SYDNEY — The New South Wales ALP machine ("Sussex Street") and local members Peter Baldwin (federal) and John Murray (state) have been led a very merry dance here in recent days by the party's Haberfield Branch.
The fracas has been caused by the branch's decision, made public in late January and endorsed at a February 11 meeting, to close down, declaring "rank-and-file membership of the party a waste of time".
According to branch spokesperson Ian Robertson of the Health and Building Surveyors Association, Haberfield's February meeting "was the best attended for years, and there was enormous support for the criticisms contained within the lengthy motion on notice".
The motion detailed "the Party's movement away from traditional Labor polices" in such areas as financial deregulation and deplored the "monetarist economic policy aimed at making Australian workers pay the price for the economic irresponsibility of business, financiers, bankers, 'entrepreneurs' and governments which have removed themselves from a regulatory role".
Haberfield also voted to celebrate the ALP's centenary by declaring that "the membership is treated contemptuously by the machine as nothing more than a way of access to uncritical volunteers to leaflet and staff polling booths for indifferent candidates".
Neither of the two "indifferent candidates" in question, Baldwin or Murray, attended the Haberfield meeting, though the minister assisting the minister for employment and education services did grace the rank and file with a lettergram saying that dissolution would not be a "constructive response to members' dissatisfaction".
However, Sussex Street's overlordship rules even in death. Haberfield was informed that it didn't even have the right to euthanasia, and consequently the original motion was amended to read: "The branch notes the attractiveness of ceasing operating, returning all books and appropriate material to Head Office and wasting members' time no further but notes the advice that the Rules may prevent a branch disbanding itself".
Haberfield Branch will now try to put itself down at its March meeting, with Baldwin and Murray invited to attend the obsequies.
Finally — proof that the branch members want to remain active in politics — the branch voted to affiliate to an ALP "Peace in the Gulf" group and to call for the immediate disbanding of the inquiry into the ABC's coverage of the Gulf