Local Political Column
g.maclennan at SPAMqut.edu.au
Sun Dec 31 18:17:12 MST 2000
I have hesitated about putting this on Lou's list because it is so very
local. However it has attracted more attention than anything I have ever
written - attacks in Murdoch Press, abusive phone calls, threats to sue and
even congratulations. So I thought that maybe it might be of interest to
some comrades. Besides it kind of gives a more balanced view of what I am
doing politically. It's not all karma and dharma. (Or maybe it is!)
The subject matter is the current Sheperton inquiry into electoral rorting
in Queensland. This was the process by which people were signed up on
electoral roles who lived somewhere else etc . the ink of practice that
Jose has described in his posts on Miami.
Cast of Characters
AWU -Large right wing union. Organises casual labor and unskilled
workers. It relies heavily on compulsory unionism. Always eager to do a
sweat heart deal with the employers. It organises the dominant faction with
the Labor Party. This is the AWU faction.
Peter Beattie : Current Labor Premier of Queensland - a true man for all
seasons. A pragmatist totally unencumbered by vision or principle. Ideal
Karen Ehrman currently in prison for rorting. A member of the AWU but
anti-Mooney and anti-Bermingham.
Lee Bermingham: ex-anarchist, ex-ISO, ex- Communist Party of Australia,
formerly a Part organiser appointed by the AWU. A Gay and personal friend
of yours truly. Lee was expelled from the ALP and sacked from his job as a
state organiser for the party because he supported an anti-Ludwig candidate.
Anna Bligh: current white hope of the socialist Left. Not very socialist
and certainly not very Left.
Joan & John Budd. Unsavoury characters. Key members of the AWU and enemies
Drew Hutton - ex -anarchist and now leader of the Greens. In 1996 he
helped bring down a Labor govt and put in the Tories under the egregious
Rob Borbidge. Used to be a friend of mine. Now muttering about suing me.
Mike Kaiser: Former state Secretary of the ALP (Queensaland Branch) A uni
graduate, a typical suit who naturally oriented to the AWU faction. Has
been a keen practitioner of rorting but todate has survived. Should crash
in the New Year.
Bill Ludwig State Secretary of the AWU. the "onlie begetter". see Mario
Puzo's books for an understanding of his persona.
Tony Mooney - Mayor of Townsville. Member of the AWU. Friend of
Bermingham. Cannot get into state parliament so he can become state premier.
Dennis Murphy died in 1984. He was Beattie's mentor. I raised his
political activities because Beattie has been trying to present himself as
Con Siacca - Federal Politician and leader of the AWU. Beset by rumours of
involvement. tipped to crash early in the New Year.
Wayne Swan: former state secretary of the local branch of the ALP. He is
now a federal politician and looked about to have a brilliant career. That
too is tipped to end in the New Year.
Now read on:-
Beattie's Mentor and Mate was a Rorter.
November's Neighbourhood News's front page on Queensland politics has been
shown to be very accurate. As predicted the scandal has now become a
federal one and this week, Wayne Swan, one of the coldest and most
pragmatic of political operatives, a true high flier, has been named and
perhaps properly plucked. Neighbourhood News has no sympathy for this man
yet his exposure will be a blow to ALP leader Kim Beazley, for the latter
has foolishly placed a great deal of importance on Swan's advice. Only
slightly less damaging are the allegations about Con Siacca another AWU
What we are not being told by the Premier and the Courier Mail is that
electoral rorting has long been a way of life within the ALP. For instance
the late Dennis Murphy, Beattie's mate and personal mentor, rorted Stafford
in 1983 and the subsequent police investigations were only called off
because of his pending death in 1984.
Yet Murphy is regarded as a "saint" within Labor circles. Did the Premier
not know what his good friend and adviser was up to? Whatever the case he
has never spoken on this matter. This should not be surprising given
Beattie's oft-expressed admiration for the greatest rorter of all - Joh
State side the news for Labor got markedly worse on Friday the 1st December
with the disgrace and dismissal of Joan and John Budd. These are not your
average party workers. Joan Budd was a key member of the AWU faction, a
strong supporter of Bill Ludwig, and a personal friend of Karen Ehrman who
has been imprisoned for electoral fraud.
Labor sources allege that Budd and Jim Elder masterminded a strategy to
keep Tony Mooney, Mayor of Townsville, out of state Parliament by getting
Karen Erhman to give AWU preferences to the Left's Mike Reynolds in the
preselection battle. It was this anti-Mooney move that led to documents on
Ehrman being leaked to the Federal Police. So what began as a row within
the AWU has now spread to what is potentially a major disaster for Peter
What is Beattie up to? The Courier Mail, ever faithful, is endeavouring to
cast him in a De Gaulle type above-the-factions role. Reality is of course
otherwise. Thus at the crucial Admin Committee of Thursday 31st Bill
Ludwig arrogantly moved to take the chair. This was countered by Peter
Shooter of the Socialist Left who then moved to have the AWU's Secretary
Bill Ludwig expelled from the meeting. Beattie instead of supporting this
motion defended Ludwig and asked that he be allowed to stay. Beattie was
extremely aggressive in his defence of the AWU. He called for ranks to be
closed. He then permitted the TV channels to film him with Ludwig sitting
Why did Beattie not join in the move to purge the party of Ludwig, the
Leader of the faction that has brought such disasters on the ALP? Moreover
why had he not moved earlier to appoint Anna Bligh as his deputy? Why did
he turn to yet another male head kicker, Terry Mackenroth, especially at a
time when the public is sick to death of party heavies? The answer is of
course that Beattie is still a factional animal and is desperately striving
to prevent the Socialist Left from getting greater power within the Party
following the disgrace of the AWU faction. His nominating Anna Bligh as a
future Party leader should fool no one. Despite all the proclamations to
the contrary, Beattie is also moving to shore up the AWU faction.
Beattie's main hope rests with the Courier Mail. It eagerly seized on the
involvement of Tanti of the Liberal Party to widen the scandal to the
Opposition. It also ran the line that the whole rorting affair was the sole
fault of Lee Bermingham former Party organiser. It has now stooped to
trading in Bermingham's personal family matters in what can only be
interpreted as an attempt to discredit him as a witness. It has even gone
beyond this with the worst type of gutter journalism calling Bermingham a
slime ball and demanding that Bermingham be jailed. It chooses to ignore
that so far everything that Bermingham has said has proven to be true.
The personal attacks on Bermingham initiated by the Courier Mail continued
with the ALP's counsel at the inquiry, Bob Mullholland, resorting to the
most brutal homophobia in a crude attempt to destroy Bermingham's
credibility. Not since the Bjelke-Petersen era has anyone's sexuality
being used in this manner. Sources close to Bermingham say that he was
deeply shaken by the ALP's :"poofter bashing". Apparently he expected
something better of the Beattie government. Well he will not have been the
first Australian to learn how ruthless the ALP can be when its hold on
power is threatened. After all it is well known that when pigs are feeding
at the trough it is dangerous to interrupt them.
Why have the ALP and the Courier Mail moved to crush Bermingham? Why are
they not concentrating their fire on those who caused the scandal? The
answer is that they are trying to contain the damage in a desperate effort
to preserve the Beattie government. The fear is that if one more Labor
figure rolls over then the whole Party will come crashing down.
Labor sources say that Beattie has been threatened with a split if the
Party does not move to defend Mike Kaiser. This would explain Beattie's
refusal to expel Ludwig from the Admin Committee. It would explain why he
has backtracked from his promise to call a special meeting to discuss Mike
Kaiser's position. It would explain why he has attacked Bermingham as a
"self-confessed rorter". It would explain his use of the redbaiting word
"cell" to describe Bermingham's efforts. The implication here is that
Bermingham was somehow a hostile communist force that entered the ALP body
politic and acted independently.
Bermingham was of course always acting under orders from his factional
bosses. Everyone knows who they were. Let us name them now again. Bill
Ludwig and Con Siacca led the AWU faction. The Party Secretary was Mike
Kaiser and before him it was Wayne Swan. None of these people would ever
permit something to go on within the Party they did not approve off. It is
an insult to our intelligence to suggest otherwise as Beattie has done.
Beattie knows all this too but he has chosen to ignore the truth and form a
de facto alliance with the AWU. The goal for this ALP government is above
all survival. If that means doing a deal with the AWU or indulging in a
spot of poofter bashing or red baiting, the that's ok. It is very much a
case of "Whatever it takes, mate." What, one wonders, does Beattie's
ethical team, which was led by Dr. Noel Preston, now think of the Premier's
However despite these rotten deals and the Courier Mail's best efforts to
boost Beattie's stocks as the "courageous reformer", the panic is still
spreading that not only will his government will be brought down, but that
we will have another electoral victory by John Howard's government. Such
an eventuality would be truly tragic. The alternative to Beattie is a
coalition containing the Far Right spin offs from One Nation. Howard would
use another term to continue his assault on the protection of the poor
through the welfare system.
However we should not let our hatred and fear of the Liberals drive us all
too easily into the embrace of Labor. We should never forget that we had
13 years of Labor Rule, from 1983-1996. There should be no future for any
illusion that would imagine that the ALP has been or ever can be
transformed into the party that will establish an egalitarian and truly
There can no longer be any doubt in anyone's mind that Labor Party exists
to serve the rich and the powerful that make up the master class. It is
equally true that Labor worries even less about the trickle down effect,
the crumbs from the master's table that we are supposed to feed on. Yet it
was the "trickle down effect' that was the original impulse behind the
formation of the Labor Party.
The founders of Labor genuinely worried about the victims of the
market. Of course they never contemplated the abolition of the
market. However today's men and women of Labor have openly embraced the
values of the market and refuse to even consider the impact of their
"reforms" on the working class. Thus it was Labor's very own Carmen
Lawrence, the darling of the middle class women, who brought in the brutal
mandatory sentencing laws in Western Australia. Thus it was the Hawke and
Keating Governments that gave us enterprise bargaining which has proved to
be such a powerful weapon in the bosses' armory. Thus it is the
intellectuals of Labor, who figure so prominently in the Brisbane
Institute, that now openly talk of the "welfare burden". They have even
taught Noel Pearson, the former Aboriginal leader, to dance to the same
tune. He has proved such an adept pupil that he is now the black leader
most likely to. It would never occur to the intellectuals who so eagerly
support Pearson's cant about the "welfare trap" to talk of the burden that
the wealthy constitute for the rest of us.
It is because of all this that it is vital that we move beyond Labor and
reinvent a Left. For some, that means voting Green. Not for Neighbourhood
News though. For there have been rumours in the Press that the Leader of
the Green Party, Drew Hutton, has been making overtures to Rob
Borbidge. We have no idea why Hutton is talking to the National Party once
more. Borbidge and Hutton is even an odder couple than Doug Slack and
Hutton made. What would Pat Gillespie, the former journalist and Borbidge
adviser have to say about it?
Neighbourhood News has said all this before but let us spell it out for the
good people that support the Greens. Any attack on the Labor Party must be
from the Left. If you like, think of Ralph Nader. His whole campaign may
have cost Gore the Presidency. However his platform and policies
represented a clearly more progressive alternative. The Democrats may
whinge about 'Darth Nader' but they now know that if they want Nader's 2.5%
they have to move to the Left. By contrast when Hutton brought down Goss'
Labor government he did so by attacking it from the Right. The tragic
result is that now when it is most needed there is no left alternative to
Labor. We cannot punish the corruption and cynical careerism of the ALP by
electing decent people. Instead we remain trapped in a hell where the only
alternative is the unspeakable Borbidge. And some people still wonder why
the ALP never gets any better.
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