The official Labor Party view. Sitting at home here in Canberra and relying on media reports from Labor’s National Conference I was left wondering at the end of it all if anything had actually happened up there in Sydney. Thus, I turned to the Party’s official daily email to bring you this definitive summary of the three day talkfest:

National Conference, Day 1: 50,000 new green jobs

The Rudd Labor Government is reforming Australia’s training system to produce high quality green skills to meet the growing demand for energy efficient homes and buildings, and to power the industries of the future.

Curtin, Chifley, Whitlam, Hawke and Keating all featured in Kevin Rudd’s opening address.

Treasurer Wayne Swan tells delegates we do not get to choose the time of our being elected, “and the timing we know has brought with it great difficulties and great challenges. We don’t get to choose the timing, but we do get to choose how we respond to the times. And that response, delegates, has been a credit to the people gathered here today and everyone you represent in this great movement of ours.”

National Conference, Day 2: Launch of Labor History website

The Labor History website was launched at Conference today. Labor History is a project run by the Chifley Research Centre which seeks to educate and engage the Australian people in the history and stories of the Australia Labor Party.

National Conference, Day 3: Bob Hawke’s Life Membership

Bob Hawke — great achiever, great moderniser, great unifier of all parts of the economy and all parts of the nation — was saluted at Conference with the rare honour of Life Membership of the Federal ALP.Kevin Rudd says: “We honour him because he dreamed big dreams of Australia, and then got on with the business of dedicating every fibre of his being to turning those dreams into the reality of modern Australia.”

There we have it; all the news about itself the once great Party considers significant. Mainly history with the only announcement of apparent significance in fact a reannouncement. There were not 50,000 new jobs at all, just an old work for the dole program.

PM at the pictures. Hope Kevin Rudd did not make the same mistake as me yesterday by choosing to see the highest grossing film in Chinese box office history. I noticed him leaving the cinema as I arrived but after sitting through 150 or so minutes of Red Cliffs I can only hope for his sake that he chose Harry Potter to get his mind off Labor Party matters. I wish I had. From the acclaimed director of Mission Impossible II, Face/Off and The Killers, it might have been but there was nothing dazzling or visionary about this account of the legendary Battle of Red Cliff, in which a force of fifty thousand defeated an army of nearly one million. On second thoughts, it probably was the kind of film Kevin would like as he considers how to strengthen Australia’s place in the world.

The end for the non career politician. The reason you can have three days of talk at a Labor Party conference with virtually no public disagreement is that all the delegates are either career politicians or wannabe career politicians. Sitting members of Parliament are the biggest group and the easiest for the leadership to control. Under the new self-imposed Kevin Rudd rules if Kevin doesn’t like you you don’t get a promotion.

Discipline over State politicians is almost as great. Follow the bosses instructions or put your pre-selection at risk. Then come the staffers, dutifully serving their apprenticeship while waiting for a seat of their own. That great mass of trade union delegates know whose grace and favour they are present by. Loyalty is their key requisite for moving up the ranks. I doubt that there was an ordinary rank-and-file party member delegate at the Sydney conference — not one person with the ability to actually speak their mind.

Democracy is becoming a sad event.

No such thing as port after lunch. There used to be a day when the expression was there’s no such thing as one port after lunch. Go back even a decade and Australians were drinking more than 5 million litres of the fortified fluid in bottles without counting the substantial contribution made at the cheaper end in flagons and casks. Today I note that the Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show consumption in the financial year just ended saw sales down to a meagre 3.2 million litres. What, I ask, is the country coming to?

Conrad Black writes from prison for Crikey. That headline reads so well I thought it worth giving a repeat mention to an item from Sunday’s Crikey Breakfast Media Watch which many of you will have missed by not realising that we actually do one.

The former international newspaper publisher is well qualified in matters of sleaze, vulgarity and misplaced self-righteousness that are covered by the awards he wrote of recently from his prison cell. I was particularly taken by the Black reason for not declaring Silvio Berlusconi the winner in his political entertainment category.

The Italian Prime Minister’s free-wheeling romantic life and alleged orgies do not in themselves make him a strong contender but his strong skepticism about what he regards as “the unctuous humbug of conflict-of-interest concerns, and his success in eliciting from his countrymen a reaffirmation of their unshakeable faith in the absurdity of politics, do.” Mr Black commented:

My impartial judging panel has awarded him a lifetime achievement award for doubling the tax on the Italian satellite television service Sky Italia, that competes with his own Mediaset network. While at first blush, this might seem a heavy-handed and self-serving use of a public trust, it is important to remember that his target is Rupert Murdoch (who controls Sky Italia through News Corporation), the world’s greatest defamer.

This makes it an act of natural justice, nuisance abatement and cultural hygiene, in other words. This is statesmanship of the first water.

Peter Fray

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