The Australian Labor Party: Still the Right Choice

Elinor Summers, 23, is an Electorate Officer for the Labor party and a student at La Trobe University studying politics and Chinese. She spoke to my defunct politics blog majorMinor about why the Greens are overrated, the Liberals will ruin us all, and Labor is still the right choice for the left.

majorMinor
Which Australian political party do you support?
Elinor Summers
mM
Why have you chosen this party as the recipient of your glorious vote? (NB – all votes are equal, Msz. Summers’ vote is no more glorious than yours)
ES
I used to be a Greens supporter, but as I spoke to more people involved in politics it became apparent that the values I hold dear – such as unionism and feminism – were not a regular discussion. I also grew frustrated at the Greens’ failure to implement any real-world change.
It’s very easy to be idealistic about governing, but we live in a representative democracy and compromise is an important part of that. Just because you may believe the world should be a certain way, doesn’t mean everybody else does.
Compromise is an important part of representation, if you want to be involved in a democracy you need to listen and be representative. Labor is by no means perfect in this regard, but the Greens’ stubbornness, particularly regarding the initial Emissions Trading Scheme that Kevin Rudd attempted to get up, is a total turn off.
The friendship and comradery that I have found in the party have also been a vital part of why I support Labor.
mM
In your opinion, what are the key policies that make this party important for Australia?
ES
Their policies relating to the provision of health care through medicare, their commitment to more equitable industrial relations, and their commitment to public education.
mM
What do you see as the most important political issue/s in Australia today, and why??
ES
Climate policy, although not an area I’m personally interested in, is obviously important. Particularly the need to develop renewable energy sources; it actually makes no sense to have an entire country functioning on the basis of resources that are going to run out. Also, having a planet to live on is kind of important.
I think workers’ rights are very important too, especially now. Union membership is falling and people are working longer hours, more erratic hours, being treated poorly in the workplace, and frequently doing unpaid work. The apathy toward rights in the workplace is deeply disturbing and I fear a future where income disparity is even greater, and the majority of wealth is possessed by just a few.
Public education policy is also hugely important – we need funding for public education, including TAFE (Technical and Further Education) and higher education. Education is the gateway to a better life; my family couldn’t even afford to pay the optional fees at my schools, but I have been able to do so much with my life because I still had access to decent education.  I’m a TAFE graduate and I think TAFE is so important for the future of the workforce. It’s also important to have access to a different style of learning because not all people are suited to a university-style education (such as myself!). Universities are the same, they are producing the future workforce, research, everything!
Without education, there is no future for Australia.
mM
Which Australian political party do you feel is most dangerous to this nation’s future?
ES
The Liberal Party of Australia, based on its policies and the wide support they garner. The high value they place on capitalism and free markets is destructive for the workforce and marginalised groups. If I knew more about the economics, I’d write you a 40 000 word essay on this topic articulating my fears about it.
The Liberals’ neoconservative transformation of society over the past twenty years will disadvantage women, the queer community, those with disability, workers, people of colour, and others. The Liberals have also succeeded in dumbing down our political discourse with Tony Abbott’s three word catch-phrases and incomplete policies.
Basically, they’re fucked and we’re all fucked.
mM
Thank you for your time.

You can follow Elinor’s thought political and otherwise at @elinorsum

* * *
The Australian Labor Party in brief
The ALP was formed in 1901 and has held power for much of Australia’s history. Though ostensibly a centre-left party, the ALP’s size and longevity mean it has factions and members spanning many political stripes. The party has seen its fair share of political dramas, notably the recent leadership crises that saw Julia Gillard oust Kevin Rudd in 2010 only to have the same done to her just before the 2013 election. The Labor party is a member of the global group Socialist International, an association of broadly left wing parties.
Key elements of the Labor Party’s political platform are:
  • The economy: the ALP has economic policies focused on job creation and growth, and avoiding ‘savage cuts’ when dealing with economic problems such as the Global Financial Crisis.
  • Education: currently, the ALP’s key education policy is the Better Schools Plan, which pledges more money to primary education both in infrastructure provision and increased support for students with difficulties. Labor also has policies to increase funding for TAFE and increase the number of young people attending university.
  • Workers: the ALP has a focus on creating fair working conditions for Australian employees through protection for conditions like overtime and penalty rates, the creation of the Fair Work Commission, and compulsory superannuation.
  • Fairness: the ALP has numerous anti-discrimination policies to protect against discrimination based on race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and so on. Though, controversially for some, this has not extended to legalising gay marriage. Labor also believes in greater equity in the provision of health care, disability care, social services, and affordable housing.

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