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It’s Time, To Get It Right – An Open Letter to our Learned Political Hacks

By Raf Priest

I write this open letter following the Australian Labor Party (ALP) successfully taking government in New South Wales, now completing the collection of the infinity stones of all mainland states and Federal Governments and winning the Aston by-election for the first time in 30 years.

With these historic feats there are two thoughts that I feel the need to elaborate. The first being what must we do within the Party to uphold the trust placed in us by the people of Australia. The second being the hard facts that need to be accepted by our learned friends across the aisles of the political spectrum on both sides.

I, like the majority of our country, welcome this development. Having volunteered on many a campaign, it is a vindication of years of tears. Australia has chosen to trust the natural party of Government and to lead it into the next era of the 21st Century. But upon NSW Labor’s victory, I fear the mistakes of our past may come around to haunt us yet again. Historically, the NSW branch of the ALP has been the problem child of our grand old party. The branch mired in controversy, the branch favoured by pokies and developers, the branch that reloads the after-dark political commentators with ammunition.

We owe it to ourselves to get it right this time. The last time Labor was in government across the mainland was 2007. Within a few years that had crumbled. Western Australia was the first state to fall away from the ALP in 2008, followed by Victoria in 2010, NSW falling in 2011, Queensland falling in 2012, and concluding with South Australia’s fall in 2018. The Federal government went through the Rudd-Gillard leadership spills during this teardown, ultimately being losing control of the government in 2013.

This is an opportunity that we cannot afford to let go by the way. We are a party of Government, a party that leads Australia into the future, a party that progresses the country forward, and we have a lot to progress in this country. A conciliation with our national past and respect for our First Nations, climate issues, affordable and accessible housing, wages and superannuation among many others. These issues are front and centre of the national and state platforms of the party, and we cannot let these issues stray from focus. We need to continue building on the groundwork that has been laid down over the recent years. We need to keep focussing on issues that matter to Australia, rather than issues that only matter to us as hacks. We can vigorously discuss and debate issues within the party, but we cannot let any hack-tinted lenses blind us from the issues that matter to the broader community. Our policy needs to continue to resonate and reflect the feelings, the issues, the opinions of the majority of the community. ‘Issues that matter, not controversy’ needs to be the primary guiding principle of our party. To quote Paul Keating, the “Labor Party is a party of conviction, the Liberal Party is a party of convenience”. So let’s keep our convictions and stay true to the light on the hill.

I turn now to addressing my learned hacks of the diminishing ranks of the conservative persuasion and the ever-vocal zealots of the far left.

First, to those of the conservative persuasion. Labor campaigned on issues that stemmed from values such as integrity in democracy, respect for all Australians, and consensus not division. The National Anti-Corruption Commission and the Indigenous Voice to Parliament being two key examples of these values in legislative action. Australia is not a divided country, no matter how much you might try and import the false division of America. Our party brings people together, our country is about bringing people together. If your party is going to continue to divide people, to hide democracy, and to oppose the necessary progress that our country needs to continue being a modern country with modern values, modern economy, and modern living, then it is only upon your heads that you can blame for your fortunes. Democracy works when there is debate, and we welcome the debate. But should you not be willing to engage in democracy and rather oppose indiscriminately, then get out of the way of democracy and let the democratic will of Australia through. You are not the party of Government; you are a dwindling minority of partisan fanatics.

To our learned zealots and vocal idealogues on the fringe left. Compromise is not a terrible thing, compromise is democracy. What is often misunderstood or lost in the revolutionary communes – normally found not far from the city CBD – and book clubs is that ‘50% of something is always better than 100% of nothing’. The Labor Party governs, it does not shout from the sideline and complain that it could be better. Labor makes it better. The Labor Party is founded on the principle of producing a fairer, better Australia for all. In order to achieve that principle, a balance needs to be struck, a balance between all of Australia. That is what Government is: a balancing act. So, if those on the fringe want to deliver on their vocal promises, then we would direct them to do so, rather than claim credit for Labor’s deliveries when its positive and impede and complain about Labor’s policies when it fails to tick every box of the commune’s statement of demands.

Labor has been elected by the majority of Australians in the majority of states. We would submit to all hacks to take that on notice and not impede the democratic will of Australia.

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