By Noely Neate
March 25, 2013
Every man and his dog has given up Labor as a dead loss for the election in September. I am not so sure.
John Howard was pretty much in that position at one stage. and it was only the intervention of Tampa and Twin Towers Towers that saved his butt. The fact is that when people are scared they stay with the ‘devil they know’. Now, I don’t wish the likes of a Twin Towers to save the Labor Party, though a bit more focus on Tony Abbott’s policies may help level the playing field so that people could get past personalities to actually look at what each side will do for this country.
Having said that, I don’t hold out much hope for the ALP unless they can get back to grass roots. Basically we have a two horse race. There’s the Liberal/National coalition, which equals Money. Now everyone can relate to money, everyone has aspirations, so that is a no brainer for them to attract people. Labor has traditionally been Labor, equals unions.
For people like me – I am 45 in a few weeks – I understand that we owe the unions a lot. Without unions there would be no minimum wage and no safety requirements in the workplace and kids would be working working for two bucks an hour. Unfortunately, with so much small business now and the fact that the unions did such a bloody good job that the Government has taken over in some respects when it comes to fair pay and conditions, younger generations don’t ‘get’ or appreciate unions.
But they do see the news and unions scare them, Unions stopped them getting on that flight with Qantas to go to the mates 21st, Union ‘stuff’ meant they could not get that part-time job on the work site (that they were not qualified for but we won’t worry about that…). Unions have a bad rap.
Unfortunately for the unions they are not a large percentage of our population anymore. Also, like our politicians, too many union leaders are career managers, not actually from the site or factory floor, so it is even hard for old time blue collar workers to support them.
Worse, the Labor Party being so closely aligned with unions and the massive voting block they have that is not proportionate with the population actually makes the Liberals case for them. If you are not in an area that has a big union presence, like mine, unions mean nothing to you.
The funny thing is that Labor was not always like that. They had more members and more support, and it was not just because we had more blue collar jobs in this country. It was also because often the Labor party, just like the Lions or Rotary, were part of the community.
I grew up with my grandparents living with us. My grandfather, working on the Railways, was of course a Labor man. Back in the day, he would take me with him to the Labor meetings, normally held at the pub. Not only would they discuss the politics of the day, they would talk about various members or neighbours that needed a helping a hand. Even when talking politics, it was about what affected us in our backyard. it was not mantra’s like it often is now, it was often about plans to get rid of Joh Bjelke-Petersen, I think I knew what the word gerrymander meant before I knew the word ‘politics’!
They also participated in the community. They were at school fetes and they helped man the drinks and sausage at the wake of the local family who had lost their Dad and needed to raise funds to help them carry on (who was not a card carrying ALP man either mind you). Hell, when I went overseas as an exchange student the local member hears (I don’t know how as Granddad had died by then) hands me a Queensland flag to give to my school in Hong Kong.
Back in the day it seemed the Liberal Party were blokes in the local Chamber of Commerce and Labor Party were union guys AND people who cared about more than just money and had a social conscience.
The ALP have not treated my area kindly. We had the Cate Molloy fiasco where she backed her electorate in not wanting the Traveston Dam and got sacked for it (90% of us didn’t want it). Since then both State and federally they have not bothered to even promote who they put up in the area. Worse, last state election Labor tossed in some youngster from Brisbane because the local branch was almost decimated.
They are pissing up against a brick wall if they expect any sort of support from areas like mine with that sort of behaviour. If Labor want to become relevant in people’s lives again they have to become part of the community again. I know it sounds unfair as no-one has that expectation from Liberals, but we do from Labor. They need to stop putting Unions above people. I am not saying ditch unions, I am just saying make their vote just as important as the local branches vote. They need to be part of the community again, get back to the old retired unionists turning sausages at fundraisers and helping with community youth programmes and baking cakes for fetes to keep the community hospice open.
A contest between Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott is a poor way to try to win Government, and when Labor has the likes of the big media, big business and big money lined up against them, will be hard to get any message out. Only when Labor again becomes those ‘good guys’ in the community and part of the community, will they cut through the spin and get community support.
I don’t think my grandfather would even recognise the Labor Party today. I am not saying they don’t need professionals in the ALP, but d0n’t throw out the baby with the bathwater. Remembering why they want to be in Government would be a good start to get support.
But hey, what do I know, I am just a punter who is maybe getting too old and reminiscing about the old days when there was a political party that cared about the have-nots.
Yes you may not win this election, but you will start to get members, you will start to get communities, you will matter again. All over the country branches will build and community members will want to support you, because they feel you care about them. That will stand you in good stead into the future, and a future is what we all want
Disclaimer: I am not a member of the Labor Party, and I am glad my granddad was not around to see me join the Democrats as a young adult. Since Meg Lees screwed over the Dems I have not aligned myself with any party at all, being fond of Independents. I now find myself in a situation where to be pragmatic, the Labor Party needs to be supported as what Tony Abbott plans for this country, which you would not hear about on the news, does not bear thinking about, I wrote about this in Are Liberals just for the self-interested & wealthy or am I missing something? :(