Interesting to see so soon after my comment triggered by Rod Cavalier's report from annual conference two pieces in the media on related themes. The first is on management of national conference, the second is on union control.
Matthew Franklin reports in the Oz today that the ALP heavies have come up with a strategy to avoid a conference debate on same sex marriage. The ploy is to declare it a "conscience" issue. The supposed reasoning is that there is no value in looking to have conference dominated by a Greens issue.
But as a former ALP staffer tweeted on the story "Not sure how a majority of the FPLP voting against the PM is politically better than a majority of conference doing so."
I agree with the sentiment of the tweet - that where the division between ALP members takes place has no significance. I disagree with the import that the party can never be seen to be "disagreeing" with its leader pro tem.
Good politics would find a way to maintain the national conference as the supreme policy body, to recognise that members should be bound by the pledge on social and moral issues as much as economic ones. But good politics would also recognise that community opinion is still heavily divided.
A more useful and productive compromise would be an inquiry into relationships and the legal recognition of relationships in Australia. It could encompass a review of de facto relationships, and the now messy state of the legal recognition of de facto relationships that occur at the same time as marriage. That is, we have legally recognised a kind of polygamy.
Separately Bruce Hawker in the Oz has called for further reform of the ALP to reduce the union block voting power from 50% to 18% (the latter number to reflect the proportion of the workforce that are members of unions).
It is a good reflection of how futile was the Crean reform that took union control from 60% to 50%. But the move needs to be absolute. Political parties cannot be seen to be agents of external agents. The break needs to be complete.
I should note that Crean's poor judgement on this issue, the burning of political capital to achieve an insufficient reform, is a good reason why Ross Cameron is wrong in thinking the ALP might turn to Crean as a sacrificial leader.
Note: Long range prediction. If the next election is held in 2013 with Julia Gillard as PM, the ALP will win.
Novae Meridianae Demetae Dexter delenda est