When the going gets tough

Workchoices RallyPurely by a freak of timing, of course, the SMH today published an opinion piece by Danae Bosler called ‘Labor abandoned me, so I quit’. I think a better title for it would have been ‘When the going got tough, I gave up’.

My political ideology is simple. I have always done my best to support the party which will successfully implement progressive policy. Keeping in mind that in order to pass progressive policy, a party must be in a position to form government, I currently support the Labor party. If, in the future, the Labor Party were not the best option to reach this end goal, I would vote for someone else. In other words, I am more wedded to progressive reform than I am to a particular political party. On the other hand, the Liberal party offers no hope at all of progressive reform, and has in fact promised to roll back much of what Labor has achieved.

From what Bosler argues, she is more interested in feeling connected to a party, than the actual effect they have on the country. She is treating the Labor party like a pop band that brought out an album she didn’t like. She’s tearing their posters off the walls of her bedroom and bitching about them on Facebook. But, if she took a moment to think about what she’s actually achieving by trashing the Labor party and the union movement in a newspaper opinion piece, she might realise that she’s undermining progressive policy. Which is exactly what the Liberal party is pleased to see her doing.

In her opinion piece, Bosler talks about all the work she has done for the union movement and for the Labor party, and then claims she quit doing all this work because:

“I felt abandoned by Labor leaders and embarrassed by my union ones.”

She goes on to say:

“I quit because there’s a gaping divide between the amazing, dedicated, hard working union organisers on the ground and the union leaders making a mockery of our movement in the media (think Craig Thomson, think Paul Howes).”

Craig Thomson. Wouldn’t Tony Abbott love to hear that a former Labor supporter was dumping her entire ideological support of the Labor movement because she was upset about Craig Thomson paying for prostitutes on his union credit card? It has obviously never occurred to Bosler that by rejecting the Labor party because of Craig Thomson, she is playing right into the Liberal party’s hands. She is choosing to be swayed by a Liberal smear campaign, with its three pronged objectives of damaging Craig Thomson, hurting the government’s majority and discrediting the entire union movement. One idiotic man doing what thousands of idiotic men do every day and she is turned off her supposed preferred vision for the country? And what role does she think the media have in this?

Bosler’s argument is that there are fantastic people (formerly herself) working on the ground to support unions, but it’s the ones at the top who are letting the system down. So rather than stick around and try to fix things, she turned her back on the whole problem. Again, a very counterproductive attitude. Is this not like a Wall Street banker saying that he used to believe in the free market, but then his boss was a dickhead and so he’s decided to give up on capitalism altogether?

Another thing Bosler seems to have missed is that there are many supporters of progressive policy who are very concerned about the influence that some union leaders, such as Paul Howes, have on the Labor party. But we don’t give up on the Labor party just because there are elements of it that we don’t like. That would be counterproductive in our quest to support a party that will implement progressive policy. And her article isn’t just aiming to damage the Labor party, it’s also damaging the union movement. Sure, the union movement is by no means perfect. But it’s the best union movement we’ve got and I am sure I would prefer to have to have a union than an individual workplace agreement. It’s also worth pointing out that the reporting of scandal and corruption in the union movement is over reported in the media, especially when you compare it to the almost non-existent coverage of corporate scandal and corruption. This is a topic for another post.

Most of the people I know who support the Labor party spend as much effort trying to improve the party from the inside as they do campaigning on the party’s behalf. This work happens at branch meetings: passing motions, activism within the party and the slow and frustrating work of lobbying and reform. The reason that they do this is to ensure that the party remains strong, fair and capable of leading the country so that they can pass progressive policy. Improvements are not made by announcing in a newspaper that you have quit the entire movement.

On the topic of progressive policy, Bosler writes about her disappointment:

“This is where my leaders have failed me: selling out on our progressive agenda to appease the swing voters in suburban seats (I’ve spoken with them out the front of shopping centres and they’re not impressed anyway)”.

Without having any evidence of which progressive agenda Bosler feels she has been cheated out of, it seems that the problem here is that no one has ever told her the importance of winning a swing voter’s support. If you can’t get the support of swing voters, you don’t win an election. If the Labor party doesn’t win an election, the Liberal party will govern our country. What does Bosler think of the Liberal’s party’s policies?

It’s not easy being a progressive voter, and supporting the Labor party, without feeling that sometimes you’ve compromised on your values to ultimately get what you want. But what other option is there? Giving up and letting the Liberals win is not a risk I’m willing to take.

If you’re mature enough to understand that no political party is perfect, and you’re determined to end up with the best progressive outcome for your country (not just the policies you are personally passionate about), then pragmatism and compromise are important skills to learn. Sure, it might seem easier to quit when you don’t get what you want, or when there are people in the party who you don’t respect. It might be tempting to throw in the towel when the Labor party introduces yet another asylum seeker policy that you deride. You might threaten to join the Greens if you don’t get the environmental policy you were hoping for, or gay marriage isn’t introduced in Labor’s second term. But where would that leave this country? More than likely with a conservative government. Was Bosler never told not to cut off her nose to spite her face?


  1. The big companies (who put profit first before people) won’t tell you the good side of unions.
    And you won’t hear it in the media because they put salacious headlines first and like to have a go at unions/teachers/police & Labor politicians.
    This is a fun and factual video about what the unions do for us!

    ‘What have the unions ever done for us?’ RT http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=184NTV2CE_c … … …

  2. Yes, I think you’re at the heart of the problem, Victoria – we either push on, or accept the conservative neollberal alternative.

  3. The problem all lefties are experiencing now is it’s virtually impossible for them not to be excrutiatingly embarrassed by the self-inflicted disasters brought about by the ALP over the last 5 years. I have plenty of inner city lefty friends and work collegues who don’t even defend or argue the case, they just say, “Abbott would be worse”. Hahahahaah….that truly is pathetic.

    The failures and lies are endless, Swanny trotted out another one a few days before xmas. Very shrewd timing by the village idiot!!!

    Another Labor Government dies along with any hope they’ll ever experience a surplus. Hopeless, a mining boom and no we can’t balance the books, 200B in debt is their parting gift. Clearly the credit card needs to be given back to the adults.

    Even Swan’s mining tax is a disaster without precedent. It collects no tax but now racks up contingent liabilities…………attracting interest. The Government now effectively holds accruing tax losses that mean the companies may never pay the tax. Great “progressive” policy there Victoria.

    The list of failures and lies are endless, Rudd started with Grocery and Fuel Watch quickly followed by the one all hard lefties loved. Dismantling of the “Pacific Solution” was cheered at every inner city dinner party. Unsurprisingly and totally predictably, you now have no idea how to wash the blood off your hands. Thousands dead just to make you feel smug, nice job Miss Progressive.

    Ultimately you people have given us THE two worst PM’s in just about every living Australian’s memory. Consecutive PM dudds is a real achievemnent that only a head in the sand progressive could be proud of.

    Neither Gillard or Rudd will EVER be sought out for respected considered comment on issues of the day, like is afforded Howard, Hawke, Keating etc. You have delivered us people that have failed as PMs and brought the office of PM into disrepute. Great “progressive” work there, thanks so much!

    The unions will be heavily investigated by the new LNP Government and for sound legitimate reasons and clearly not before time. It will be in the best interests of all Australians for that to occur. Hopefully it will discourage those that have the same morals as Julia Gillard to stay on the straight and narrow and avoid the ever present culture of un-feted corruption enjoyed by the union movement and the ALP. But a true progressive prefers it to be ignored, don’t they Victoria?

    The problem with being a blinkered progressive is you end up being a monumental hypocrite.

    Can you imagine the leftist media’s apoplectic response if Tony Abbott or John Howard had a history of having affairs with married women with numerous children involved. Neither would have got anywhere near the leadership of the country. The mind boggles at how Gillard has ended up as PM with her crooked and moralless past. No wonder she has never considered having children herself, she has zero empathy for children, otherwise she wouldn’t repeatably put them at risk. Just so she gets her rocks off.

    What an utter shame Australia’s first female PM has been such an unmitigated disaster.

    Roll on Sept 2013 election, it can’t come soon enough.

  4. And here is some more comment on “progressive ideas” like Nicola Roxon’s attempt to muzzle us.

    Free speech in sorry and humiliating condition

    by: James Allan
    From:The Australian
    January 01, 201312:00AM

    Increase Text Size
    FRIEND, foe, men, women. I come to query James Spigelman, not to praise him.

    The former Chief Justice of the NSW Supreme Court,has been praised or pilloried for his Human Rights Day Oration in which he lambasted this Gillard government’s proposals for further inroads into free speech in this country.

    As a strong free speech proponent myself, that is wholly to be welcomed. But we need to be very clear that the Spigelman defence of free speech is pretty enervated and should be made of sterner stuff.

    I think Spigelman was a very fine judge. Indeed I wish this Labor government had appointed him Chief Justice of the High Court back when that position was last open.

    But that said, no one reading his oration can really say it was a wholehearted defence of free speech in the tradition, say, of John Stuart Mill. In fact had he made that speech in the US it would by some have been classed as an anti-free speech talk.

    Such is the sorry state of free speech in this country, alas, that an address such as Spigelman’s is taken to be a rousing defence of free speech when in north America – even in Canada of late – it would be seen by some in quite the opposite terms.

    For example, in the excerpt that appeared in The Australian (December 12) he claimed that “Words such as ‘offend’ and ‘insult’ impinge on freedom of speech in a way that words such as ‘humiliate’, ‘denigrate’, ‘intimidate’, ‘incite hostility’ or ‘hatred’ do not.”

    Is there anything to that claim? As talented a legal mind as Spigelman has, I don’t think even he can elaborate on the difference between “to offend” and “to humiliate” in any real-life scenario so that speech could be allowed to cross the line on the first criterion but not on the second.

    For instance, get rid of the “offend” test in the Bolt case and almost certainly, given the current hate speech legislation and the judge in that case, Bolt would still lose under the “humiliate” test.

    In fact I can’t think of any way in which a legal test, objective or subjective, could be made to work such that all of us would be free to offend others, but not to humiliate them, with the result that we’d actually be left with more that we could say.

    The Spigelman line would leave us almost exactly where we are now. It would do nothing to expand the scope of free speech or to fight off further inroads.

    Trying to distinguish the two is an exercise in scholasticism. And pretending that freeing up the former (yep, you can now offend) but not the latter (sorry, you still can’t humiliate) is some sort of wonderful free speech advance is, in my view, baloney (to put it in the kindest terms possible).

    And the same goes for “denigrate”, which Spigelman seems happy enough to keep, meaning that he endorses prohibiting the denigration of others.

    OK. But in Canada, until the elected legislature recently moved to repeal their awful hate speech laws, a stand-up comic was brought before a hate speech tribunal and fined five figures for mocking lesbians in the audience who had heckled him.

    So tell me Spigelman, is that comic’s response fine? Offensive? Humiliating? Denigrating? And who gets to say, them or us? And even if it is a reasonable person in the community test, if we can’t denigrate and we can’t humiliate, there isn’t much offending left to do, is there. And we haven’t got much free speech left.

    Or at least that’s my view until Spigelman can give us plaus- ible examples of how much offending we can do that won’t still count as humiliating and denigrating, and without the chilling effect of fearing that some unelected judge will classify what we said as humiliating and denigrating. In my view the sort of fine distinction that Spigelman is trying to construct is a prime example of wanting to have your cake and eat it too.

    Sure, it’s wonderful that a former top judge has come out and said something against the many awful inroads made and being made into free speech in this country. And as a man with former ties to the Labor Party it’s better still.

    But a real, meaningful defence of free speech, would demand that we get rid of all of these two-bit restrictions on what we can say, which is precisely how things are in the US.

    Spigelman also mentions a book by Jeremy Waldronthat influenced him. As it happens I have been asked to review it for a top US law review journal. And here’s the thing. In American terms Waldron’s book is not seen as a ringing endorsement of free speech. Indeed, it can be understood as making a theoretical case for supporting hate speech laws that do not exist in the US.

    So citing Waldron, however honourable a man, is hardly a comfort to those of us who believe that real free speech in a democracy means citizens having to grow a thick skin and just suck it up when others say things they don’t like.

    Sure, all societies need to stop incitement of violence. But the “I feel worse about myself having heard what you said” tests must be shunned.

    And it hardly helps to point to the UN, where a concerted effort has been under way for years to bring back blasphemy laws. Frankly, I don’t give a toss what the UN thinks. Its record on free speech isn’t nearly as good even as ours. Ours used to be great. Today, it is only so-so. And with the government’s proposals, it could become God awful.

    These proposals, not to mention some existing legislation, need to be buried, not praised. And it would be nice if the Coalition started taking an even stronger stand on this most crucial of all issues facing the voters.

    James Allan is Garrick Professor of Law, University of Queensland. A version of this article appeared in Quadrant online.

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