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Why Progressives Must Evolve

By Callen Sorensen Karklis

Several years ago I resigned from the ALP. I was heavily involved in the party running local branches in Bowman and also working briefly in the labour movement in call centres as well as working on the shop-floor in retail before I ended up working in the media.

I quit the party in late 2017 because I foresaw what I then saw as the party losing touch with the community and finding party politics extremely gruelling at times. I was banking on my prediction being wrong of course.

I abhor the views of Trump and co as well as Scomo and believe in social democracy and fairness. As somebody who’s indigenous, I feel we’ll be getting the same old treatment from a group of rich blokes who only understand how to throw a little bit of money at a problem without thinking of the long-term consequences and I really fear for the future of young people as well as the worker and pensioner.

Despite leaving the party I’ve worked my butt off on state and federal campaigns politically when I can, and even putting up penalty rates posters for the Change the Rules campaign anywhere I could lately. I was absolutely gutted and been pissed off for the past few days because of the election result but I honestly didn’t blame people for it.

The Labor party needs to get back to its grassroots this much is true, although the party came off as united federally in Qld we’ve become so divided on the environmental and climate issues. There is so much of a future in lithium mining and renewables yet the movement didn’t articulate this to the voting public and the jobs growth we could get out of it. I’m as much to blame for some of the stuff ups lately as well and for that I admit it, and sorry for not working hard enough with those on the progressive side. But I’m not here to cast blame and shame on a loss.

I voiced my anger lately with others in the movement and the need for internal reform and getting back to grassroots. What I’ve learned from this is that we must eventually unite and strengthen our campaigning and messaging on point to win people over as well each other. It says a lot when people tell me they saw the ALP as the big end of town, which we know otherwise. But they do appear so to the public at present from their eyes.

Many Labor candidates I found had been sheltered from the general public events, such as rallies, clubs, bars, and sporting events. There wasn’t enough effort put into talking to the average day person like Hawkey or Whitlam would have. There is a big consultation problem according to my aboriginal family elders in the movement and many of whom were AWU and ETU members for a time in the sand mines on Straddie.

The Greens and Labor party campaigning against one another didn’t help either. Conservation groups did some great work campaigning on issues of the environment but it wasn’t read into the minds of people trying to pay their bills and earn an income, there was no communication on what jobs there are in renewables or alternative sustainable mining. Messaging on environmental issues cut through but not enough! It needed to reflect real jobs as well as alternatives.

Labor needs to work out ways not to demonise the Greens and maybe even people who would have voted Katter in the North. Let’s not forget the surge in One Nation would have also been former Labor voters in most cases. Look Qld may have some conservative elements but it’s been known as a bellwether state for a reason.

We must not dig into people for leaving a cause or belief and following the way they went, it’s time to convince people and educate what progressive policies actually do to better their lives and how the other side isn’t their best mates at times even when they make out to be sometimes.

On a positive note, some areas in Bowman in my area still retained to the ALP and the Greens, like Straddie where the ALP branch was recently folded. Based on preferences the conservatives were only 9 votes ahead on Straddie, leaving Cleveland to be a real battleground with only 200 – 500 votes apart despite the heavy campaigning on issues like Toondah this may have also been a protest vote against Labor while the Greens saw a surge of 2% locally but still this was not enough to dint the Pro Toondah lobby in the LNP.

Other areas still showed some interest to progressives in the South – East end as well so there’s room for growth and rebuilding. Look I don’t know if the ALP would take some of us back in the movement one day, but regardless I feel as though we’re all going to have to learn how to sort ourselves out whether you’re a progressive independent, a Greenie or in the ALP, before we can convince people who and what we can do, like protecting the environment and building up new jobs. Labor and progressives need to solve their identity crisis and now! If the Labour movement never came to be there would be no notion of a fair go, and I don’t think that’s something we should give up on.

Callen is a Fabian and was the Secretary of the QLD Fabians Branch in late 2018 and is a Quandamooka Noonucle Indigenous person with a strong commitment to community. He is a member of Crime Stoppers, works in media advertising and is running as the local independent candidate for the upcoming Redlands City Council elections in division 2 in 2020.



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  1. Alpo

    Callen, thanks for your article which gives me the opportunity to write some warning thoughts about facile and misguided conclusions that some people may draw from the shocking result of the Federal election.

    1) “Qld we’ve become so divided on the environmental and climate issues. There is so much of a future in lithium mining and renewables yet the movement didn’t articulate this to the voting public and the jobs growth we could get out of it.”… Queensland voters are aware of the “potential” for jobs in renewables, but don’t really care because they are doing it very tough, so they are far more worried about jobs here and now. This is what the ALP understood very well, that’s why they didn’t go hard against Adani (as the Greens did) but argued their case for the project to be sound (“it must stuck up”) environmentally, financially as from the Queensland laws. But no, of course the LNP attacked the ALP for being “weak”, but what shocked me is that the Greens and others, even inside the Qld ALP, attacked Shorten for being “weak”. Attacked by right, left and those who don’t care but are scared about becoming or remaining unemployed, the vote for the ALP in Queensland collapsed. For the second time, Queensland won the Federal election to the Coalition.

    2) Then there was the stupid stunt convoy led by Bob Brown. Imagine, a bunch of Tasmanian and Victorian greenies going to North Queensland to tell them how to run their business… That was a mortal coup against the prospect of the ALP in Queensland!

    3) But that’s not all. By far the most important factor at this election, especially in Queensland, was the collusion between Liberals (LNP) and Palmer and Hanson. Without the preferences from Palmer and Hanson the Libs would have not won, but Shorten could have never accepted doing deals with despicable parties such as the PHON and the United Australia Party, and in fact he didn’t. His honesty was “rewarded” with a defeat. Paradoxically, the naive battlers who voted for PHON and UAP and followed their how to vote cards, are now back in the hands of a Government that will unleash hell on them.

    My conclusion is simple. In the current circumstances the people must be exposed as much as possible to the toxic policies of the Coalition. Only after being truly bashed big time, the people will finally realise that the ALP is the only way out for them. Just remember Campbell Newman and his one-term despicable Government. Newman could go troppo, because in Qld there is no state upper house, but by going troppo he was booted out after just one term.

  2. wam

    Fear of failure set in for me by early 2014 when I urged little billy to regain his beaconsfield mojo or deveop chronic fatigue and resign the leadership Such ideas quickly got me scrubbed from billy’s and torpid tanya’s pages.

    You are spot on about the candidate too far from the electorate the local school, sports, fetes, barbecues
    fundraisers and presentations should have a team of labor people to contradict the shit sheep repetition of the lnp.

    ps Alpo
    love being facile all the lnp had to do in qid (or anywhere where workers gathered) was to bleat baaabaaa ‘labor and the greens’ baa baa ‘llabor and the greens’ honk honk labor and the @^@^@(*&^&& loonies and bang 23 seats to 6.

    bob brown’s stupid stunt was 2009 confirming the rabbott’s credentials then running away.

  3. Alan Nosworthy

    Thank you callen, and good luck in your bid to speak for the people of Redlands.
    @alpo your points tally with my lived experience in katters fiefdom.
    Palmers barrage of crud was the most common talking point amongst the old girls in town. Locally envoironmental issues have been a divisive issue since before heritage listing of the wet tropics, although once the locals worked out there was a dollar to be had from cashed up green yuppies holidaying from down south attitudes softened somewhat. But Bob Browns convoy and the much publicised vegan protests opened old wounds and didn’t even meet with approval from local greens as a useful tactic.
    L.N.P. votes dropped and Katter gained a clear margin on A.L.P. preferences.
    Up here it is a species of donkey vote where you get to give$2.70 to the party of your choice and vote against the bastard you least want to get in.
    At least my Senate vote counts.

  4. johnyperth

    First of all you should consider rejoining the Labor party?
    I have been saying this for years, that the Labor party should call for preselection straight after a loss.
    The successful candidates then have to involve themselves within they own community to get involve in little athletics fund raising go to the local sports and other carnivals to get to know all they constituents by first name!!
    That way when an election comes, they constituents will say: Yes, I know that person, and, he or she is a good person for getting involved within the community!!
    No good doing door knocking to find what the problems are!!
    A very good candidate in they community should help there chances when an election comes around!!!

  5. Kerry

    Thanks for the article Callen and good luck. I could not agree more that Labor must embrace the Greens for the future of our democracy. That they don’t and won’t is down to self interest over public interest.

    Bob Brown marched for the future of our environment in QLD and as a local I have nothing but admiration for the man. He rightly criticised both parties for inaction on Adani. He is not a member of parliament and has a right as an individual to protest however the hell he wants.

    The Greens did not betray Rudd, it was a lousy policy and they tried very hard to compromise but labor as it still does today would have none of it. They will insult and reject the Greens to their dying day. And that day will come sooner than later unless Labor changes their tune.

    To see Ms Plibersek sitting next right to Di Natale on Q&A pre election and treating him with contempt and condescension at every opportunity made me sick. What an embarrassing display of entitlement from theLabor elite.

  6. Alan Luchetti

    Labor tied its shoelaces together by promising a quicker “return to surplus” than the Libs. Economically, that is a superstitious fetish that puts fear of harmless federal “debt” (currency issuer’s debt that never needs to be “paid off”) above fear of household and business debt that always needs to be paid off. Politically it pits an overblown fear of deficits against a fear of tax reform that Labor underestimated.

    If Labor’s worthy spending intentions really did have to be “paid for”, the tax reforms it proposed were well chosen. But any tax reform can be dishonestly attacked to great effect.

  7. wam

    good one kerry calm quiet words that sound good. Still bullshit but appeasing conscience salving bullshit.

    Would you like to dress up the greenmail of gillard creating ‘juliar’ for the rabbott or do you accept it as that a deliberate assassination of a good pm by a deprincipled party of pragmatism and ambition?

    The 2009 policy was bipartisan based turnbull/wong???

    Labor lost the election not with a cake but a good dose of yellow palmer lies and a spill of green slime every time scummo spoke or the ABC, 10, 9, 7 and the shock jocks repeated labor ‘green’. well the greens are fringe like phon not mainstream they are a millstone around labor’s neck.
    But who cares about history because winners are grinners and di’s boys got their $9m windfall and labor got dudded..

  8. corvus boreus

    Thank you for illustrating exactly the sort of divisive drivel that keeps the progressive side of politics losing election after election.
    Obviously you don’t care about either history or civil language, which is why you create your own twisted versions of both.
    The young person who authored this article makes some very valid points about the unproductive outcomes brought about by continued divisive rhetoric between supposedly progressive parties, and the urgent necessity for some sort of constructive discourse, and, in return, you offer yet more routinely regurgitated repetitions of your same-old hate-filled bile.
    You are behaving like a sledging troll with nothing vaguely constructive or instructive to contribute. .

  9. Jack Russell

    Hearing Bowen talking about surpluses, bigger surpluses, better surpluses, and more of them … WTF! Who the hell wants a left-wing Treasurer spouting neoliberal right-wing junk economics in Fiat Currency country? Not me! To the backbench with him, asap.

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