The Right of the Labor party have totally dominated this year's National Conference. The small win on gay marriage was effectively nullified because a conscience vote in parliament is doomed to be defeated with the Liberal Party opposed to any change on this issue. Labor's conscience vote is effectively a "no" vote.
On every other major issue Labor's Right held sway, on off shore processing for asylum seekers (a joke when you think that Labor can't even carry this through Parliament - it would have been a much stronger message to adopt a platform it can actually pursue, but that would have allowed the Left to have a win on the floor of the conference); and on uranium exports to India, a non signatory to the Non Proliferation Treaty. Surprisingly Peter Garrett actually stood up for something and opposed the export of uranium to India, but he has so effectively been subsumed by the labor Party that one wonders if there is any of the old peter Garrett left in those aging rocker bones of his.
The National Conference is a good window into the views of those within the Labor Party, and it is good to see that some of the old warriors and some new blood continue to pursue traditional Labor values.
It is a good window for another reason, it demonstrates clearly how limited and undemocratic our democracy is. Labor is no more or no less democratic than any other party, but within the party you can see quite clearly that there is a divide of not much more than 50-50 between the left and the right. But because one side dominates the Labor Party ceases to reflect the aspirations of those who vote for it. Only the right is represented in policy formation, the views of the left are effectively silenced. So one half of Labor voters are not represented by the Labor Party. Once this resulted in a split in the labor party, when the DLP was formed but the extreme right of the labor movement was not being represented by Labor. Because of the devastation this caused to the party for three decades there is no interest in those on the left splitting from the Labor Party and forming their own party. What has happened in actuality is that the Greens have become a proxy left party for disenfranchised lefties of the labor movement.
The two party preferred method of voting for our parliamentary representatives results in the least representative sample of policies being adopted and instituted in Parliament. Let us also note that within the right and within the left there are factions competing, but the right and the left of the Labor Party vote as a bloc depending on the faction that has the most weight in each of the Left and the Right.
It is important to note that the Liberal party are no saints in this respect. When Malcolm Turnbull was dumped as leader Tony Abbott won the ballot by one vote, 41 to 40, and this represents how divided the Liberal Party is on ideological lines. The Liberal Party is just as divided, and the policies it pursues are not supported by all within the party. Of course under Tony Abbott the Liberal Party has come to stand for nothing; the only things we can really be certain Tony Abbott stands for are himself and work choices, but he can't say either of those things. He told Windsor he would "consider" selling his arse to be Prime Minister.
Australia deserves proportional representation. This will not change the power structures in any major way within the two parties, bu tit is a more democratic and representative for m of government. But you cannot change the paradigm unless you change the basic structures within society, which begins with abolishing private capital. And to do that the people have to undergo a transformation of the way in which they think, which is really what revolutions are for. We are a long way from that place in time, and must work with the little that we have got, with our parliament and our courts of law. They are imperfect tools, but that is not to say the tools are useless. Although after witnessing the less than remarkable presence of Peter Garrett inside Labor one does have to ask whether it is indeed pointless to participate in the processes of government.