in these things have been raised. Whoever emerged from a contested ballot with rank and file as well as caucus backing would have much more authority than an uncontested winner.

    This issue is part of a longer-term problem with Labor culture whereby open argument and contestation is feared as a sign to the wider public of “disunity” and “lack of discipline”, and therefore something to be pre-empted in backrooms. It’s salutary to compare Labor’s primary vote at the elections held after the stoush-ridden 1979, 1982, 1984 and 1986 National Conferences, and its membership levels in this period, with what both figures have fallen to in the era of stage-managed, “united”, “professional” National Conferences and other party processes from the 1990s onwards. My view has long been that the punters don’t mind a political party having strong internal arguments if the arguments are about issues of substances on which decent people honourably disagree.

  80. Val

    Desipis @ 96
    From my relatively limited experience as a member of the ALP, I think it is quite likely that the membership would deal with these issues much better.
    But I don’t think it’s realistic to say that the mechanisms ( ie the factions) are entirely responsible for the problems of the ALP. “Party reform” seems to be the go to response when the ALP has problems. Reform to make the party more democratic is a good thing I think. But it won’t necessarily solve the problems around a lack of clear values and principles, which are deeply embedded in the culture. Any reform of the ALP in my view needs to explicitly address these issues as well as process issues. Reform to make the party more democratic does of course address both process and values, but it is not sufficient to encompass the deeper values problem in itself.

    As I’m no longer an ALP member, those are just ‘views from outside’ and whether anybody listens, who knows. Thanks for your question, I won’t be commenting on LP for a while but I welcome people to visit my blog at http://www.fairgreenplanet.blogspot.com

  81. Paul Norton

    Faustusnotes presents some interesting and important arguments to engage with, and I honestly regret that I don’t have time this morning to say more in response. I’ll just pose three questions by way of response:

    1. What democratic processes other than the ballot box would you see as desirable mechanisms for Labor to adopt?

    2. Would you agree that it’s a problem that often the influence of affiiated unions is exercised by officials with no obvious reference to the views of the union membership (and some unions and their officials are worse offenders than others in this respect)?

    3. Why would people join and remain in a political party that doesn’t give them substantial democratic rights in its decision-making processes?

  82. alfred venison
  83. Sam

    Nearly every time the Labor Party loses a federal election, and absolutely every time it loses government (not that that is a big sample) there is all this hand wringing about how the Labor Party is finished, or will be finished if it doesn’t fundamentally change the way it is organised or governs itself or collectively behaves.

    Yet the Labor Party hardly ever changes itself, yet it manages to win back government, eventually.

    The key word is “eventually”. If the Labor Party decide to act like grown ups, it’s two term Tony, tops. If it continues on its historic mission of eating its own, Tony will be PM until well into the 2020s.

  84. Mr Denmore

    The ALP is clearly on a suicide mission. More likely, it has already topped itself but we are in a ‘Weekend at Bernie’s’ scenario where everyone puts up the pretence that the corpse is still breathing.

    The party ran from its economic legacy in opposition from 1996-2006 and then when it regained power in 2007, it screwed itself up into a tiny ball and pretended to be the conservative party.

    It then spent the next six years second guessing itself and jumping at the shadows beamed onto the wall by a Murdoch press which never accepted its legitimacy in government. As a result, the party itself distrusted its own legitimacy.

    Under Gillard, the right-wing factional bosses sought to turn back the dial to the 50s and stuff a cloth cap on an electorate which is far more diverse and nuanced in its views than the Joe de Bruyns of the world could ever countenance.

    As a result, the party is seen as irrelevant, out of touch, ossified and crippled by old thinking that bears no resemblance to how most people see the world.

    ‘Working’ people (which I would say defines most of us) are not a homogenous bunch of Daily Telegraph-reading bigots and reactionaries. But the party assumes they are.

    And neither is everyone who takes climate change seriously and supports gay marriage and humane treatment of asylum seekers an inner city communications graduate and part-time barista.

    Support for social justice and progressive causes is spread widely through the community, even when it is not expressed through the customary social signifiers.

    For all the criticism of Rudd’s character and apparent narcissism, he at least was trying to build a new base for the party outside the reactionary and rigidly institutionalised forces within.

    The howling down of him by the usual suspects (the Conroys and Emersons) just confirms my belief that the party has learnt nothing.

    I think it’s too late for the ALP. It is a shrinking, dying force, walking away from any accommodation with a Green movement which might at least give it a lifeline.

    We need a new centre-left party, one not controlled by socially conservative, fearful and unimaginative droogs. Or let’s all just give up and accept the hegemony of the new Tory overlords.

  85. Sam

    Mr Denmore, things might seem bad but Sophie Mirabella has lost her seat.

  86. adrian

    I think Mr Denmore just about sums it up perfectly.

  87. adrian

    Every cloud….

  88. Ronson Dalby

    Mr Denmore, as usual, right on the money.

  89. John D

    Beazley’s strength was his ability to keep the lid on party infighting. It was also his weakness. By keeping the lid on there wasn’t the in depth review that the ALP needed to sort out what it had done well while in power, what things had passed their use by date and what Labor needed to be about to have a future. This failure to have the fight that was needed contributed to the length of time that Labor was out of power. It contributed to the perception that Labor was nothing more than a policy free zone in search of power.
    Labor needs to have an in depth review right now. They might ask themselves how the hell they supported a carbon tax on power when Australia already had a better trading scheme (RET) that was steadily driving investment in large scale renewables without the toxic and unproductive price increases associated with the carbon tax? They might ask themselves how they decided to reduce costs by screwing single parents and paying a dole well below the poverty line? Or being unwilling to do something to end the unsustainable tax cuts that Howard dished out to the better off?
    It also needs to ask whether blaming the factions is just a lazy way of avoiding a hard look at itself.

  90. Russell

    I think Val summed it up perfectly – that the leadership election thing is perhaps shooting vaguely in the right direction, but not really aimed at the target, which she pinned exactly.

    “the party is seen as irrelevant, out of touch, ossified and crippled by old thinking that bears no resemblance to how most people see the world” – – I disagree because we can see at party conferences that the party is not ossified, just frustrated by powerful forces, which seem based in the unions.

    I don’t agree that “democracy itself is a good” – think of citizens initiated referenda – democracy has to be made to work appropriately. If the ALP could get democracy working at the local level (members electing their Senate candidates etc) and party conference level, and not having that stymied by some higher power echelon, that might be enough member involvement. I think the caucus might be better at electing its own ‘team leader’ and, really, they are the only people who will know if someone, like Rudd, is unable to do the job and has to be replaced.

  91. desipis

    As a result, the party is seen as irrelevant, out of touch, ossified and crippled by old thinking that bears no resemblance to how most people see the world.

    Having the union factions in control of the ALP means centring the party’s policy on the old labour vs capital conflict. The experiences of the “work choices” election in 2007 and continual noise from the business lobby groups demonstrate this aspect of the ALP remains an important and popular part of the political left.

    However, the experiences since then haven’t been so great. The political expectations of the left have become far more nuanced. Policies such as the reduction of payments to single parents and the race to the bottom on refugee policy both seem compatible with the perspective of protecting the interests of labour. Yet, they are at odds with many of the other politically left points of view.

    This indicates to me, that if Labor wish to continue to be the broad church of the left, they need to broaden the range of left perspectives that have influence over the party. The alternative is for the left to become a coalition of smaller parties in which the Labor party becomes just one of many.

    There are obviously uncertainties about moving to an open democratic input from the membership. However, it’s difficult to see how to include a broader range of input given the apparent lack of “disciplined” representative institutions comparable to the unions (outside the Greens party anyway).

  92. Chris

    If you want a say in how the party is run then bloody well join it.

    Isn’t that one of the big reasons for having membership involvement in leadership elections? It gives a very concrete reason for people to join. Would either Rudd or or Gillard have been removed as PM if the membership had 50% of the vote and how much bigger would the membership have become if people knew that membership gave them a say?

    ‘Working’ people (which I would say defines most of us) are not a homogenous bunch of Daily Telegraph-reading bigots and reactionaries. But the party assumes they are.

    A bit OT, but I’ve always wondered what the definition of “working people” is when politicians use that term. Am I right to assume its moved beyond blue collar workers today? How far up the ladder (work or education) can you be before you no longer belong?

  93. Russell

    I haven’t heard of any working people for years, Chris, just working families.

  94. faustusnotes

    Paul Norton, in answer to your questions:

    1. I actually think the ALP has plenty of democratic mechanisms, such as Tyro Rex explained: in selection of candidates, in policy debate, etc. I don’t really care what it adopts as I’m not an ALP member or voter (see my point to follow)

    2. Not necessarily; whether the fact that there is no “obvious” reference to the membership means there is no actual reference to the membership is more important.

    3. I don’t know why people would join a non-democratic party but that doesn’t mean I would only join a party that gave me the choice to democratically elect a leader.

    Case in point: the democrats under Meg Lees. The Democrat rank and file members chose a leader democratically, who then voted for the GST against the express wishes of the vast majority of the membership. Had the party leadership themselves chosen their leader, it would have been Natasha Stott-Despoja, who would have voted against the GST, in line with the wishes of the members.

    So, where was the failure of democracy there?

  95. Graham Bell

    Jumpy @ 54:
    6 to 9 years? Wonder if that might be 6 to 9 months.
    Emphasising the squabbles and splits inside the ALP helped the LNP create an image of unstable government where no actual instability existed – a hell of a lot of noise and dummy-spitting, of course – but the minority government itself was quite stable.

    What about the LNP though? United? No, more than that: bolted and welded together – at least for the duration of the election campaign. Now that the election is over, will the bolts turn out to be crossthreaded and the welds full of bubbles? Do Abbott’s superiors have the ability to hold it all together? What about factions, cliques and ad hoc groups inside the LNP? Why doesn’t the entertainment media put as much effort into telling us about the goings-on inside the LNP as they do into screaming about the ALP falling apart?

  96. jungney

    Mr Denmore @ 102: a delight to read, sir.

  97. Lefty E

    Well said, Mr Denmore.

    Now we have that unhealthily obsessed has-been Emerson (who no doubt Rudd would be confiding in – NOT) out there spreading lurid paranoid fantasies about a a 3rd Rudd return.

    A silly tale, told by an idiot, printed verbatim in the Government Gazette.

  98. Kevin Conway

    I am amazed by how much people are acting against each others viewpoints rather than trying to be constructive.

    I have been part of a democratic movement in the party for over 15 months since the issuing of the Bracks Carr Faulkner review. We have proposed the democratic election of the Parliamentary Leader over all that time. We are a cross factional/non factional group who seek to acheive more focus on empowering individual party members in not only electing party leaders and officials but also in policy development.

    In Queensland I am a leftie and life member, in Victoria the co-ordinator is a right wing young activist. Our patrons include Race Mathews and Carmen Lawrence.

    If I can make a few comments which are personal views , nothing else, I would say that rather than a contest between Shorten and Albanese, I would have preferred Tanya Plibersek as the person who can best be the foil to Tonay Abbott. I remember the dictatorship that was the Queensland ALP in the 70’s. It was the forming of the factions in the 80’s which brought the ALP forward. I still see a function for factions as a lightening rod for similar viewpoints and that is why I joined one.

    I definately think that we are still mostly ruled by faceless men but we are starting to break the pattern with a number of faceless women as well.

    What we need to do in this State at least is to reach out more to other cultures and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.

    One change we have produced is to make the policy formation more open to party members. In a process that was interrupted by the election we are establishing a website where members will post policy ideas, policy drafting committees will then transfer the ideas into a relevant format and location and consult back with the individual and the the co-ordinating committee will adapt the proposal for the platform to be presented to party conference.

    I would also pass comment that we should not ask Rudd to go, as this would be another seat that we would immediately lose to the Liberals, making the regaining of Government just that much harder.

    I would also suggest that there be a preselection contract that stops members becoming commentators because to be noticed as commentators they must criticise the great party that supports them.

    The important thing is that we move forward together even when we disagree. We must build not tear down. We must empower not destroy. We must be inclusive not exclusive. We must unite not divide.

  99. Graham Bell

    When I read the wisdom posted here by Mr Denmore @ 102 – and all the other excellent comments, such as by JohnD @ 107, it makes me wonder what sort of excuses and rationalizations we are going to make for our laziness, our foolishness and our moral cowardice in allowing a bunch of selfish scoundrels to cause this whole damned mess.

  100. Russell

    “The important thing is that we move forward together even when we disagree. We must build not tear down. We must empower not destroy. We must be inclusive not exclusive. We must unite not divide.”

    Kevin, the ALP is so inclusive it has people with completely opposing views. Doug Cameron said on The Drum yesterday that he doesn’t agree on anything political with Stephen Conroy – some differences, OK, but not agree on anything?

    Tonight on The Drum Antony Loewenstein made the same point as Val – the ALP isn’t clear about its values – that’s one thing that makes it so difficult to unite. We in Fremantle knew what Melissa Parke’s views on detention of asylum seekers was, but as part of the team she had to keep quiet or say something else. That meant she wasn’t able to reflect, publicly at least, the views of the voters in Freo who elected her (not mine anyway), and also – what is the cost to a person’s integrity if the have to ‘move forward’ manacled to policies they think repulsive?

    So rather than “a preselection contract that stops members becoming commentators” maybe members should have to agree to the party platform when they join up; if they can’t support the platform perhaps they should look for another party.

  101. Graham Bell

    Good one, Kevin Conway @ 116. Glad to see some people are looking forwards instead of backwards.

    It is normal and healthy for people to mix with others with similar political aims – whether in a small village in the highlands of PNG or in a great imperial capital. However, the word “faction”, in Australia, now stinks to high heaven. May I suggest that your group find a neutral or positive word instead to describe itself; this wouldn’t be spin but self-defence.

    Agree about Tanya Plibersek. Since she has not yet said she would run for ALP leader, perhaps she might be invited to consider carrying out the special task of dealing with Tony Abbott – her dignity and other qualities would be an unbreakable wall against which Tony Abbott, with his attack dog style, would keep flinging himself in vain.

    Albert Venison @ 100:
    A moment ago, Greg Barns was on ABC-TV News24 “The Drum” talking about the Canadian process too – wonder if he read that link on your post. 🙂

  102. PavCat

    Now we have that unhealthily obsessed has-been Emerson (who no doubt Rudd would be confiding in – NOT) out there spreading lurid paranoid fantasies

    How, paranoid? (See, some of us don’t mind a bit of armchair psychology.)

  103. mindy

    @Lefty E Emerson is no doubt bitter. But it doesn’t matter what he says the response will be ‘of course he would say that’. So he may have heard that or he may have made it up. We won’t know until it happens or Rudd retires and takes up a social commentary role on Sunrise. I would have to say that I’d prefer Rudd to Kochie. So for me the jury is out still. I’m not going to spend my time worrying about it and I do hope that Emerson vents his spleen and exits stage right sooner rather than later. I also hope that Latika Bourke was trolling everyone yesterday and not actually tweeting stuff from Caucus. But Albo’s response makes me wonder.

  104. PavCat

    Yes, I saw Albo’s response too. Who would openly do that? The bad manners alone!

  105. Casey

    Here is an article by Julia Gillard on Labor’s future:


  106. Liz

    LeftyE, how can you possibly know whether Emerson’s indulging in paranoid fantasies, or not? Aren’t you being an armchair psychologist, here?

    You can argue that Emerson would be wiser not to say such things, and I’d disagree with you. But, you can’t possibly know the truth of your assertion.

  107. Liz

    Because I think it’s important to speak the truth, Mark. There’s no reason to assume that what Emerson writes comes from LNP sources. I’d assume they’d come from journos Rudd has spoken to. I find it believable because it follows a pattern of behaviour from Rudd, without which Labor may have won the 2010 and 2013 election.

    As I’ve said many times, I don’t understand how Rudd gets a pass for three years of whiteanting ( and yes, the evidence is clear. Three leadership challenges in three years, besides anything else) whereas actually saying what you think in public is a bad thing. Combet and Smith made similar comments on Saturday night; Combet very strongly. But, I’d agree now is the time for the ex pollies to stop talking about it.

    Why do you think Rudd wants to spend his time in pushing for marriage equality? What’s your evidence for that? Rudd has form saying that he’ll never be Labor leader again and reneging on that statement. Past behaviour is often a good indicator for future behaviour.

    And why are Emerson’s statements ‘paranoid fantasies’. Are we now diagnosing paranoia from afar? Whatever you think of Emerson, and I don’t have any strong opinions about him, there’s no indication he’s paranoid. Those last two questions, I’ll leave for LeftyE to answer, if he wants to.

    As for Gillard. Look at what we lost when Labor dumped her.

  108. mindy

    I find it very irritating that, as a former Labor supporter, I am being encouraged to get back into the fold and get behind the new leader in a way that never happened for Gillard. I am sick of people giving whoever the leaker was a free pass and pretending that the leadership challenges that led to endless leadershit in the media aren’t worth worrying about anymore. Rudd had the opportunity to shut that shit down and he squibbed it.

    As Liz says past behaviour is a good predictor of future behaviour and that looks bad for any future female leader. That has to be fixed before I can vote Labor again. Then asylum seeker policy and single parent payments. Then maybe we can talk.

  109. Liz

    You don’t accept all the evidence from all the writers and speakers who have stated that Rudd leaked against and whiteanted the government explicitly? Combet stated that he did when forced to by Tony Jones. As in ” you’re talking about Kevin Rudd, aren’t you?” Combet: “Evidently”. Specifically, you don’t believe Combet? Why not? Why don’t you accept that premise? Honest question.

    You don’t accept the fact that Rudd challenged three times in three years, as evidence of a long term program of destabilisation?

    Yet you believe reportage that Rudd is just there to further marriage equality? Why?

  110. Malcolm

    A thoughtful and insightful piece from you, as always, Mark -with a great deal of depth and substance. Although, I haven’t had time to adequately digest all of your points as much as I’d like to yet so perhaps I’ll need to read over it again a few times

    It is inevitable that the two sides in the Rudd-Gillard stoush will come to the table with their own prejudices, agendas, interpretations of the truth and perspectives about what happened over the last six years. It is inevitable that both sides will feel as passionately as to the merits of their own arguments that they will want to either vent their anger or make sure it is their interpretation of the truth that makes it into the history books. I think we have seen some of that reflected over the past week with people like Emerson and Simon Crean and we will likely see it for some time to come yet in all the various memoirs and accounts that come out about that period over the next few years

    And the kind of pontificating down by the Labor elders and talking heads is nothing new. Bob Hawke, Mark Latham and Paul Keating are serial offenders, as is Peter Beattie and to some extent Steve Bracks and Bob Carr. Sometimes they have useful and valuable insights to contribute, other times they just seem to be missing the limelight or still upset about what happened in regards to something that happened in relation to their time in office or their legacy or whatever. I’m not surprised that some of the usual suspects have popped up after this election loss -the temptation must just be too great

    Incidentally, a lot of the narrative that I have seen directed toward Rudd in the past week sounds eerily familiar to what I remember following Keating’s downfall in 1996. The great Liberal game plan which included the grandiose narcissist diagnosis with Rudd as reported in the AFR is the same vein of spin that the Liberals put out after Keating’s loss in 1996 (and seemingly to the same journalist as well! -maybe that’s not a coincidence). And the Rudd dysfunction story on the campaign trail now being spread by “Labor insiders” sounds remarkably like the “Captain Wacky” narrative spread by Gary Gray about Paul Keating in 1996 (Labor campaign HQ being kneecapped by a Prime Minister with his own bizarre ideas who kept going off message). Only later, of course, did we learn that some of Keating’s “wacky” ideas on electoral strategies which Gray discarded included electoral tactics that Liberal campaign HQ had most feared that Labor would use and which Liberal focus group research had shown would have been quite effective if used during the election campaign

    The Labor Caucus’s main mistake now would be to subscribe to all the “wisdom” that is being put around by the various sources now and not allow it to become the all-consuming narrative that it seemed to become after Labor’s 1996 election defeat. It must find away to preserve the great legacy that the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd governments have left behind without engaging in the personality politics that have been so prevalent in its past -not only Gillard/Rudd but also evident in the Crean/Beazley/Latham stoushes that dominated much of Labor’s years in opposition after 2001.

  111. mindy

    Well Gillard was the first Federally so you can’t really compare her to the others who are few and far between anyway. Bligh did well but was rightfully punished by the electorate for breaking an important election promise, Keneally was a classic example of the glass cliff. That is not to say that they were without their faults. But I do think that some of the Rudd backers who lost their Ministries when Rudd was deposed – as is usual with all leadership spills – should have pulled their heads in and didn’t nor were they made to by Rudd.

    Yes there were lots of people complaining about Rudd before he lost. I believe from personal experience that they had good reason to. I know we differ on this point so lets just leave that as is. Gillard was leaked and whiteanted regardless of whether she was doing a good job or not. Often particularly when she did something that was getting media traction there would immediately be a whisper of a leadership challenge, by the end the media were doing it themselves, and leadershit would wipe out her achievements again. This is what worries me about future female leaders federally. That some sexist old git will feel that a woman is getting above herself and that there is some more deserving man for the job. One such has just been elected as PM. They are all over the media and social media.

  112. mindy

    I am aware that there are many women who don’t have any time for Gillard but they aren’t generally the ones who get listened to anyway.

  113. mindy

    I hope so too Mark. I also hope that after one term of Tony the rest of Australia thinks that Labor was on the better track and switches back.

  114. faustusnotes

    Gillard’s article is very powerful and supports a lot of what I have been saying about what labor needs to do in opposition and in leadership choice. She also makes clear that she thinks policy commitment is more important than polling and trying to please the media and electorate – rudd’s only skill, and one he couldn’t maintain.

    Mark, I can’t believe you canbeso doubtful about the things being said about Rudd, so sanguine about the future, and so easily duped. The man has a proven track record, measurable through observable behavior such as leadership challenges and oft-remarked upon by colleagues. Yet you still want to trust him? And even pushing for marriage equality is a ludicrous suggestion. Rudd never saw a moral challenge he wouldn’t use for his own personal gain, he squibbed marriage equality in power and now he is all for it? It’s just another form of narcissistic white Antony. If it works he will take the credit, and if it fails he will have white-anted his leader. He should shut up and sit down.

  115. Liz

    Senior members of Cabinet are going to know what’s going on. I don’t hear any coming up with a different story. If it was a Rudd supporter, it certainly suited Rudd not to shut them up. Surely, he had a responsibility to do that.

    But, the reason all this matters for the future, is that many voters are disillusioned by the way Labor rewarded sexism and misogyny by giving in to those forces. As Val has pointed out, it has a moral dimension. Rudd benefitted from that misogyny and was rewarded. Until that mess is cleaned up, many voters will steer clear of Labor.

    It’s instructive that Gillard thought the most positive move for Labor was to disappear from view after she was dumped. If Rudd had that been that gracious and magnanimous, then Labor’s story would have been very different. This is why it’s not about the past. You may want people to move on, but please think about why people don’t want to.

  116. PavCat

    But, have we not moved on, Mindy?

    Mindy had just said she was a ‘former Labor voter’, Mark, so I’m honestly not sure who you mean here by ‘we’. There is no traditional pro-Labor ‘we’ any more, at least not one that is recognisable from the 1990s. Or even from 2007. Some of you may have ‘moved on’, but some of us think that ‘moving on’ is essentially a goldfish strategy. (‘Oh look, a cat! I’ve never seen one of those before. Oh look, a cat! I’ve never seen one of those before. Oh look, a cat! Etc.’)

  117. alfred venison

    it goes round & round. but Malcolm told me something i didn’t know, about the afr reporter. thanks, Malcolm. -a.v.

  118. mindy

    I am noticing a big social media campaign behind Albo of which I heartily approve. But as I am not a Labor member of two years standing I won’t be voting. What if actual Labor members don’t follow the social media lead and Shorten is the new leader. Will Labor be able to muster a varied band of supportive non-members behind a leader that was their second choice?

  119. mindy

    I was heartened by the overall lack of effect the Murdoch press actually had on the election. I hope that the new improved Labor party can ignore the Murdoch press as much as possible and get on with doing their own thing and cause the focus to turn to Abbott. It will be especially fun to watch Abbott try to deal with the Senate after June next year. I suspect that his threats of a DD election will come to naught.

  120. PavCat

    The objective fact is that we now have 3 years of an Abbott LNP government.

    That is a prediction, not yet a fact, though I grant it is ‘objective’. I think we probably have either 3(ish) years of an LNP government, or X years of an Abbott government. But I’d put money on it not being both, if I had any.

  121. Graham Bell

    Folks: I don’t want to inflame things but I wonder why some many electrons are being expended on worrying about who leaked what to whom and why.

    It is politics we are talking about – not national security or family honour – and while we should all HOPE that confidentiality is maintained in meetings behind closed doors, the reality is sometimes otherwise. Not nice, of course, but that’s what can happen …. and all the factional shenanegans and all the covert wheeling-and-dealing can only increase the likelihood of a leak or two happening.

    Why not just assume that ALL political – and business – meetings behind closed doors are at risk of leaking and work on that basis? That way, when a leak does occur, nobody loses any sleep over it. Human nature isn’t going to change much this century, i.m.h.o..

  122. Chris

    Mindy @ 149 – actually I thought that without the influence of the Murdoch press the election would have been a lot closer. And we could have ended up with a minority LNP or ALP government.

    I was surprised that that Palmer united party did as well as it did given the beatings it got in the Murdoch press. Perhaps the lesson for the ALP is they need to raise a lot more money and like Palmer find some loopholes around the advertising blackout period 😉

    If it was a Rudd supporter, it certainly suited Rudd not to shut them up. Surely, he had a responsibility to do that.

    Even if he had wanted to do, he has only so much control – eg he couldn’t stop the Crean implosion even though it wasn’t to his advantage.

    PavCat @ 150 – is there really any alternative to Abbott? As much as I’d prefer Turnbull in charge I just can’t see it happening (won’t stop the leadership speculation by the media as soon as Abbott’s poll numbers drop though). Would the LNP even consider such a move after seeing what happened to the ALP?

  123. John D

    An article by Julia in the online Guardian has many sensible things to say about Labor, its past and its future. On the specifics of Labor’s new leadership change system she had this to say:

    First, the rules adopted about the Labor leadership immediately prior to the election on removing the Leader should be changed. These rules literally mean that a person could hang on as Labor leader and as prime minister even if every member of cabinet, the body that should be the most powerful and collegiate in the country, has decided that person was no longer capable of functioning as prime minister. A person could hang on even if well over half of their parliamentary colleagues thought the same.

    Ironically, I argue against these rules, even though under them I would have unseated Kevin Rudd in 2010, given colleagues would have signed up in sufficient numbers to have him gone, but he could never have defeated me in 2013.

    I argue against them because they are a clumsy attempt to hold power; they are not rules about leadership for purpose.

    Indeed, the new rules represent exactly the wrong approach to address the so-called “revolving door” of the Labor leadership. These rules protect an unsupported, poorly performing, incumbent rather than ensuring that the best person gets chosen and supported for the best reasons: specifically the attachment of the Labor party to the leader’s defined sense of purpose and vice versa.

    I couldn’t agree more. You need to be able to get rid of a dud leader. You need times in the election cycle where leaders cannot hide behind the need for large majorities. You need limits on the time someone can remain as prime minister.

  124. Liz

    I’m afraid I’m feeling a bit more pessimistic. Abbott keeps getting underestimated. His tactic seems to be as ‘methodical’ as possible, in comparison to the previous government’s ‘chaos’. His problem, of course, is that he can’t keep doing nothing. But, I don’t know what’s going to happen when he has to act.

  125. Russell

    ” it doesn’t seem to me that she is opposing the principle of a party ballot (and some of her other reform suggestions are worthwhile) but rather the provisions that entrench the results”

    Yet, when she writes that: ” a person could hang on as Labor leader and as prime minister even if every member of cabinet, the body that should be the most powerful and collegiate in the country, has decided that person was no longer capable of functioning as prime minister. A person could hang on even if well over half of their parliamentary colleagues thought the same.” the same could be said of that person being balloted in to the leader/PM position in the first place. Isn’t destabilisation more likely (these are politicians!) if a leader is elected but team they work with thinks it should be someone else. We’ll have to see how it goes.

    “I note that Julia herself gave him credit …”

    Julia also writes : “thought has to be given to the costs and consequences of poor conduct. What can and should be done when caucus colleagues dedicate themselves to destabilising others and bringing the party in to disrepute?”

    Clearly, she doesn’t think that everyone should just move on and forget about it. The bit I think you’re missing Mark, is the recognition and acknowledgment – the Truth and Reconciliation Commission part – before people are ready to move on. It’s not just the injustice done, it’s the denial, or its equivalent ,’let’s just move on’.

    FN – thanks for your comments, I find them insightful and incisive.

  126. Ootz

    Pav [email protected], “Some of you may have ‘moved on’, but some of us think that ‘moving on’ is essentially a goldfish strategy. ”

    Notwithstanding that Mark has urged for this thread to move on, there is a crucial aspect in PC’s comment which would be unwise for the Labor party to dismiss. As Mindy and PC point out, there are many of us on the left, which are not or not anymore Labor party members. It is crucial to differentiate between Labor party members and left, progressive voters’ motivation and purpose to ‘move on’. While the party can reform itself through it’s own internal processes, it requires an entirely different approach to gather the trust and support from the progressive left and discerning swinging voters.

    The key question is how can we trust Labor again not to blink when bullied by mining companies, multinational corporate consortia and their propaganda machines as well as by polls of the ‘scared and uncomfortable’ West-Sydney type suburbanites? How can we trust Labor to deal with it’s dirty laundry before maggots are investing it and that they are capable of building and maintaining a coherent power base (as opposed to leadershit) with integrity from which it can govern?

    It is one thing to “move on” and to have to have “purpose” for Labor as a party, it is another to gain the trust and confidence of a majority in the electorate, for them to vote and stand behind a re-formed Labor party.

  127. Lefty E

    “You can’t have three or four people in a room or in a restaurant deciding the future of the Labor Party – I think that’s a good thing, I think that brings with it enormous legitimacy,” Mr Albanese said.

    Hear hear!

  128. Graham Bell

    Liz @ 155:

    Abbott keeps getting underestimated. His tactic seems to be as ‘methodical’ as possible,

    Yes – and even his slips-of-the-tongue are probably well planned and well rehearsed.

    But, I don’t know what’s going to happen when he has to act

    you don’t need a crystal ball for that – farmers and graziers, self-funded retirees, those struggling to buy a dwelling they can call their own, owner-operated businesses, serving members of the ADF, all of them will be screwed. “You didn’t tell us you were going to do that when we voted for you”.