In NSW and Victoria, the Labor Party has crashed out of power. It also looks likely to lose in Queensland and South Australia. On current polling, and with the unions once again burning the party in the headlines, it will be annihilated at the next federal election.

So it’s no surprise that many in the party is taking a hard look at what’s gone wrong.

It sees membership falling fast, the rank and file angry and disillusioned and loyalists declaring that Labor no longer stands for anything. To cap it all, unelected factional bosses and union leaders are relentless in their determination to pull the strings.

Unions rule the roost

Only one in 10 people in Australia belong to a union but the unions still wield enormous power in the Labor Party. This is because:

  • They formed the party.
  • They control 50% of the votes at party conferences, and far more via the branches they dominate. This means they choose party officials and committees who in turn make the rules and allow, or prevent, change within the party.
  • The unions can get their candidates into safe seats by using their factional muscle and voting power on party committees.
  • The unions provide almost all the party’s funds, via fees levied on their members. They also stump up extra cash for elections. The Australian Council of Trade Unions helped Rudd into power by spending $7 million on its WorkChoices campaign during the 2007 election. And the one who pays the piper calls the tune.

The Right’s always right

The largest unions are on the right, so the Right runs the Labor Party. The Right appoints top party officials and dominates the committees that have power.

Read the rest at The Power Index.

Peter Fray

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