Much has been made of the influence of trade unions and the power of factions within the Australian Labor Party and rightly so considering some of their preselections, particularly for the Senate where position on the ticket has become a gift for union and party hacks rather than a reflection of talent.
In Western Australia we saw the disgraceful elevation of Joe Bullock, assistant secretary of the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Union (SDA), above sitting Senator Louise Pratt, causing her to lose her seat.
To underline what a travesty this was, Ms Pratt outpolled Bullock in first preference below the line votes – 5,390 to 3,982.
Ms Pratt was a talented, intelligent, hard-working Senator. Joe Bullock, on the other hand, is a conservative old white guy who described the ALP as untrustworthy and full of “mad” members and admitted he had voted against Labor.
Bullock described Ms Pratt as a “poster child” for gay marriage and questioned her sexuality. He said he was needed in Parliament otherwise it would follow “every weird lefty trend that you can imagine”.
For some reason, the Catholic right leadership of the SDA feel they should have a say in marriage equality. National President, Joe de Bruyn, who Gough Whitlam described as “a Dutchman who hates dykes”, and who was the driving force behind the elevation of Bullock, said “Marriage started with Adam and Eve.”
It is an “objective” truth, he says, that same-sex couples cannot marry. “Marriage is between a man and a woman; always was, always will be. It is based on what is innate in human nature.”
Paul Conway, secretary of the left-wing Victorian meatworkers union, described the SDA as “a tame cat union.”
“Its primary interest is not its members but numbers in the ACTU and ALP, getting its people into Parliament, having an impact on issues like same-sex marriage.”
Bullock is also anti-republic. Addressing the Australian Monarchist League last year, he said the presence of a monarch protected people from “the oppression of a totalitarian regime”.
“An hereditary constitutional monarchy is particularly well suited to embodying in a living human person a focal point for all the best sentiments of patriotism, duty and public spirit,” Senator Bullock said.
Now, in Tasmania, we are seeing a similar factional power play relegating talented Labor Senator Lisa Singh to an unwinnable fourth position on the Senate ticket. Australian Manufacturing Workers Union secretary John Short leapfrogged the sitting Senator to take third spot.
Senator Singh, who is Labor’s parliamentary secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Water, spent four years in the Tasmanian State Parliament before being elected to the Senate in 2010. She has been very active in advocating many causes and was named Hobart Citizen of the Year in 2004 among other prestigious awards such as the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman in 2014, one of India’s highest civilian awards, for her exceptional and meritorious public service as a person of Indian heritage in fostering friendly relations between India and Australia..
John Short suggests he is “a reasonable candidate because I’ve got a lot of life experience.”
“I’ve done a lot in my life, brought up a family, struggled at times, and I know what it’s like to struggle, and I stand up for workers every day.”
Lisa Singh is unaligned to any faction and that, rather than lack of talent or performance, is what will cause her demise. Former Queensland senator Margaret Reynolds weighed in on the issue, saying that preselection was a weakness in Australian politics because it relied on the wheeling and dealing of powerbrokers.
Former Franklin Labor MHR Harry Quick also criticised the decision.
“Another example of the Tasmanian Labor Party looking after their mates, regardless of the talent pool available to them,’’ he said. “Having Lisa Singh as a senator has injected a degree of humanity and tolerance to a moribund Senate team, currently representing the union and party hacks who do as they are told.’’
In July this year, Bill Shorten made the following pledge to the ALP National Conference:
“Let us end the debilitating gender divide. Because if Australia can lead the way in equality for women then we will truly be the richest nation in the world.
Rich in every sense of the word.
Our goal should be nothing less than the equal participation of women in work … equal pay for women at work … and an equal voice for women across our parliament.
So let this Conference declare, by 2025 … 50 per cent of Labor’s representatives will be women.
Only in a society where men and women are treated equally, can the true potential of women and men be achieved.”
When the ALP dumps two outstanding young women with proven success in public service for two old men who have done nothing to recommend them, and who express views that are diametrically opposed to Labor policy, one can only conclude that the noble aspirations expressed by Mr Shorten are nothing more than hot air and that he does not have the power or the inclination to make them a reality.