Here is an open cry for help from a former Laborite who happens to not be union bred.

It has come to my attention as a former but now dissaffectionate Labor Party member that you are putting together all your thoughts and proposals on how somehow modify the party and make it more relevant to today’s population. This is also a reference to the role and influence of the union movement in the great party

Well boys, just a little tinker to get things started. As you may well know only 25% of the Australian workforce is a member of a trade union. However, the trade unions command 60% of the votes at an ALP conference in delegates and thus pre-selections. As Mark Latham said “25% of 60% does not fit”. I couldn’t agree more. Therefore it should come as no surprise to the 3 of you that even if every single member of a union voted for the great ALP more non union members actually vote for the party. Simple mathematics. If you get 50% of the vote at the election then most of these votes come from people not belonging to a union. So what I hear you say? Well, how come the unions still get 60% of the votes come conference time? Afterall if I read you correctly you are trying to modernise the party a little.

Simon, let’s start with you and your suggestion last week that perhaps 50% would be plenty for the unions to have in the ALP. Even messrs Shorten from the AWU fell into line with you as well. By the time the usual boring old negotiations come around this will be a comprimise of 55%. Big deal Simon I say. What about 25%? What about a true reflection of society today? What about including the others like my good self who do not belong to a union? If you want to get tough, then get tough. As a leader of the party why don’t you propose that the unions get 25% of the delegates and pre-selections?

But hang on a minute I forgot. Are you the same same Simon from the Storemen and Packers Union prior to becoming ACTU President? How silly of me thinking for a minute that you were all about reforming the roles that unions play in the party. Also isn’t Oxford Bob from a similiar background? Here is me thinking we had some pretty impartial people to run this think tank. A bit like putting Milosevic in charge of The Hague some would say!

You know these days the ALP seems to be full of so many union hacks! Why is it Bob and Neville that I have to be a member of union to be heard in the party? Why is that somehow all our candidates seem to come from the unions? Why is that all our safe Federal seats go to people like you, Crean, Ferguson, and God forbid Jenny George? How many of these people working for unions really have cut their teeth with the workers they represent? Oxford Bob, I doubt you were shovelling concrete on the Building sites part time when with the ACTU. Simon, I know you were not working as a cleaner on the docks with the rest of the boys from the MUA. Others like Bill ‘MBA’ Shorten; how can you tell me you were all in reality with the people you represent?

I want to be heard. I want to find it worthwhile to rejoin the party. I want a reason. This good thing is not anti-union, far from it in fact. Some of the finest acheivement from the Shearers strike to the Gates of Sunshine have been fought and won by the unions. Today we have minimum wages, unfair dismissals, legislated health and safety laws, and everything else. In other words the battle has mostly been won but still the unions fight on.

Why is that wankers like Tony Abbott can say we are at the mercy of unions? Why is that a corporate donation to the party is worth less than a union donation to the party? Why is that Steve Brack’s cabinet is full of people who came from unions? Why is that I never see a talented CEO shoe horned into a safe seat but Jenny George is? Why is this so? I thought we wanted to become more relevant and less reliant on the unions. Could have fooled me Bob.

Where is my represntation you pricks? Where is the represenations from say everyone else not belonging to a union? How many Accountants or Computer wizzes have been preselected in safe seats rather than some useless union hack who has done his time in the party? Why not an electrician with his own business rather than an electrician from the Electrical Trades Union? How about a butcher instead of someone from the meat workers union? Why not Bob and Neville? You want to modernise the party then start be getting in touch with reality. Make me want to come back to party, make me want to belong again!

“But its not all unions” they cried. “What about the other 40% of delegates at the ALP conferences”? They are all from the local branches. But hey they would not be stacked one little bit would they? How come 90% of the branch members have no faction alliance but at State conference they all do?

The signs at an ALP conference may as well say “unless you in a union then piss off, you are not welcome”. But hey I am sure you blokes appreciate us handing out how to vote cards for the party at election time don’t you? You appreciate our efforts entirely don’t you? But as for getting heard we have no chance do we Bob, Nev, and Simon?

Can the party be taken back to people? Back to suburbs? Any chance of non union people being heard for a change? Sorry, how is that possible as I am only a member of 75% of the population. Am I relevant at all to new Labor? We are true beleivers, we don’t mind paying higher taxes for the provision of Govt spending, we are happy to support the party, we are happy to hand out how to vote cards, we are happy to help in any way to those less needy than us that need protecting in a harsh society; but we also want to be heard.

The Good Thing

Peter Fray

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