Leading Gladstone ALP activist joins the Socialist Alliance

Phil Golby. Photo by Dick Nichols.

Phil Golby was the president of the Port Curtis and Hinterland branch of the ALP until October 20. Then, along with five leading members, he publicly resigned to protest against the Queensland Labor government’s proposal to sell off public assets despite mass opposition from rank-and-file ALP members.

Until October, Golby was also the president of the Gladstone branch of the Queensland Council of Unions (QCU). He is a state organiser with the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, working out of the union’s Gladstone office.

Golby has now joined the Socialist Alliance. Dick Nichols, Socialist Alliance national trade union coordinator, interviewed him in Gladstone.

What finally made you leave the Labor Party, after having been a leading activist?

One of the last things that made me decide to leave was the mass mail-out letter I received from Anna Bligh and Andrew Fraser, which was a sales pitch to get ALP members on board for their privatisation of our public assets.

That was the final straw.

Our branch was totally opposed to the sale. Given the lies they were putting forward about how good it is, I couldn’t have honestly gone out and told people that I supported a Labor Party that is selling our future.

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What sort of response have you had to your decision to leave the ALP? Is anyone saying that you should have stayed in and continued to fight?

I’ve had a very, very positive response. I’ve only seen one SMS, printed in the local paper, that has been negative. Ninety nine percent of people have been very positive and very supportive.

A couple of the left members I know, who have also been very supportive, have said to me that us leaving the party means the right will win. I don’t believe it will.

Yes, they may be winning the numbers, but I don’t believe they’re actually winning politically, because what they are doing is turning people against Labor and killing the party, which is a sad thing.

What is the one thing that makes people most outraged about the privatisation in Queensland, particularly of Queensland Rail?

Basically, it would be the way it was done. It was forced on everybody without any real negotiation, without any consultation.

It was basically: “This is what we’re doing, we’re doing it.” Nobody sat down and listened to the rank-and-file members, especially [the views] of the local left membership of the ALP.

It wasn’t “this is what we would like to do”. it was, “this is what we are doing”, and eventually it was rolled out. No real consultation, nothing that was really put up to be agreed upon. Not that we would have agreed with the sale of public assets anyway, but it was just, “this is what we are going to do”.

In New South Wales, Labor’s primary vote polls at 23%, and the Greens at 17%. A lot of the trade unionists and activists in the ALP are looking elsewhere. Some of them are going towards the Greens, but not all. What do you think about this trend?

I believe it’s similar here, in Gladstone, but I don’t think the workers here are actually looking towards the Greens because it is a very industrial area. I believe they are looking for something more “worker- and family-friendly”, a lot more open and a lot more democratically run than Labor.

The sad part of the fall-out of any political choice like Labor’s is that quite a number of people vote informal, which basically does nobody any good.

There are a number of unionists who already vote for minor parties, such as fishing parties, one-issue parties etc, which also isn’t really a good move at times.

But we do have quite a core of unionists who are looking for other left-based parties to support.

The Socialist Alliance stands for pro-worker, pro-community and pro-environment policies. It’s not big enough yet for many workers to think of it as the alternative to being in the ALP. But we do stand for building a new party for working people, a real party of labour. How do you see that approach?

I see it absolutely as a positive. I believe that one of the reasons that I left the Labor Party is that it has moved too far to the right.

It’s now bowing down too much to the multinationals and it’s looking after their interests more than anything else.

I believed that the Labor Party should be about looking after the workers and the ordinary citizens of this country. At the moment the Labor Party is not looking after these people. We need an alternative that does.

You have joined the Socialist Alliance. Do you have a view about how it could grow in the Gladstone area?

Because the Labor Party has moved away from the grassroots, away from looking after workers, I think that the Socialist Alliance can occupy that void here.

I believe we can get a branch going in Gladstone that will put an alternative at an election sometime in the future.

I believe we should look to build a presence in all tiers of government. Then people as workers, but also taxpayers and ratepayers, will have an alternative rather than the Liberals and the conservative Labor Party.