The Australian Labor Party conference

By chance, we passed back through Sydney on our way home from New Zealand on the weekend when the Australian Labor Party was holding its conference in the city.

There were posters around downtown announcing various protests on positions taken by the party, including on same-sex marriage and the “offshore processing” of refugees.


This sign says that a conscience vote is not enough. The Labor-led government plans to allow such a vote, meaning that the vote will not be whipped as government policy. Which likely means a proposal for leagalizing same-sex marriage will be defeated, which suits PM Julia Gillard just fine.


Here is a sign announcing a demonstration against the refugee policy.


And here is a view of one of the rallies outside the Convention Centre on Sunday, taken with the telephoto from the 40th floor of the Meriton Serviced Apartments on Kent St.

8 thoughts on “The Australian Labor Party conference

  1. I’m pretty sure that labor parties were founded to push for a greater share of the natural wealth going to the working class. The idea was that pushing assorted (even legitimate) grievances of various minorities within the nation was the job of the bourgeois liberal parties.

  2. The Australian LaborParty,which is the oldest and most successful of all labor parties, was indeed founded, was indeed focused on economic and social issues in the 1890s. They also did not then have polices on broadband, nuclear energy, or the independent nations of the Pacific and Southeast Asia. I am not absolutely persuaded that the men of 1891 would have felt that they were fixing the party’s policy DNA forever. Indeed they couldn’t have had that thought because DNA was not yet either a discovery or the source of any policy issues.

    Gillard has found herself in this spot because she is a policy-free zone without an idea to her name. Her attitude to marriage equality is a combination of 1970s feminist abolitionism and reading the latest focus group results. Her rhetorical incompetence is such that she has allowed opposition to marriage equality to become her signature issue, although she never managed to articulate a reasoned argument for her position.

    She now faces the unenviable prospect of becoming the first ALP leader since Gair to cross the floor and vote against the platform of her own party with a Coalition she continually denounces as social conservatives.

  3. Is there really much of a working class in most Western countries these days? The economies of most Western Countries are so different from when the Social Democratic and Labor parties were started for working people.

    The working class has been bourgeoisified. The Labor Party in Australia is having an identity crisis. It’s working class vote is voting for the Liberals and/or the National Parties. The left wing social liberals, the latte class are voting for the Greens.

    Julia Gillard is spreading her party too thin, yet I think she has made the most of her slender majority. Ironically, Her minority government has passed more critical laws that the previous government with a rock solid majority could not that Kevin Rudd squandered and yet some want him back.

    What if the vote to gay marriage passes, yet the Prime Minister is opposed. Does this happen in a parliamentary democracy where the prime minister is oppose to a law and it passes?

  4. The reason that large majorities of both ALP voters and the electorate as a whole prefer Rudd is that the laws being passed now failed under Rudd due to internal opposition by Gillard. Labor faces electoral oblivion under Gillard and victory under Rudd. The caucus will take a while to face reality, but they will face it.

  5. “Does this happen in a parliamentary democracy where the prime minister is oppose to a law and it passes?”

    This is off topic but I was curious about this. Couldn’t the Prime Minister advise the relevant head of state (in this case the Governor General) to veto the law? Would the head of state have to listen to this advice?

  6. “Is there really much of a working class in most Western countries these days?”

    Most people are still dependent on wages paid by employers for their living expenses.

    Actually the working class in most western countries is growing, as measured by people whose income comes in relatively low wages, who have limited control over their terms of employment, and so on. Of course, an increasing number of people in this category are imported from developing countries and can’t vote, but the situation may be different in Australia.

    If by “working class” you mean “factory workers”, no there are not many of them in Western countries anymore, due to offshoring and automation.

  7. The head of state would have to act on the advice, and the parliament would almost certainly withdraw its confidence from the prime minister. The head of state has discretion in very restricted areas and this is not one of them. Historically I am unaware of any case where a Westminster head of state has vetoed a law in this way.

  8. “Does this happen in a parliamentary democracy where the prime minister is oppose to a law and it passes?”

    It can (and does) happen occasionally in some countries with minority governments.

    And the head of state doesn’t have veto rights in all countries. If it’s a monarch, as opposed to a president or Governor General, they usually lost such political powers quite a long time ago.

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