May 16, 2012

Labor primaries an intellectually lazy answer

If you can manage three terms as premier of NSW or Victoria without primary elections, maybe the problem isn't the process after all, writes Luke Walladge, a long-time ALP member and former staffer and campaigner.

Another day, another ALP review, another repeat of its authors’ prejudices. Crikey‘s article on Monday dredges up the old chestnut of primary elections in the ALP, an example of counterfactual drivel if ever there was one. As regularly as this idea crops up, its consequences remain surprisingly unexamined … which might explain why so many otherwise sensible people continue to talk about it as if it makes sense.


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13 thoughts on “Labor primaries an intellectually lazy answer

  1. john2066

    This guy is right and makes a good point about primaries just rewarding the same useless labor hacks who rig the system now.

    However, they should definitely get rid of the union block votes for labor conferences. These do nothing for the unions, and ensure that the unions are used as useless preselection numbers machines for hacks. The SDA and HSU being cases in point.

  2. Matt Hardin

    [For that matter, why should members bother joining? If you can’t influence preselections, what good are you — other than handing out cards on polling day and shoving mail in letterboxes? This is how you get more membership and energise the grassroots?]

    This is something that needed to be said. Add the word policy in there and you have the main reasons that people leave the party. It was certainly mine.


    Well said/written, Luke Walladge!
    If Luke can see it – and he writes from practical experience as an ALP staffer and campaigner – why can’t the present ALP autocrats see it?
    The idea of primaries is so out of touch with Australian tradition and the current reality of the Australian political scene (as Mr Walladge so precisely and comprehensively paints it), that I can only think it has some other motive than reform of the ALP’s method of selecting electoral candidates.
    What that motive might be I cannot begin to guess.
    If I dared enter the labyrinth that is ALP politics I would need more than the thread of Ariadne if I were to escape not only with my life but even any the wiser.
    We outsiders need someone like Luke to tell us how it is.

  4. Edward James

    Labor have not made a genuine attempt to learn from what works in Labor! And they have shown they will not ruthlessly excise what doesn’t. I have watched Labor politicians walk around my dying father when he spent the day outside NSW Parliament in a Hospital bed. When a Labor politician dose the wrong thing the Labor Party dose the wrong thing! Labor party membership has shrunk because long term members can’t put up with the misgovernance accommodated by senior party members! Ratepayers can not put up with the fact that Labor councilors will not overtly raise concerns which put fellow councilors who are members of the sitting government in a bad light. Consider the preselection for the seat of Gosford when Marie Andrews bailed, it was not all about what the local Labor party members wanted. When the community is actively involved the party can get $tuffed the peoples will vote how they want. Edward James

  5. AR

    Crikey, please assure your paying subscribers that you are not giving this bloke a brass razoo otherwise I shall seriously consider becoming a squatter, though I will sorely miss FDotM.

  6. Mr Tank

    As a subscriber I expect Mr Walladge to get paid more than just a brass razoo for his contribution. It is for writing and real insight of this quality that I subscribe to Crikey.
    Nice critique of the impact of primaries – I had started to get carried away with the possible upsides. Such as higher public profiles for candidates who use the opportunity to try out their ideas in a public forum. Added transparency to the process and a greater engagement of the public bringing in new minds and perspectives to the labour project.
    Luke’s less naive and deeper analysis demonstrates that in fact they are another barrier to influence by those without money and connections. Something that should be anathema to party members. It is to this one.
    The Sydney Mayoral Primary at first glance seem rather to demonstrate that primaries just mean that the back room deals are done in public – perhaps not such a bad thing but hardly likely to bring the masses rushing back.

  7. Hugh (Charlie) McColl

    If Luke Walladge wants transparency in the ALP he could start with some of his own. Presumably, as a “long-time ALP member and former staffer and campaigner” he has aired this scungey laundry within the confines of his ALP branch and up through the apparatus to those who he has staffed and campaigned with. If not, why not? If so then who in the apparatus is holding things up? What about some names and packdrill? Anyone who has been a member of an ALP branch is now bored shitless with the whingeing and whining of other members who are constantly ignored. The ALP simply does not listen to anyone outside the organisation – it’s not really interested in anyone on the inside either. What else is news? Move on, there’s nothing happening here and no one should care.

  8. Tom McLoughlin

    whoa there tiger, what about starting with this: I was wrong about the bounce in the polls for the Gillard Govt courtesy of Swan’s budget.

  9. Luke Walladge


    What bounce? You goose. The 59/41 result of three weeks ago was an outlier on trend, and the 45/55 result of this week (with the ALP on 30% of the primary) is exactly where the trend has been for months. I’m no Possum, but I can read a trend as opposed to statistical noise. Nice try.


    You’ll be relieved to know that I don’t write anything in Crikey, or indeed anywhere else, that I don’t already say privately to other ALP members, elected officials, MPs and in party fora.

  10. Edward James

    @ Luke Walladge in response to what you have written on; is my own mash up. Take Joe or Jane members of the ALP, who are I note a small part of a diminished number of party political affiliated Australian voters! Identifying Labor party members and trade unionist as comrades of honest tax and rate payers raises the question. How is it possible? As far as union membership goes. It has been exposed for all to see why Unions and what they have been up to, is just bad news for honest hard working people. Australians may be identified by you Luke as anti member anti union zealots in this piece. But value for money is a moot point because the substance of unions and political integrity has been lost in the struggle for power and influence. The reader is far better informed and less likely to let so called leaders who are expected to be “in touch” direct them how to vote! Readers are much better informed now than when they relied on paid Union reps and party politicians to tell them how to think and vote in mail outs. As Luke Walladge from I think Western Australia. Has pointed out all our politicians nationally are a minority amongst us. They have collectively forgotten their place, they have forgotten we elected them to act in our best interest. to represent us. I suspect Luke Walladge has lost the plot. So what, as he is just one vote I hope we the peoples will insist on the respect all our elected reps owe us. In the next few ballots Local, State and Federal the swing against Labor party and their supporters needs to be enough to destroy Labor as a political force. Then we the peoples can move forward toward representative government, something which has been stolen from us over time by the two parties not much preferred. Edward James has expressed his views in paid spots in his local newspapers! Still waiting to see responses from identified Labor reps in print!

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