Monday, April 30, 2007

He's not a rock star anymore

Did you see it coming when he announced his preselction for Labor? After twenty-odd years of opposing uranium mining, including supporting the nuclear disarmament party before it imploded, Peter Garret now promises to tow the Australian Labor Party's new line supporting the expansion of uranium mining.

All in aid of party unity behind Kevin Rudd.

The Labor Party's cheer squad, also known as the ALP National Conference, was taking great pains to paint Kevin Rudd as 'their glorious leader', and fell over themselves to display their support for him - something they hadn't been very good at the last five years. After knifing their last three parliamentary leaders, it was necessarily for the ALP to show they could unit unite behind Rudd as leader and alternate prime minister, and thus are fit to govern Australia.

Beside the industrial relations policy, central to this nascent expression of unity was Rudd's move to reverse the ALP's 25-year-old three mines policy, which restricted uranium mining in Australia to the three existing mines. Determined to win the vote, the ALP fixers reportedly heavied anti-uranium delegates to proxy their votes to those sympathetic to Rudd's stance.

Realising the extent of unease the vote was creating and that, however, Rudd's cheer squad singled out those who may have expressed reservations or adverse opinions, but chose to tow the party line.

Peter Garret was one of those touted as being a 'team player', and obligingly rolled over and played dead with Rudd over uranium. Julian Gillard took great pains to talk up both his environmental credentials and his party loyalty to the press today, saying that while he 'forcefully' expressed his views opposing uranium at the conference, he accepts the decision:
"But Peter has also said, as a Labor member, that he understands that it's about decision making across the team."
On the other hand, Anthony Albanese, formerly Labor's Environment spokesperson and Left faction stalwart, and one of the few to publicly reject expanding uranium mining in Australia and openly oppose Rudd's changes, was vilified at the Conference for doing so.

Rudd won his vote – narrowly.

While it disgusts me that mining companies will be rubbing their hands with glee, what troubles me more is that this great exercise of party unity is leaving me cold. How far will this go? Will there still be room for mavericks (crazy and otherwise) in the ALP, or those with more than a drop of conscience for environmental, human rights and refugee issues?

I expect Howard's Liberal Party to be highly centralised around him calling all the shots, and struggling to deal with dissidents such as Petro Giorgiou over issues such as refugee rights and citizenship.

I'd hate to think that Rudd's ALP will go the same way. But, if last weekend's conference is anything to go by, it just may. Anything to win an election, eh?

[Image by rakkar (cc) ]

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3 Comments:

At April 30, 2007 6:47 pm, Blogger Oz said...

Garrett didn't play dead. He actually seconded Albanese's motion at conference and spoke against the policy on uranium so I don't know what you mean.

Whenever people ask whether there's room in the ALP for them, I'll say this. There is if you're willing to work for change and not expect it to all fall into place. Just look at the work Labor For Refugees has done. They've significantly changed policy since 2001.

There was significant improvement in the ALP's refugee policy at National Conference. Temporary protection visas were abolished, changes to bridging visas that would allow people to work and receive Medicare.

There were moves towards a national charter of human rights with a public inquiry to investigate its framework.

There wasn't much debate because the platform had been negotiated beforehand and there was general agreement on practically all issues. Issues like uranium and IR aren't perfect but to expect perfection is delusion.

Go have a look at the ALP National Platform, it isn't as bad as critics make it out to be. Read the text then make up your mind.

 
At April 30, 2007 8:32 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Someone who counts the dictionary among his favourite books should toe the line, not tow the line (putting your toe on the line).

 
At May 01, 2007 2:15 pm, Blogger Mark Lawrence said...

For the sake of the 'fairness' that oz requests, I thought I'd share the link to Garret's speech to the ALP's National Conference opposing Rudd's uranium mining policy changes, so that readers can see for themselves how he opposed the policy.

However, the significance of my remarks and concerns is the extent to which the ALP wants us all to believe that they will all fall into line (yes, I acknowledge that 'toeing' would be right) behind Rudd – including such long-time (now former) anti-nuclear campaigners like Garret.

I'm not after perfection. I'm concerned with the capacity for dissent – even in such hierarchical institutions as the ALP. Or a government.

How else will we tell if what we're about to do is such a good idea?

 

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