Labor's ever more distant light on the hill

Issue 
Labor deputy leader Tanya Plibersek deperately hopes people will tolerate her party's slow reform progress.

Tanya Plibersek, the deputy leader of the Australian Labor Party and MP for Sydney, made a speech on June 15 where she tried to fend off the political pressure Labor is facing from the Greens and other smaller parties to the left.

Her basic argument was that Labor still remained loyal to its “light on the hill” and she urged younger people in particular to be more patient and allow her party to slowly make progressive change.

She warned that the increasing influence of minor parties “may prevent the election of a reforming government” by fracturing the progressive vote. Her appeal was to stick with Labor because it alone could deliver reforms.

“What we need to do better as a party is to convey, especially to young people, the superiority of real achievement in politics over simply shouting from the sidelines,” she said

The problem is, it is not working.

Since 1975, $3.6 trillion has been shifted from wages to corporate profit in this country. A big class robbery presided over by Coalition and Labor governments.

Tax cuts delivered between 2005 and 2012 by Coalition and Labor governments took $169 billion out of federal revenue and gave it disproportionately to the rich.

Our rights to organise effectively in trade unions have been weakened, our public services eroded and our democratic right to protest is being restricted. The shameful gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Australia is not closing. In unemployment and rates of imprisonment, the gap is growing.

Then we have the crime against humanity that is indefinite detention of asylum seekers in Australian-run detention camps in Manus Island, PNG and in Nauru.

When Plibersek was grilled on this issue at a candidates forum in Alexandria Town Hall on June 22, she argued that offshore detention was a policy to protect asylum seekers from people smugglers.

Even on an issue that constituents in her own seat of Sydney are strongly expressing their opposition — the $17-billion WestConnex road and tunnel tollway project — Plibersek could not take a clear position. She refused to commit to cancelling the $2.3 billion federal loan for WestConnex, should Labor win the July 2 election.

Labor's “light on the hill” has receded so far away, it is no wonder anyone who is progressive is now looking for alternatives. And that can only be a good thing.

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