October 16, 2004 | Unknown

The ALP: A Fraction Too Much Factionalism?

Not unlike someone whose romantic advances have been spurned, the Australian Labor Party (ALP) is currently giving itself a tough time thinking it is not good enough for the object of its affections.
Of course, the ALP’s woes come not just from itself, but also from those it pursued and what they expect from a relationship (that is for another blog piece).
The party, who is probably at home eating ice-cream and listening to Leonard Cohen records, should stop asking the Australian people out or take a long look at itself after being rejected four times in a row.
One aspect of Labor’s character many find unattractive is its inability to go out without its “mates”.
Factionalism featured in two of former Senator John Black’s eight election errors made by the party, which he recently outlined in The Courier-Mail.
Any girl who has ever done a Cleo quiz knows anything that appears twice is important enough to be near the top of your “to-do” list, right behind getting a Brazilian and buying a bikini to show said wax off.
As Black argued, “the factional selection of candidates (meant) Labor continued to select (those) who were not wanted by the electorate”.
In girly magazine terms, this signifies they picked contenders you would not want to be caught dead at the beach with sans a big hat and sunglasses just because they hang around the group that gets the numbers.
Fancy being able to knock around with uncool kids like the Ludwigs and still be popular, if not liked.
A problem with Black’s thesis is that the Liberal Party of Australia’s Queensland Division is notoriously nutty factionally, and, with all due respect, some of their aspirants were more handsome than great (for example, Ross Vasta).
Nevertheless, perhaps lesser lights are not so important when there is effective direction from the leader and the federal organisation.
A few days ago one ex-Labor member used Crikey.com.au to send out a call to “modernise” the party. While given to generalisation and insulting when agreeing with the inference unionists are unskilled, “disillusioned” was right to identify the detrimental impact of “factional” types.
“Yes, indeed it’s the economy all you stupid…hacks that are getting ready to destroy this once great party”, he or she forcefully, if inarticulately, claimed.
Given ALP factions are based on the anachronistic left/right split, it is not surprising the party has trouble stating positions suitable to a supposedly post-ideological world.
Although these groups appear to be inevitable when people get together in pursuit of a goal, their harmful effects were recognised by John Button after the last election in his Beyond Belief: What Future for Labor?
According to Button, “Labor’s politicians have nearly all been to factional finishing school but not many have been to the school of hard knocks”.
Imagine the advertisement, “learn how to dress appallingly and hate superbly: factional finishing school, where a knife in the back is just a pre-selection contest away”.
Button compared factional kingpins to Hannibal Lecter, to which I wrote a letter in response saying something like he should not offend Lecter like that.
Alas, for those interested in reducing the power of factions, the influence of these gangs starts early. Once again, Laborites wasted energy running against each other in the University of Queensland student union elections.
“Disillusioned” could possibly focus on advocating for the dismantling of Young Labor in the quest for reform, however, since she or he is no longer a member it is difficult to see how he or she can succeed where others who remain in the fold have failed.

Posted by Unknown at 12:50 pm | Comments (2) |
Filed under: Uncategorized


  1. Darlene, how could you say Liberal preselection in Bonner was a factional decision? It was an “unwinnable seat” at the time, the big players had written it off. That is like saying Griffith or Oxley was also a factional selection.
    Get a clue!

    Comment by R — October 20, 2004 @ 1:42 pm

  2. Well “R” that wasn’t what I was saying. I was actually adding an extra comment about the quality of candidates – that is not necessarily faction related.
    As clueless as I might be, I am quite well aware that pre-selections sometimes go to whoever puts their hand up. Alas, sometimes they are the people with the biggest delusions of grandeur (having experienced a couple of them – well, mostly one, in my political staffer days).

    Comment by Darlene — October 20, 2004 @ 4:58 pm

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