These were two of my least read posts of all of my work for the AusVotes / AusOpinion project. The first one made an impact, however. I was at the time deeply involved with the Greens’ election campaign in NSW for the 2013 election and the publishing of this post gained me the accusation of “being a leaker to Crikey”. This was in relation to an article that included a story about the formulation of a breakaway party from the Greens. I responded with a laugh – I don’t know anyone from Crikey, let alone would leak anything to them.
The post is in fact the opposite to me advocating for a new party. It was referring to what seemed to me were many inside the Greens NSW from the inner city areas who believe the party should be more like a socialist European party – ie. Die Linke – than a broader based party that includes environmentalists and those seeking a long term, consultative, pragmatic, market driven way to care for the environment.
It for that reason that there was a follow up post, saying clearly why I would never be a member of a party like The Aussie Link.
Post One – Forget the Tea Party, we need a new Party in Australia – The Link
I have had some involvement with progressive politics over the past little while, both as an observer, a short but revealing journey as a candidate and as a participant on committees. What my involvement has taught me is that it’s perhaps time for a change in politics, the time is ripe for a new party to be formed that could be a home for a number of political active people currently in other parties but feel constrained by the rules, structures, policies and other members of that party.
One of the more interesting developments in politics in the past little while is that while Conservative parties (and, in our case, a largely Reactionary party) have taken office, in Germany there’s been the rise of Die Linke (literally, The Left). As there are many people who associate with their philosophies in Australia, I think it’s high time we had The Link Party here too.
The question could be raised as to why we need The Link when a lot of the policies and philosophies of that party align with Socialist parties. It is a problem for progressive politics currently that the word “socialism”, though loaded with positive intents and community goodwill for many, is a barrier for many on “the left” who don’t like the associations of socialism with Communist states of the past and present. The Link would be a wholly more positive and welcoming name for a new party with a new approach to advocating a progressive line of thought.
The policies of The Link would be unashamedly “leftist” and be unfettered by the compromises and pragmatism that parties like the Greens and the ALP have had to negotiate over the past few years. I can’t imagine The Link would ever go into a coalition with a Major Party in the way the Greens have in Canberra and Tasmania. That would help their policy purity considerably. Of those policies and ideas that have emerged in the recent past, I think the Link’s policies might look something like these 5:
- Taxation Policy. Taxation on a variety of things would be needed in order to fund the generous public welfare and infrastructure policies of the party. Death Duties would be first cab off the rank, followed by taxes on mining companies, big business and the like before income tax would be considered.
- Public Infrastructure Policy. The Link would be focused entirely on public transport improvement, with heavy and light rail, high speed rail being the central desire of the party. These publicly owned instrumentalities (the Link would be opposed to Public Private Partnerships) would be dedicated to finally increasing capacity for our public transport systems in all states. (I personally would be pushing for the Light Rail Loop around Parramatta, a bit of a pet issue of mine)
- Public Education Policy. One of the central bugbears of many in The Left is the State Aid for Independent Schools doled out by the Menzies Government in the first instance. It’s something that has driven members of unions like the NSW Teachers’ Federation to join progressive parties and change their policies in order to reflect this continuing war against State Aid. This is why we have seen policies that advocate the freezing or reducing the funding of Independent Schools, no matter the level of fees or facilities of those schools. It was also a concern of the ALP under Mark Latham, where he separated the independent school sector into two, highlighting high fee paying schools as the places that needed funding controls. It would a major plank of The Link. The difficulty they would find in pursuing this policy is that both major parties are in lockstep about Independent School funding, especially that of low fee paying schools such as the community Catholic, Anglican, Christian and Islamic schools. The Link could speak about it a lot and garner support for their stance, but would find it next to impossible to forge any change in this area – but it would be good to have a party that would be unashamed advocates for the increase of public school funding.
- Equality. One of the biggest philosophical cores for The Link would be Equality – whether it be social, economic, access, accepting asylum seekers or in terms of marriage. It would act as the main driving force for recruiters and policy. The challenge for The Link would be how to pursue equality while negotiating within the existing political infrastructure. Many in The Link would be advocating for a Change in the system, to get away from the current economic strictures of things like the Wages Accord – to the extent where some would argue that the Accord was a terrible thing for the Working Class, even though it was negotiated by members of that class. Would certainly make for lively policy discussions.
- Activism for Overseas Oppressed People. One of the concerns for The Link would be raise awareness in the largely blinkered Australian populace of the struggles and problems of people overseas, whether that be in Palestine, Greece or Burma. The Link would have a set of sophisticated and well researched policies about overseas issues, due to the education level of many of its members. A headline issue would the BDS campaign, for example.
As for who would actually join The Link, I think the party would one of the best connected parties in terms of social media. Many on Twitter advocate ideas and policies that would be an ideal fit for The Link. The Link would also have a significant number of university educated people ready to have plenty of discussion about the shape of policy, over a range of dinner tables, net forums and in party offices. It would be a fun party to be a part of for many, because I would envisage the party would not be overly hierarchical.
I can also imagine the slogans and advertising (online, of course, they would not be able to afford much paid advertising) – Embrace Community, Vote Link. Link to your Community, Link to each other with Public Transport, Forge a Link with A Party Dedicated to Equality and so on. I think they could certainly crowdsource such slogans. People should consider starting such a party. Personally, I’d be advocating this slogan – The Link – We Aren’t a Tea Party, We’re a Dinner Party.
Post Two – The Link – Not the Party For Me
I rarely write follow up posts, but I feel as though the reaction to my previous post about “The Link” requires me to do so. In that blog post, I laid out the approach and policies of a possible new “Left” party. Many believed that I was saying that I wanted to start such a party or be the part of such a party. ‘
Nothing could be further from the truth.
An observation of mine for a while now is that there are many who blog, tweet and update Facebook have a view of politics that are not entirely in touch with the need for understanding the current realities of Australian politics. Many dream of a party and a system that is closer to Germany (or Iceland) than to Australia. It’s a nice dream to have, I know, for those people – but pursuing that dream works contrary to the need to enact actual change in our narrow casting political system. This is what I see from many writing and contributing to the national “progressive” conversation.
With the current threats posed by the new Liberal Government – specifically to action on climate change, the environment, renewable energy investment, drinking water and our food bowl with CSG mines and the like, I think there needs to be a hardheaded and pragmatic approach in order to blunt those threats and communicate to Australia the very real threats that are being posed. The current Australian political discourse is, unfortunately, is a blinkered, narrowcasting entity – focused on a “bipartisan” state, rather than allowing much exposure to other parties, unless those parties have some kind of “infighting”, “scandal” or want to do some twerking. This is why those wanting Australia to adopt well meaning, but unachievable policies and philosophies run the risk of distracting the media from focusing on the damage that is about to be wreaked on our way of life and environment. This is also why Nicola Roxon’s speech about Kevin Rudd was, while entertaining to a degree, is not helpful to the Labor rebuild, which needs to forget about Kevin and get behind Bill Shorten, who should be a good spokesperson for the Labor movement. The same goes for Christine Milne and the Australian Greens.
I think, though, that politically engaged and fired up people who are currently not active members of one of the three main political parties because of various reasons, but who passionately believe in the policies I wrote about in the post should perhaps place their energies into starting a new party. Or continue to be frustrated. Or join the Pirates. There’s plenty to like about them. Personally, I am happy with being a Green. Growing up in the Blue Mountains makes a person realise just how important protecting the environment continues to be.