President/VP election

I see this election as a chance to further discussions we should be having about the future of the national ALP.

The current “Socialist Objective” should be replaced by a clear statement of what Labor stands for.

On the relationship between Party and unions, I suggest that full ALP membership should require at least associate membership of a union, but Party and unions should be separate—no affiliated unions, no union delegations at Conference.

Kevin Rudd’s rules on leadership should be revised—caucus should be able by simple majority to remove a leader and substitute a temporary leader, but then there should be an election in which all Party members vote, without special weight for the votes of parliamentarians.

In Party elections, the secret ballot should be genuinely secret (no “show and tell”).

On policy I care especially about climate change, refugee policy (Labor should get rid of the idea of deterrence), international recognition of a state of Palestine, and parliamentary approval of overseas deployments.

If elected I will not try to impose my views, but I hope to be able to organise active discussion in the ACT Branch before the next National Conference.

For more see


At the 2014 ACT ALP Conference I stood unsuccessfully for election to the Administrative Committee. At the request of leading members of the Left and the Centre Coalition I sent statements of my reason for wanting to be elected.  These message reflect some of the questions they had asked.

To Centre Coalition, 26 June 2014

 At lunch today you asked us Independents to state our philosophies, and in particular asked me whether I was against cooperation among like-minded people to achieve their object -- a very abstract question, to which of course I answered No. I’m a member of the Labor Party, which involves putting up with some things I don’t agree with for the sake of advancing things on which we do agree. But I don’t believe in groups within the Labor Party being formed to advance some people’s chances of becoming office-holders or employees, which is what I think the factions are.

I don’t object in the least if people vote together because they have discussed the question with one another and agree. I do object if they vote together even though they don’t agree. I think we should all listen to others with respect and support the proposals we individually think are best. Likewise we should choose the office-holders we think will best do the job. A person joining the ALP should be able to contribute and have their contributions taken as seriously as anyone else’s without having to join some inner group. We join the Labor Party and that should be enough; we shouldn't need to join a faction before our contributions count. I particularly object to “show and tell”, which is a violation of the secret ballot...

On social philosophy. I don’t have much use for the terms “left” and “right”. I have never set out to be either. When I agree with the left or with the right it’s because my thinking has led me to the same conclusion. All my life—in fact it’s been my profession—I’ve been thinking about political and philosophical questions, and my opinions are not easy to sum up. I have never been a Marxist,though I am well informed on Marxism. I have never called myself a Socialist, though I could be described as a Fabian in the original sense—i.e. I’m not in favour of expropriation, but I am in favour of regulation and taxation. The appropriate object of taxation is rent in the economists’ sense. I believe that it is right if people who work harder get a reward for it, and I believe that parents should be able to pass on property, education and other advantages to their children (as I have to mine). But I also believe in Community (aka civic friendship, or solidarity, or fraternity…), and I think that when inequalities become too great community suffers. It seems clear to me that social inequality is already excessive and is growing.

Climate change is a top priority issue for me (see below [here], email to Peter van Onselen,in which I defended the ETS.)

I’m against the punishment of asylum seekers. [See here.]

For more on my social and political views see "The Philosophy of Free Enterprise: For and Against".  

I want to be elected to the Administrative Committee because I want to be in a better position to contribute to the work of the policy committees. I would like to be Policy Committee Coordinator, or deputy, or secretary to the Policy Coordination Committee. I want to improve communication between the policy committees, between the policy committees and the sub-branches, between the policy committees and federal shadow ministers (I think communication with ACT ministers is already pretty good, though no doubt it could be better), I think the policy committees should send well-digested policy material regularly to the Council, to avoid the hasty discussion of a lot of undigested material at Conference. To achieve these things I need to be able to talk to people in some official capacity, not just freelance. There will also be an administrative task to get membership records up to the standard required if policy committee participation is credentialed. All of this will take time. I’m prepared to spend the time. I’ve retired as Belconnen sub-branch secretary to have time for the policy committees.


To the Left, 27 June 2014

All my working life, from teenage, I’ve been a willing member of the appropriate union. At present I am a member of the NTEU “past members”. I first became active in politics in the mid 1960s; I was Organiser for the NDP in a downtown Toronto electorate. When I came to Canberra (1970) I joined the ALP. I was North Canberra campaign manager in the 1972 election. I was a member of the then equivalent of the Administrative Committee, and Assistant Secretary, in 1972-1973. I went to work in Sydney in 1974 and for a while continued party membership, but I let it lapse (about 1980) when I realised how out of place I was in the NSW Branch. I returned to Canberra in 2000. I rejoined the ALP soon after the “Tampa” election, moved by strong dissatisfaction with performance of the Beazley-led federal party [see Marr and Wilkinson, Dark Victory]; also out of a feeling that it was time for people anywhere to the left of John Howard and George Bush to sink their differences and work for regime change. I am not a “rusted-on” member of the Labor Party, I am not one of the “Party faithful”, I am not a “true believer”, I reject the term “rank and file”. I am an independent member of the Labor Party. Since rejoining I have been active in my local sub-branch and in policy committees (at one stage Convenor of the Legal and Administrative committee, currently secretary of the International Affairs committee). I have been secretary of the Belconnen sub-branch. I have been a patient member of the Rules Committee.

In my academic work I have been a researcher, thinker, teacher and writer about politics at a philosophical level. See my presentation and critique of the philosophy of the Liberal Party [here]. I have a strong interest in the conflicts in the middle east (see [here]), in improving the Australian political system ([here]), and in many other aspects of politics.

I write many emails to people I think need to be put right. I will paste in below [see here] a message in which I tried (unsuccessfully) to persuade The Australian newspaper’s Contributing Editor of the merits of the Gillard government’s carbon tax legislation. A pity the government itself didn’t explain it more effectively. It is a matter for intense regret to me that Labor handed government to Tony Abbott and his friends.

I wish to go on contributing to the work of the ALP, which is why I’m standing for election to the Administrative Committee. I want to work particularly to improve the effectiveness of the forums for policy development. One of the things I bring to this sort of work is fairness: I try to facilitate contributions from people of differing opinions.