This weekend was lauded as the progressive reform event of the year. It was going to save Federal Labor from significant losses in membership by bridging the gap between those who have a say and those who do not, getting 'back to basics' and ironing out the wrinkles in a party which is seen to have lost it's way.
If you are as exciting a person as I obviously am, you sat with heart in throat as the Barr-Wong Amendment came up for debate. You listened with open mouthed dismay as the argument against voting on block regarding same sex marriage seemed to sway and the argument against changing the platform of the party to recognise the right of same sex couples to be allowed marriage in this country gained strength.
The vote has gained significant airtime so those who didn't watch are probably aware that one got up, the other didn't. Both rallying sides (the Christian Right and the Gay Lobby) were unimpressed with the result. It means nothing in the end. Yes, same sex marriage is now in the party platform......yes, if you are an MP in the ALP you may vote against it. Not really very progressive or brave is it?
Then we moved on........ The minority issue gave way to the bigger issues for our country and for the world. Not much coverage for these ones, the lobby groups are obviously a lot smaller.
Another day of voting and slack jawed amazement from those watching who were promised so much. Here we are at the end of it all, apparently no better off.
Asylum Seekers. Should they be processed offshore? According to the PM, yes! How did the Conference vote? Yes! Very progressive.
Live animal exports. Should they be phased out? According to the ALP this weekend....NO! Should there be measures put in place to offer some sort of protection, perhaps compulsory stunning? .....No? Really? Is that your final answer?
Ok then, what about Uranium? We've watched the chaos in Fukushima. We have agreed to start a tax system which will support strong growth in sustainable power sources while moving away from Nuclear, brown coal and gas. Obviously the answer will be no, we won't send uranium to India.
Well, actually, the answer is YES!
What? You can't be serious!
Alright, last ditch effort to do something brave, something progressive, something that won't be detrimental to our health, our land or our people.
This time it's about the Party. We've heard that membership is falling. We know that a reform package was presented courtesy of Bracks/Faulkner and Carr. It held idealistic notions that would encourage a greater say in policy and in delegate and candidacy appointments. It would give power back to the grass roots. The members. The ones who are being asked to defend all of the decisions you have just made over the weekend. So, will members at local level now have a greater say?
No. The answer, is no.
After all that, after the national coverage in unprecedented levels, the promise of reforms and progressive new policy, I sat there, for two whole days.....for nothing.
So, this leads me to the next question. Has the Federal ALP made the right moves for their membership? Well, yes. They have certainly made the RIGHT moves. As for whether it will gain them any new members. I can honestly say that if it does, they will be the RIGHT kind.
What happens now then? I've taken a nice long look at the alternatives this weekend.
We have the Greens on offer. At least you know what you are going to get. A little thin on economic policy which is a worry. They have a leader who is also exactly what he says he is so again you know what you are going to get. Something tells me that this party will be the winner from this weekends debacle.
The Coalition? Well, as far as I can tell, what you get here is the right faction of the ALP, plus an extra, far-right faction. Their leader is a bit of a goose and really needs to say something positive soon, even if it's about his own policies. Definitely not a viable alternative.
Moving on to the Katter Party. He has announced his team for Queensland but we are yet to see whether that will be taken to the Federal level. I assume it will depend on the upcoming Qld election. This is the one party which I think many are underestimating. They will do well here. Very well. Why?
Because voters want to know what they are getting when they make their choice at the ballot box. Yes, Katter is slightly mad. Yes, he bangs on a bit about Coles and Woolies. Yes, he's a terrible singer. The thing is, none of that will change. He is what he is. You get what you vote for. That's pretty appealing to most people.
At the moment, with the ALP, you'd be hard pressed to know exactly what you were voting for. Perfectly happy to fight for a Carbon Tax and a Mining Tax. Willing to invest heavily in a long overdue National Disability Scheme. But where is the balance? Where is the progression beyond that?
How can a party make such incredibly brave decisions and fight for them, yet shy away from doing the same at a policy conference? One which does not make laws, or introduce Bills. It simply decides what the ALP stands for.
That being the case, Federal ALP stands for offshore processing, of people and animals. Has 'friends' who are gay but doesn't want them to get married, or maybe it does, or doesn't. It's confused. It stands for giving away resources which have the power to kill and maim while causing environmental disasters because it will supply a few more jobs and a nice fat surplus. Lastly, it stands for telling the members what policies they have to get excited about and who their representatives are, without giving them any say.
I wonder if the Left faction will at some point break away from the party and form a new one. One with good social reforms and great economic reforms. One with environmental policy that will work, a civil rights focus along with equality and one which has the only thing that all of the parties are missing (except perhaps Katter's), a leader with charisma.
I'd vote for that.