Although almost everyone in the Canberra media establishment hates to acknowledge it, the most incisive political commentary in Australia invariably doesn’t come from one of their own — it is penned by their enemy No.1.
Here’s a bit of what he had to say on the op-ed page of today’s Australian Financial Review:
“In theory, the work of a union official should be a humbling task, representing the interests of employees who are powerless to represent themselves. In practice, however, union chiefs are arrogant types, perceiving themselves as above the laws of the industrial system.
“This conceitedness is a product of their dual role within the labour movement. Not only do they run union offices, they also control factional numbers inside the ALP.
“This is an intoxicating power, determining the selection of Labor candidates and even the nation’s leadership.
“The tragedy for progressive politics is that there are scores of Craig Thomsons across the labour movement. He is the cultural norm, not an isolated peccadillo. In truth, Labor’s leadership has known about this problem since the 1990s but done nothing about it, deferring party reform as too difficult internally and too disruptive electorally.”
The scandals within the Health Services Union are a nightmare for the Gillard government, the Labor Party and the union movement — but like three wise monkeys they have chosen to simply ignore “the systemic corruption of the factional system and its trade union affiliates”, in the words of a columnist who would know.
As usual, Mark Latham gets it right. And as usual, his history means that although he offers a uniquely candid insider’s understanding of Australian politics, his insights will be denigrated by the Labor Party and the press gallery.
Which is a shame. For all his many and ugly flaws, he’s the only one from the Labor camp talking about the sort of reform the party needs to survive.
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