More Labor preselection fun – and some nice and tight comments on what drives the bruvvers from Peter
Hartcher
in the SMH
today:

Labor politicians
are focused on their party, not their opponents…

After 10 years in
the wilderness, federal Labor is in a narcissistic funk. In the past two days I
spoke to eight federal frontbenchers for 20 to 30 minutes each. They talked
only of the party. Not one mentioned the Howard Government. So why are they
there? For many, it is to satisfy old grudges, to advance factional interests,
and stoke egos…

And as Hartcher suggests, this can end up in a
self-perpetuating, self destructive cycle of vicious introspection.

The key word here is ego. Ego is what drives
virtually every politician I have ever encountered. They mightn’t have much, but
they almost all have an immense sense of their own worth, whether they admit it
or not.

So who are the people who enter politics? We talked
about the Parliamentary Library’s research on the background of our politicians
earlier this week.

Obviously, many people interested in a political
career seek and obtain work in political or para-political roles such as
parliamentarians’ offices, unions, lobby groups, public affairs, NGOs or
whatever. Naturally, people with an interest in politics go into politics. Or
should that be an interest in walking the public stage?

As well as the information the Parliamentary
Library has provided, it would be interesting to look at the aggregate of
employment, the diversity of roles and experience of MPs and whether – or how –
these patterns have altered over the years for all parties.

Labour’s the centre of attention this week. It’s
probably the case that over a significant period of time Labor aspirants have
come through union or staffer ranks simply because of the structures of the
party and the preselection processes that give an advantage to those who can
garner the support of union executives.

In a less
formally factionalised party, like the Liberals, personal fiefdoms and allegiances
play a more important role in the preselection of candidates.

It’s
ironic to compare Labor’s current plight with the distress of the Liberals
during the Hawke/Keating years – or the distress of the state Liberals.

Members
of all political parties bemoan rules they see as restricting choice or
democratic action. They call out for a political messiah to step in and take
charge of the party. Of course, that involves ignoring the rules. It actually
ends up being profoundly antithetical to democracy.

The truth
is that the rules have not been imposed. Instead, they have been created by
those who organise better than others and their main competitors have not been more
democratic, but simply a different group of powerbrokers. Ego and insensitivity
can be quite desirable character traits in these circumstances.

That
leaves us with a choice. We can either accept the Latham cry that party
politics is finished and we should not engage – or we can fight these
circumstances. The
political parties we have are the only parties we have. New parties are
unlikely to flourish.

That
means we need more involvement and greater engagement by more people who want
more democratic preselection processes, open and accountable management of
parties and transparent internal operations that expose rorts and stacking.

We should
demand from political parties the processes we demand from our parliaments. And the
way to guarantee these processes is exactly the same as at Stephen
Mayne’s local kindy or your footy club or residents group or RSL or whatever
better – get off your bum.

Of
course, what happens here is that you then get captured by the internal
processes of a party. Ego and insensitivity wins the day.

On
Wednesday Kim Beazley somehow managed to keep a straight face while saying: “the
Prime Minister has appointed inferior members to his Government and I don’t
want that for the Labor Party”.

So here’s
a line for all our political players to keep in mind: “I have seen the enemy
and he is us.”

Peter Fray

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