Here’s some more useful advice for would-be saviours of the Labor Party.

Not all the government marginals are in Victoria. Here are some
north of the border they should be able to win if they’re as sh*t hot
as they like to think. In Queensland, there’s Bonner, Bowman, Moreton,
Petrie, Dickson, Longman, Hinkler, and Herbert, and in NSW
they could go for Eden-Monaro, Hughes, Greenway, Macarthur, Lindsay,
Page, and Dobell.

Why take this route? Well, for a budding Labor party saviour,
organising groups of people and persuading them to join a political
party and get active enough to ensure your preselection should be a
no-brainer. If you can’t do this, why should anyone have confidence in
your ability to garner votes from the general public in an election?

This is a slightly conservative approach. It assumes that secret
ballots and the idea of one vote, one value still count. It disregards
hype and the creation of post modern narrative and instead says that it
is normal – and desirable – for change to come through argument and
discussion and the triumph of ideas and rhetorical ability over
personality, publicity and back-room wheeling and dealing.

It’s an unfashionable approach, but it’s predicated on two important facts.

First, while they mightn’t know it, all bar the thickest voters know
when they’re being dudded. We virtually all have subliminal bullsh*t
detectors. It might just take a little longer for some people to react
because they’re distracted by earning a living and looking after a
family – but the penny drops sooner or later.

Second, the role of the unions in the ALP and their power is looking
more arcane than ever. They had a claim to be representatives of the
workers in the party when 70% or so of the workforce was
unionised. Now that only 17% of the private sector and about 20 % of government workers belong to unions, that claim looks a
little wobbly.

The unions should find recruiting easier at the moment – but will they
actually be up to the job? The union movement failed to adopt and grow
and accommodate new members when women entered the workforce en masse.
Same with the arrival of casualisation.

Labor saviours should remember that they may have to do a bit of
wandering before they find their bit of promised land. And they’re
always a lot more useful if they can win disciples from outside the 12

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey