Not a Party of Protest. Not a Party of Slogans.
Last night I was honoured to address the Marrickville State Electoral Council of the Australian Labor Party. Good crowd, also attended by Carmel Tebutt, the local heroine who held the seat against the Green Party threat at the last state elections in March.
I told them there were things the Labor party could do that the Green Party could never do. The best example was the 16 year record of nature conservation in New South Wales. It took a Labor government to negotiate deals with the timber mills, the timber workers and the union that paved the way for saving the South East Forest, 100 extra parks between Nowra and the Bega Valley, the saving of the forest icons of the north coast and the saving of the Pilliga. The Green Party could mount protests and take up these causes, and they are very fine causes. But it took a Labor government to make the big industrial reform decisions that restructured forestry and enable the massive conservation gains to occur. The serious policy making fell to us.
Finding a solution to the crisis of James Hardie going offshore and leaving victims stranded – that fell to a Labor government. We’re not party of protest. Not a party of slogans. We’re a party that has to come up with solutions. The Green Party can talk about decriminalising drugs. We saddled up to the responsibility of negotiating and legislating the hard gritty detail that enabled Australia’s only medically supervised injecting room.
I also drew a contrast with the conservative parties. Yes, we in government delivered balanced budgets. We became the first government in the state’s history to retire debt rather than add to debt. We attracted investment. We brought down payroll taxes. But at the same time we had the heart to lift the quality of education, healthcare and child protection. We had the heart to introduce a whole-of-life care scheme for those catastrophically injured in motor accidents. Sound economic management, but with compassionate reformist goals throughout.
I drew on lessons for rebuilding the party after our last big election defeat in 1988. I congratulated them on not only saving the seat in the last election but rallying around Andrew Refshauge in 1995 when we were under threat as a result of the federal government’s opening of the third runway,
Marrickville ALP members have a lot to be proud of.