Oh where, oh where has Labor's heartland gone?

Wednesday, August 14, 1996

Oh where, oh where has Labor's heartland gone?

By Dave Wright

SYDNEY — One hundred people gathered at the Balmain Leagues Club on August 3 to consider the question: Has Labor lost its heartland forever? The meeting was organised by the Balmain branch of the ALP.

Speakers included former Labor government ministers Peter Baldwin, Bob McMullan and Peter Walsh, and NSW Labour Council industrial officer Gail Gregory. Each tried, unsuccessfully, to explain why the ALP had lost so much support.

McMullan and Baldwin were almost apologetic about the difficult economic decisions forced on the Labor government by globalisation and technology. Neither, however, used the big "W" word in reference to Labor's heartland, preferring instead to talk about "middle Australia". It was left to Walsh to comment that the working class had been left out of the picture by a Labor government too interested in pandering to minority interest groups such as the environment lobby.

Gregory was left to take up the question of women, and the ALP and trade unions. "The ALP and the trade union movement's interests are different", she said, adding that "the unions had failed to deliver to their members". Because times had changed, there would never be another Accord, she said, arguing that the union movement needed to move further away from the ALP.