Is Labor recruiting new MPs from a narrower than ever field of apparatchiks?

Interesting article by Derek Parker in Tuesday’s Australian on the occupational breakdown of members of parliament since the federal election.

Parker is not the first to point out that the parliamentary ALP
has become a much less diverse lot than its opponents, dominated as it
is by the overlapping categories of former political staffers and
former union officials. But he documents just how alarming the trend
has become: after 1 July, when the new senators take their places, 35
of Labor’s 88 members (about 40%) will be former full-time union
officials.

Parker concedes that this trend is not without its advantages.
Labor members at least tend to have been in the party for a long time –
unlike many Liberals who join up just to get preselection – and those
who have worked in politics “are less likely to get lost – literally
and metaphorically – in the labyrinthine corridors of Parliament House.”

But the lack of community roots is going to keep hurting Labor. As
the economic importance of the union movement continues to decline, its
power in the ALP is if anything getting stronger – and that in turn
means tertiary-educated union bureaucrats, not workers who have risen
from the shop floor.

A more surprising result Parker has found is the fact that the ALP
has also fallen behind in educational qualifications. It has 11
parliamentarians with master’s or doctoral degrees, as against twice
that number in the Coalition.

It’s a far cry from the Whitlam and Hawke years when Labor could
boast both an elite of serious intellectuals and a broad base of
traditional working-class representatives. It seems both ends have been
in decline, leaving control with the apparatchik class in the middle.

A response from a former ALP member

Derek Parker’s article regarding Labor’s occupation hazards Parker
certainly hits the mark in Victoria where he says ‘the lack of
community roots is going to keep hurting Labor as the ecomomic
importance of the union movement continues to decline’. Such a common
thought has not stopped our Victorian right wing factionally aligned
young turks going to work. As Parker points out ‘In Victoria the
dominant Right faction is manoeuvring to despose several long-serving
members and replace them with – wait for it – union heavyweights’.

Let’s do the breakdown on these people. In fact you can do the
whole four of them as clones really (remember that film ‘Gremlins’
where multiplication of the monsters would not stop?). Can somebody
tell me how four student politicians come laywers, come trade union
officials/ALP staffers can appeal to the masses out there? I question
what these blokes have really done in life.

Have any of them played sport on a regular basis on a Saturday? If
so what footy team? What cricket team? How many of them have attended
the kindergarten working bees and served on their local school
councils? Do they take their kids to Auskick or to swimming lessons on
Saturday morning? Would any of them know the price of kilo of mince
from the Victoria market? In fact a few of them have not even changed a
nappy that the mums and dads have to do every day.

Do any of them plant trees in their local parks? Can someone tell
me if they appreciate the efforts and representations of women given
that the four targeted safe seats are for them do not entail one woman
in the mix! So much for affirmative equalisation in the ALP. Have any
of them lived in the rural areas or the outer suburbs? Can these boys
relate to the people and what can they offer? Put simply these four men
have only done anything in life in the pursuit of a safe parliamentary
seat.

Whilst ambition is one thing, talent is another. Parker says ‘that
the ALP parliamentary membership is a long way from being reflective of
the Australian nation. Indeed the system of internal promotion creates
an inward looking culture, concerned primarily with factional
manouevring rather than genuine vote conerns’.

Derek, you said it, mate.

In the case of Shorten & Pakula they were mates in the 1980’s
at Monash University. Shorten according to Delia Deligate then becomes
mates with Feeney who was also mates with Marles at Melbourne
University! Gee wizz I am sure the Liberals will have a field day with
the old ‘the ALP only looks after its mates’.

Most of these people have no clear understanding of either the
needs or the wants of middle Australia. In fact I seriously doubt any
of them have even picked up shovel and got their hands dirty. This is a
far cry from many of their union members they claim to represent. Why
is it that the ALP is so hell bent on recruiting the same people time
after time? Where are the Engineers, self employed contractors, factory
workers, IT Analysts, and Taxi drivers? Where is the representation for
the rest of Australia? Even one of the roosters in Senator Conroy is a
former Pom from Canberra representing all Victorians in the Senate!
Only in the ALP could something so unrepresentative and silly like this
happen.

The ALP needs to have a more open preselection process. There are
many talented people in the ALP grass root ranks. However, sadly due to
them not being in either a faction or a union there is no voice or even
the chance to be preselected for Parliament. Whilst individually these
four blokes do have some talent and have been good in their chosen
field, the ALP does not need all four of them at once.

Bill Shorten will be an asset in the Federal Parliament. He is
articulate and talented. He has a good brain and has run his union
sound. However, try telling the people in the marginal seats of Deakin,
La Trobe, Chisolm, and Ballarat that David Feeney ‘was a good ALP
staffer/strategist’ or that Richard Marles ‘has been a good ACTU
operator that seeing its membership dramatically decline’. See if they
care that a few more lawyer come unionists in their thirties who have
never worked in the private sector are about to enter parliament. Union
representation is in massive decline so how can the party continue to
justify the contiuing trend of preselecting same candidates time after
time?

As Crikey recently pointed out, what is wrong with an Evan
Thornley and other like minded people? However, I guess to preselect
ALP members with very astute brains and people who have ‘made it’ would
be wrong because they are not in a factions. And besides, people who
run businesses, create jobs, and make money are probably not the sort
of people the ALP want. Lets give those seats to the same clones. I
almost forgot. The ALP just does not get it. We people in the suburbs
don’t care. Its the economy and representation you stupid idiots. So
lets start by preselecting some decent candidates who can create modern
day policy and related to the mortgage holders with kids in the
suburbs. If not do not even dare to dream about Chifley’s light on the
hill with a return to the Federal govenment benches. Its not going to
happen.