This is the man all tattered and torn
That kissed the maiden all forlorn
That milked the cow with the crumpled horn
That tossed the dog that worried the cat
That killed the rat that ate the malt
That lay in the house that Jack built.
Canberra nursery rhyme
As the yet-to-be-proved saga of the tattered and torn Craig Thomson, MHR, rages on, we have the extraordinary spectacle of the Prime Minister offering her unqualified support to her embattled colleague.
In 2007, the "house that Jack built" was actually the house that Kevin built— a new, fresh ALP, with clever operators, smart use of spin, and powered by the underlying desire of Kevin Rudd to destroy the power of ALP and union factions that regularly beat up Australian Prime Ministers. Kevin’s house was to be a place in the sun whereby he, as Prime Minister, and occasionally the parliament, would run the country, his way. The ALP Caucus counted for nothing, neither did the ALP heavies. It didn’t last long.
The Labor and union factions that Kevin Rudd hoped to neuter pounced last year, and he was replaced by his loyal deputy, Julia Gillard, who was part of the group that plotted his downfall. It was a prime example of ALP power-brokers and union godpersons running those who were running the country. Names, like Bill Shorten, David Feeney, Mark Arbib. Karl Bitar and Paul (there will be no job losses with the Carbon Tax) Howes, were revealed.
Now the sordid Thomson business has exposed a hornet’s nest of intrigue, infighting, revenge and hatreds within the same group of powerbrokers of the ALP Right in Victoria. As well, we are seeing that Thomson’s former union, the one with the missing money and missing records, seemed to operate from a Sopranos script.
So with Julia Gillard fully supporting Craig Thomson, and presumably the gang from Victoria, this might be a good time to ask her about Labor’s “core values”.
In a speech to the Sydney Institute on April 13, this year, she spoke of “core Labor values”:
Welfare reform and workforce participation is an area where the facts of our economy, the demands of our society, new progressive policy and core Labor values can truly come together in a virtuous circle.
Not much of a clue as to core values there. But Julia Gillard’s Sydney Institute speech copped a serve, from, of all quarters, The Communist Party of Australia. They noted, in their publication, The Guardian:
The reference [to core Labor values] is a cynical and dishonest attempt to equate her attack on progressive reforms of past Labor eras with basic working class values of equity and social justice. Gillard’s values are not working class values.
Ouch! If the Reds think you are “cynical and dishonest”, what thinks the loyal band of true believers? Nobody’s saying too much. All’s quiet from the rank and file. No doubt they’re watching “the dog that worried the cat that killed the rat” and wondering just what will be revealed next, about the man who “milked the cow with the crumpled horn”.
But trying to identifying Labor’s core values is essential if we want to know exactly who and what the Australian Labor Party now is, and what it stands for. And in trying to identify what Labor’s core values are, it is important to separate “core values” from “party policy” and Labor’s “party mythology”.
Perhaps an example of core values, or a party creed, is the address given by Sir Robert Menzies to the Liberal Party Federal Council in 1964. Of the “Liberal Creed” he said:
As the etymology of our name ‘Liberal’ indicates, we have stood for freedom. We have realized that men and women are not just ciphers in a calculation, but are individual human beings whose individual welfare and development must be the main concern of government … We have learned that the right answer is to set the individual free, to aim at equality of opportunity, to protect the individual against oppression, to create a society in which rights and duties are recognized and made effective.
In seeking a distillation of what is meant by “core values” within the Australian Labor Party, the task is not so easy. The ALP’s Constitution states that it is a democratic socialist party. The 2009 version, “authorized” by Karl Bitar, has a list of three “origins”:
The Australian Labor Party had its origins in:
- The aspirations of the Australian people for a decent, secure dignified and constructive way of life;
- The recognition by the trade union movement of the necessity for a political voice to take forward the struggle of the working class against excesses, injustice and inequalities of capitalism;
- The commitment by the Australian people to the creation of an independent, free and enlightened Australia.
The ALP Constitution then goes on to list 23 “Objectives” which spell out the party’s general policy directives in a range of political and social issues. Apart from motherhood [personhood?] issues, the objectives include socialist ideals such as:
(a) redistribution of political and economic power so all members of society have the opportunity to participate in the shaping and control of institutions and relationships that control their lives;
(b) establishment and development of public enterprises, based upon federal, State and other forms of social ownership, in appropriate sectors of the economy;
(c) democratic control and strategic social ownership ofAustralian natural resources for benefit of all Australians;
And, much further on, the curious objective of:
(o) the development of a democratic communications system, as an integral part of a free society, to which all citizens have opportunities for free access.
Reading the above, (o), seems to clear up the reason for the NBN being government owned, but the “free access” needs a bit of explanation, Senator Conroy.
Of course, searching for “core values” in both the creeds of the Labor Party and the Liberal Party, in relation to the Craig Thomson affair, is rather pointless. The values that Julia Gillard should be applying to the issue are those values that reflect a sense of decency; decency that most Australian’s would expect to find in nearly all of their members of parliament.
A sense of decency that would certainly say that Craig Thomson should not be judged until all the various investigations have been completed. But also a sense of decency that would require a Prime Minister NOT to say—“Craig Thomson has my full confidence”.
With the accusations made about the ALP paying his legal fees; threats against the HSU secretary; the missing $100,000 in cash; the missing union documents and the prostitutes—the Prime Minister is going to look a complete fool if findings are made against Craig Thomson.
Indeed, how can a Prime Minister possibly have confidence in any member who attracts so much political drama?