Monday, September 26, 2011


Source: The Daily Telegraph, 26.9.11

A FIERY showdown is believed to have erupted in Tony Abbott's office as senior frontbenchers demanded an explanation for his promise not to re-introduce individual workplace contracts.

It is believed Julie Bishop and Joe Hockey ordered Mr Abbott's staff to leave before confronting him over the confused industrial relations policy last Wednesday.

It came after Mr Abbott ruled out the return of individual workplace contracts as part of any IR law reform in an interview the previous night.

"They both got stuck right into him," a senior Liberal source said.

"Only Barnaby (Joyce) was in there to defend him."

Mr Abbott - already facing pressure within the party room to commit to changes to the Fair Work Act which would provide more workplace flexibility - had failed to inform several members of his leadership group about the sudden change in policy.

Another Coalition source confirmed the confrontation and said Ms Bishop and Mr Hockey were furious.

"They all went to the trouble of getting their lines right on the issue, saying we would announce policy before the election and it would be based on pragmatism, then the leader walks out and just announces there will be no individual contracts," they said. "It was the first we heard of it."

Liberal backbenchers Kelly O'Dwyer and Jamie Briggs have both clashed with Mr Abbott over the refusal to engage on IR policy, calling for the debate to be had in the party room.



While there are several people in the Left of the ALP who deserve commendation for their principled stance in support of party values over the asylum seeker issue, it is not fair of the SMH to purely characterise moves within the party for greater democracy as only coming from the Left. There are many, many people in all factions of the party very disturbed about the direction of the party on refugees, asylum seekers, and human rights. Calls for greater democracy and action to open up democratic channels inside the party are being instigated by those who would be traditionally associated with the Right, as much as the Left . The ALP needs renewal and one thing that needs to be done is to stop the easy labelling of people and events as being of the Right or the Left.

Jenny Haines

SMH, 26.9.11

THE left wing of the ALP will launch a nationwide campaign today aimed at mobilising the grassroots to push for greater democracy and policy reform in the party.

Emboldened by the Left faction finding its voice over asylum seekers and other issues, the Labor renewal campaign will have at its core the reforms to the party's rules and structures recommended in the election review by party elders John Faulkner, Steve Bracks and Bob Carr.

Ten days ago, the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, sanctioned a full-blown debate at the December national conference over the proposed reforms.

Advertisement: Story continues below She proposed a handful of measures she would like to see. She left open to wider changes by calling for the party to embrace ''the party members' empowerment reforms proposed in the Faulkner-Bracks-Carr review''.

The Left took this as a sign to push for the direct election of a greater proportion of delegates to the national conference, which is the ALP's premier policy deciding forum. The renewal push, to be launched today, will include the direct election of national conference delegates and changes to the way candidates for elections are selected.

A petition to be circulated among the rank-and-file nationwide calls for the driving of new policy agendas ''by embracing new policies and ideas grounded in solid Labor values''. It demands the party always puts Labor's values first.

''By making sure that whether we are elected members of parliament, trade unionists, policy committee activists or branch members, we always keep our unique Labor values at the core of our work and put the party's interests as a whole first,'' it says.

The ALP has been wrestling with its conscience in recent weeks as it grapples with direction over asylum seekers.

The Left has begun to speak out openly, both in and out of caucus.

Friday, September 23, 2011


A Film Review of Red Dog

by Jenny Haines, 23.9.11

The success of Kriv Stenders film "Red Dog" demonstrates that when filmakers and investors in Australia are prepared to put their money behind a good story, and a great rollicking rock music score, a film can be a success with the public. Apparently Red Dog is this seasons "Kenny" in terms of box office returns. And no wonder! It is a wonderful heartwarming and heartbreaking story of Red Dog, a dog well known to the northwest of western Australia in the 1970s.

Red Dog was a stray picked up by the local publicans on the way into Dampier to take over the local pub, but Red Dog, a very intelligent, loving and playful dog was everyone's dog until he met his chosen master, John, a drifter who rode into town one day to become the local bus driver. John meets Nancy, and love and jealousy thrive in the relationship between the couple and the dog. But tragedy strikes and Red Dog goes on a hitch hiking trail that takes him all around the north west, up to Darwin and down to Perth, and finally back to Dampier. His travels become the stuff of pub legends which are told throughout the movie. We meet the human characters of the north west in the 1970s too, people running from other lives, making huge amounts of money mining iron ore, "drinking and whoring" (as described by the near caravan park owner) but living their lives through the fun and enjoyment of their community, and their union. Red Dog is awarded the title of mascot of the local branch of the TWU.

There are some interesting sub texts in this movie - it would appeal to the nationalism that is sweeping Australia at present and nostalgia about the past, but care needs to be taken by those who assert that this was all Anglo Saxon White. The town of Dampier in the 1970s was a multi cultural as they come, men, mainly from all over the world who had come to make money out of mining iron ore. Missing in the movie was much of a reference to the local aboriginal tribes, long since pushed out of the mining areas, but there was a recognition in the titles at the end that the movie was made on the ground, and with the permission of local tribes.

A wonderful movie. If you get chance, go see it. For a trailer

Note the Screen Test of Koko at the bottom of the page - beautiful!!




Julia Gillard is pushing a policy that contravenes the party platform and Labor MPs are beginning to speak out. Party members like Jenny Haines will back any politician who takes a principled stance.

Is there another way for ALP on refugees? There’s an easy answer to this question. Yes, there is another way. But it requires political courage, something which sadly seems to be lacking in the current federal government. And it requires an understanding of the ALP’s National Policy and Platform. And for those in factions who voted for party policy at the last National Conference to argue for that policy in Caucus, and to vote for that policy on the floor of the House.

Does this all this in turn require Labor politicians to cross the floor? If they do, and the Coalition refuses to support Gillard’s Malaysia Solution Mark 2 legislation, the amendments are dead in the water. Gillard and her Cabinet will have egg all over their faces, but no refugees will be damaged further by being sent to Malaysia.

Any Labor politician considering crossing the floor of the House has to take many factors into account, including whether they are taking such action is against the decision of Caucus. To cross the floor in those circumstances is an expellable offence.

In a research note issued by the Parliamentary Library, ‘Crossing the Floor in Federal Parliament 1950 to 2004’, the researchers noted that crossing the floor is a gesture unique to Westminster style parliaments. A government or opposition member of parliament refuses to vote with his or her own party in a particular division and crosses the floor of the parliamentary chamber.

In the period that these researchers studied, 1950 to 2004, there were 14,243 divisions in Australia’s federal parliament. Of these 439 (3 per cent) were identified as divisions in which members of parliament (MPs) crossed the floor. The floor crossing divisions in each chamber were:

• Senate: 297 (67.7 per cent)
• House of Representatives: 141 (32.1 per cent)
• Joint Sitting: 1 (0.2 per cent)

The MPs crossed the floor over a range of subjects. Taxation was the major issue being the subject of 43 floor crossing divisions. This was followed by legislation on referendums (26), the environment (23), issues relating to the parliament (21), parliamentary entitlements (21), primary industry (19), committee establishment and referral (17), civil aviation (14), electoral law (13) and human rights (12).

The act of crossing the floor does not appear to have adversely affected all floor crossers’ careers. The number of floor crossers who went on to become ministers, parliamentary secretaries or presiding officers is substantial (43 per cent) and compares favourably to the number of all MPs who attained such office (30 per cent). The study also notes, "The last two Labor MPs to cross the floor — Senator George Georges in 1986 and Graeme Campbell MP in 1988 — were both suspended from the party for their actions".

Doug Cameron, representing the Parliamentary Left Convenors, has so far said that he will vote against the proposed amendments to legitimise the Malaysia Solution in Caucus, but will be bound once Caucus has made a decision.

However there is a complication here. Where Caucus has made a decision that is contrary to National Conference Policy and Platform, Caucus members are not bound by that decision. Following this logic, Caucus has no authority to make the decision to endorse the Malaysia Solution Mark 2 because to adopt a position that directly conflicts with the party’s platform is in violation of Paragraph 5 (d) (ii) of Part B (Rules) of the ALP’s constitution which reads:

"The Federal Parliamentary Labor Party shall have authority in properly constituted Caucus meetings to make decisions directed towards establishing the collective attitude of the Parliamentary Party to any question or matter in the Federal Parliament, subject to:
"(iii) no attitude being expressed which is contrary to the provisions of the Party Platform or any other decision of National Conference or National Executive."

Paragraph 5 (b) of Part B (Rules) of the Constitution of the Australian Labor Party reads:

"(b) The National Conference shall be the supreme governing authority of the Party and its decisions shall be binding upon every member and every section of the Party."

Several Labor politicians have publicly expressed their disquiet with the government’s direction over asylum seekers — such as Melissa Parke, Anna Burke, Janelle Saffin and John Faulkner — but whether they are prepared to cross the floor to vote against the Gillard/Bowen legislation is yet to be seen. Certainly there are plenty of party members urging Labor politicians to do all they can to stop the government going ahead with the Malaysia Solution Mark 2. The Refugee Action Coalition is actively debating, lobbying and rallying to all they can to stop Malaysia Mark 2 — including encouraging Labor politicians to cross the floor if that is what is necessary.

But apart from the rules and legal issues, the moral question here is this: if a politician crosses the floor to defend party policy and platform, are they justified? And should not party members actively defend any politician who takes a principled stance in support of party policy and platform?

It is becoming very clear that the Gillard Government, desperate to pacify voters in marginal seats and focus group members, has boxed itself in to a corner on refugee policy. As Gillard and her ministers abandon this country’s commitment to the Refugee Convention, Doc Evatt, who worked so hard to help establish the United Nations, and to write the Refugee Convention, must be rolling in his grave!

It is still not too late for the Gillard Government to turn back to Labor Party Policy and Platform. The Prime Minister, the Minister for Immigration and all Labor MPs have signed a pledge as parliamentary candidates: "To do my utmost to carry out the principles embodied in the platform".

The ALP National Platform states, Chapter 7, Paragraph 157: "Protection claims made in Australia will be assessed by Australians on Australian territory", which is a clear endorsement of onshore processing.

Julia Gillard, there is a way out of the box!

Go back to the party policy and platform. Abandon the proposed legislation, re-read the High Court Decision, listen to your Party, and process refugees fairly onshore giving effect to Australia’s human rights obligations.

Monday, September 19, 2011


My letter as published in the SMH Monday 19.9.11 -

The Editor,

It is becoming clear that the Gillard government has boxed itself into a corner on refugee policy. We now see the opportunist Tony Abbott as the advocate of human rights, with Gillard and her ministers abandoning this country's commitment to the refugee convention.

It is still not too late for the government to make a turn towards Labor Party policy and platform.

The ALP national platform states, chapter 7, paragraph 157, ''Protection claims made in Australia will be assessed by Australians on Australian territory,'' which is a clear endorsement of onshore processing.

Julia Gillard, abandon the proposed legislation, reread the High Court decision, listen to your party, and process refugees onshore, giving effect to Australia's human rights obligations.

Jenny Haines Newtown

Read more: