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Bonhomie thick at ALP conference as the deal-making begins

The National Union of Workers is holding firm to its decision to back the ALP National Left to avoid the prime minister’s conscience vote on gay marriage, despite suggestions from the party’s Right that they had “binded” on the issue.

A senior NUW source at the party’s 46th national conference told Crikey this morning that last night’s pronouncements of unity following the Right’s 300-strong right caucus meeting and widely reported in the media, had been made in haste.

It did not include their 10-strong delegate bloc that brings the Left to within nine defectors of striking the PM down with a majority of 201. The addition of the Right’s ACT Deputy Chief Minister Andrew Barr and Victorian MP Danielle Green draws that gap to just eight. Independent delegates and others from the right’s 218 delegates could easily see the conscience vote shot down.

NUW National Secretary Charlie Donnelly was seen at one point locked in friendly discussions with Left wing AMWU chief Dave Oliver to plan their next move. Crikey understands that earlier Donnelly was personally summoned by the prime minister’s office to explain himself.

On the sidelines of conference a senior Left MP confirmed they weren’t giving up on the proposition and the situation was “enormously fluid” despite members of the socially-conservative Shop Assistants Union backgrounding journalists overnight on the Right’s non-decision to bind.

As Crikey reported on Wednesday, the move by the Left to defy the prime minister and amend the party’s platform to specifically provide for gay marriage is almost certain to pass.

Left and right caucuses are currently meeting again to refine their positions.

Gillard kicked off proceedings at the Sydney Convention Centre this morning by adopting Obama’s/Optus’ “yes” refrain, presumably to distinguish Labor from Tony Abbott’s negativity. The PM decided to take the personalised approach, name-checking everyday Australians who found success selling dog biscuits, another suffering from a skin infection and someone else with a dodgy hip.

A complicated triangular narrative linking jobs to growth to fairness and back to jobs had some delegates scratching their heads, although most still found the time for a standing ovation.

Some on the Left may well have been reluctant to embrace the moment after a last minute scramble to avoid a skirmish to pick delegates to the national executive. Late last night, a grab-bag of Left-wing union heavies including Dave Oliver, Nadine Flood, Louise Tarrant and Michael O’Connor were all persuaded to hold their fire in their earlier bid to snag one of the nine spots reserved for their faction on the party’s powerful ruling body. The Left’s representatives, formally announced as Crikey’s deadline approached, are all incumbents.

Other partial highlights this morning including Left convener and official spokesperson Doug “Doog” Cameron delivering an impressive sledge on Wayne Swan’s surplus fetish, calling on the government to go into deficit to protect jobs instead. The Senate firebrand also railed against “Armani anarchists” and “Twiggy no tax” in a call for a boost to the Minerals Resource Rent Tax.

However, Cameron reserved his greatest opprobrium for former Treasurer Peter Costello, slamming him as “lazy and gutless”. “The press should actually do some critical analysis of the state he left this country in,” Cameron said.

In response, Wayne Swan said it would be “nuts” to impose a financial transactions tax while Europe was in crisis. The amendment, the first contested vote at an ALP conference since 2007, was defeated on the voices.

This afternoon is expected to see debates on climate change, with Bob Carr corralling premiers from the “class of 2003” to speak out as detailed on his popular Thoughtlines blog.

ACTU secretary Jeff Lawrence will spruik pro-union amendments around unstable work flagged at a rousing breakfast this morning on casualisation that featured a Qantas pilot who railed against his CEO Alan Joyce’s intransigence. While some attendees expressed some reservations over the state of the skim milk, the progressive vibe was palpable.

The enthusiasm was echoed last night at the Left’s “Challenge” party as delegates ate out of Anthony Albanese’s hand when he muttered his “no-alition” zinger and revealed his historic support for gay marriage. A Rainbow Labor event at the nearby Belvedere Hotel was sold out and standing room only.

But whether the bonhomie can be translated into wins on the conference floor remains to be seen.

*Andrew Crook will be reporting from the ALP conference all weekend — stay tuned to the Crikey website for updates

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  • 1
    TimRichards1
    Posted Friday, 2 December 2011 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    When you think about it, it’d do the ALP membership drive a world of good for the conference to overrule the prime minister and therefore indicate a measure of power attached to being a party member. And Gillard could shrug it off by saying “That’s democracy” and looking magnanimous in defeat. I suspect the sky would stay fixed in its current position.

  • 2
    Edward James
    Posted Friday, 2 December 2011 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    Keep up the good work Andrew. Crikey subscribers enjoy the extra source! Edward James

  • 3
    puddleduck
    Posted Friday, 2 December 2011 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    I doubt the PM cares about the conscience vote really - it’s just to be seen to be doing, for the conservatives inside the party (and amongst the, ahem, swinging voters). Defeat or victory, it doesn’t matter, as long as she’s tried.

    However, I don’t get why it’s important to let labor MPs vote with their conscience about whether consenting adults formalise their relationship using the m word, but not to let the same Labor MPs vote according to their conscience on the slaughter of fully conscious animals.

    Oh, I remember now. It’s all politics, innit? I keep thinking the ALP has principles. Silly moi.

  • 4
    Suzanne Blake
    Posted Friday, 2 December 2011 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

    How about: YES to an election, so we can made judgements on the li es.

  • 5
    scottyea
    Posted Friday, 2 December 2011 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

    If you can accept my apology via correspondence “You can stuff politics right up there, what I wantto know is why , no matter what party generally is in government for whatever spell , are taxes increasing while public services decrease?”

    Let’s see if the Labor Party union of minds can produce a policy on that.

  • 6
    Hugh (Charlie) McColl
    Posted Friday, 2 December 2011 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

    Scottyea, I don’t know what state you reside in but here in Queensland there has been a noticeable increase in “public services” this year - probably directly connected to the natural disasters sent by the gods.
    Last year and the year before, “public services” were increased all over Australia as the Rudd/Gillard government rolled out the Education Revolution (school halls) program. You would have to say this was a pretty visible piece of public service which kept many, many businesses afloat so that very few people (except the usual suspects) were whining about it. Have you just become accustomed to the negativity of the Noalition?

  • 7
    shepherdmarilyn
    Posted Friday, 2 December 2011 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

    Oh Suzanne, give the lies bit a rest. We are all pretty much over it.

    And if we had an election every time a pollie lied we would have them every day.

    A conference that tries to bring back law breaking over refugees and enshrine further bigotry against one section of the community to pander to the moron right is not much of a conference.

    Add to that the vile selling of uranium to an unstable nuclear power with an unstable nuclear neighbour being enraged by it and we are surely plumbing the depths of stupidity.

  • 8
    Edward James
    Posted Friday, 2 December 2011 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

    @ shepardmarilyn. Anyone paying taxes and rates, who is willing to put up with lying politicians betraying our trust. Is simply wrong if they believe accepting lies from elected representatives will somehow result in honest open representative government! Edward James

  • 9
    Neild Ed
    Posted Friday, 2 December 2011 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

    It might be obvious. But I would have thought that Gillard wants the Left to oppose her. In the same way that she wants an “open” conference. And a bit of distance from the Greens.
    Isn’t it about the next election?

  • 10
    Stevo the Working Twistie
    Posted Friday, 2 December 2011 at 6:42 pm | Permalink

    Anyone who cares about same s-x marriage should have a jolly stern word with their local Shop Assistants Union member. Of course, they are all rather butch and scary though.

  • 11
    Lord Barry Bonkton
    Posted Friday, 2 December 2011 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

    SB/TTH/ GEEwiz , change the record , its got a scratch in it. If we had a election every time Howard , “The lying Rodent ” lied , we would have had hundreds of elections. If we cut the Gold card to all EX-PM’s , we would be out of debt very soon. The little grub Howard has spent over $165,000 in 6 months .

  • 12
    Suzanne Blake
    Posted Friday, 2 December 2011 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

    Did you love the way Doug Cameron called delegates at the ALP Conference - “Comrades”.

    Proof the ALP has become the Communist / Socialist extreme left wing.

    Straight from the horses mouth.

  • 13
    Filth Dimension
    Posted Friday, 2 December 2011 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

    Suzanne you really need to try harder to write coherent statements. It doesn’t help your argument.

  • 14
    Filth Dimension
    Posted Friday, 2 December 2011 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

    TimRichards1. I had the same thought. The media will play out the result as a negative regardless. Those that can pay attention without all the distraction will see a leader not a dictator.

  • 15
    scottyea
    Posted Friday, 2 December 2011 at 9:31 pm | Permalink

    @Charlie, What has Australia become? Muppets as Prime Ministers. Fallacious issues. Laughable. No progress towards beoming a constitutional republic even though we have the best examples in the world and history to base our new Australia on.

    What is actually stopping a full Constitutional review?

    First obviously a mechanism for transference would have to be figured out, and then a travelling review, inviting contributions. Obviously the primary model would be the Constitution of the United States of America; there are others to learn from too - India’s for example. ..

  • 16
    Jenny Haines
    Posted Friday, 2 December 2011 at 9:52 pm | Permalink

    When you think about Mr No No Tony Abbott you also have to remember that you never hear about the same level of debate and turmoil at Coalition Conferences. Do they debeate policy at Liberal and National Party Conferences? The Nationals maybe, but the Liberals? What need of policy for the Liberal Party in the modern globalised deregulated world? It is all just respond to the needs of global business when in power surely!!

  • 17
    Ron Paul 2012
    Posted Saturday, 3 December 2011 at 12:15 am | Permalink

    Just looking at the politics of the gay marriage issue, it was a huge long term tactical mistake by the Howard Government to elevate marriage to the Federal Level.

    It’s a lose lose for social conservatives.

    It also goes against the Liberal Party’s position as a states rights party by taking the issue away from states.

    If this had remained a state issue, i’m sure many of the state Labor governments would have changed the laws with a lot less fuss….

    If I was Abbott I would advocate returning the law back to the states. Its like a dead fish sitting in their locker.

    The Labor Government should just change its platform (if it gets up), and then the Prime Minister can just ignore any member who crosses the floor and votes against the change…

    Can someone confirm for me, I have heard this, but Labor members are forced to sign a piece of paper at pre selection, threatening them with dis-endorsement if they vote against a position.

  • 18
    Peter Ormonde
    Posted Saturday, 3 December 2011 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    Jenny,

    I’d reckon that, as a rule, ideology and policy counts for very little in the Liberal Party… less so the Nats. The arguments - to the extent they have them - are polite, stage-managed and are more likely to appear as rumours and rumblings in the media than on the floor of a conference. But that is not always the case.

    There is a hard right rump who are still living in the shadow of Maggie Thatcher, Reagan and the wreckage of the American neo-conservative agenda… the Robbs and Reiths … a castor oil dose mob who reckon politics is about putting things right by putting in the boot. These differences invariably boil over into battles for votes and positions… and really nasty slanderous viciousness. After a while it becomes extremely difficult to disentangle the personal hatreds from any ideological difference.

    These are the types who regard Work Choices and individual contracts as the only god-given set of industrial relations that a conservative party can apply. These are the guys who reckon sending messages to boat people by turning their boats back and gaoling kids is quite acceptable, that paramilitary union busting is a useful bit of nation building, that the end justifies the means…

    But the overriding Liberal ideology is one of bum placement … of having the right rumps in their proper place. Both within the Party and more - overwhelmingly more - in the Government benches.

    So no, debate is not encouraged; ideas are not encouraged; policies are not encouraged. These all lead to nastiness. Deeply personal nastiness.

    To the extent there are ideological differences they are intertwined with the ugly personal politics of the Liberal Party. Traces can be seen in the battle for votes and positions. But much less so when they are only distributing the largesse of defeat and Opposition.

    In that regard it will be interesting - enjoyable actually - to see just how much damage Reith can inflict on Abbott over the few months he has left.

  • 19
    Suzanne Blake
    Posted Saturday, 3 December 2011 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    101 Stupidity again from ly*ing Gillard

    KEVIN Rudd has been airbrushed from Labor history, with Julia Gillard refusing to acknowledge him in a speech to the ALP national conference in Sydney yesterday.

    While Mr Rudd sat smiling in the front row of the Darling Harbour Convention Centre auditorium, Ms Gillard named and paid tribute to former Labor prime ministers since 1940 John Curtin, Ben Chifley, Gough Whitlam, Bob Hawke and Paul Keating.

    The only names missing from the roll-call were Mr Rudd’s and Frank Forde, who only served eight days in 1941.

    It was about as subtle as dragging an elephant through snow,” said a key Labor figure, who asked why the PM would risk inflaming tensions.

    The former PM also escaped the memory of Deputy PM Wayne Swan, who tried to compare Ms Gillard to every post-war Labor prime minister except Mr Rudd.

    Kevin just smiled his way through it,” a NSW MP said”

  • 20
    Peter Ormonde
    Posted Saturday, 3 December 2011 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    Suzanne,

    If I’d wanted to read Limited News’ “reportage” of the ALP Conference I would have looked it up. Please acknowledge the sources of your “informed” commentary so I can avoid wasting precious breath while reading them.

    Your contribution… to the piece “101 Stupidity again from ly*ing Gillard” was, as usual, filled and filled with an effervescent wit.

  • 21
    Edward James
    Posted Saturday, 3 December 2011 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

    The cut and paste of quotes which are work product from the hands of Simon Benson and Gemma Jones: The Daily Telegraph December 03, 2011 12:00AM I don’t like to pay for the smelly. I would not pass off its work product. It is polite to identify the source. Edward James

  • 22
    Edward James
    Posted Saturday, 3 December 2011 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    Andrew. I am wondering with the Federal Labor Conference being held at Darling Harbour. How are lone protesters out side the conference being handled? I seen something of the team protest and police presence. I would have been there but as the years pass it is just getting too difficult. Looking forward to extra source. Edward James

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