Electoral fraud in Qld was Re: Fw: Labor figure tells all on rorts

Gary Maclennan g.maclennan at SPAMqut.edu.au
Tue Oct 31 23:34:28 MST 2000


Has brought this topic up.  It is very local but still couod be
effective.  This is a piece I wrote about it for the Front page on
Brisbane's Neighbourhood News.

Beattie - Going, Going, Gone?

The Criminal Justice Commission's inquiry into electoral fraud within the
Labor Party has just gone into recess.  Brisbane is awash with rumours
that, when the inquiry resits, up to six state Labor members of parliament
will be under the spotlight.   There may also be a federal dimension to the
ongoing crisis. Whatever the case it would appear that the inquiry has a
long way to run and no one can tell the extent of the damage that will be
done to the Beattie government.  Peter Beattie may be the Great Houdini of
Queensland politics but even he will be hard pressed to squirm out of this one.

To date the inquiry has focussed on the fraud that was perpetrated from
within the ranks of the Australian Workers Union faction.  However no one
should assume that the problems are confined to the AWU faction.  It may
well be that what the CJC has uncovered is not the work of rogue
individuals but rather the tip of a widespread practice within the party.
The motivation for this was of course the scramble for pelf and
place.  Think of a group of piglets scrambling and snapping and shoving to
get at the trough so they can eat more than anyone else and you will have
some idea of what the factional battles within the ALP have been all about.
Some observers believe that so acute is the factional struggle within the
Party that for years the ALP has had a culture where the manipulation of
the electoral role was a commonplace. These observers point to the fact one
of the current Party organisers was found guilty by the Party Admin
Committee of electoral malpractice and that an Old Guard identity has
admitted illegal practices to the CJC.

If factions other than the AWU were to be shown to be involved, this would
put an end to the strategy of those who would blame the entire fraud fiasco
on the AWU and in particular on the malign influence of its
leadership.  The latter, known to their enemies as "The Back Packer
Stackers" from the alleged high percentage of casual workers within their
union, have long been a powerful force within the ALP.  The AWU leadership
was particularly influential with the Goss Labor governments of
1990-96.  However they are, it seems, somewhat less happy with the Beattie
Govt, perhaps because it has close connections with the AWU's traditional
rivals and enemies - the Trades Hall unions.

No one has even suggested that the AWU are personally involved in any of
the practices that have been admitted to so far but the influence and
prestige of the union and faction have taken a terrible battering. The
response of the AWU cadre, who have given evidence, has been, it would
seem, to blame everything on Lee Bermingham, former AWU nominee for
organizer with the ALP.  But if the AWU faction were in fact hoping that
the buck would stop with Bermingham, then they are in all likelihood due
for a bitter disappointment.  Indeed the CJC has let it be known that
Bermingham gave evidence at a closed session.  No one knows what transpired
at this, however sources close to Bermingham have indicated that he gave a
full and frank account of what has been happening within the ALP. Moreover
it would appear that a cabinet level politician or politicians are about to
be publicly named.  This will test Beattie's claim that he would dismiss
any colleague found guilty of malpractice. Whatever the case there does
appear to be mounting panic within the Party and even some anxiety within
the very government itself.

So we are now faced with the very real possibility that Beattie will be
forced to call an election with some of his parliamentarians under a
cloud.  This could result in Beattie's defeat and the advent of a Coalition
Govt led by one of the great inconsequential lightweights of our time, none
other than Rob Borbidge.  We may in fact be about to see the souffle rise
twice in the return of Borbidge as State Premier.   We should however
stifle the impulse to laugh.  Any Borbidge led coalition would necessarily
include the crazed spin offs from what was Pauline Hanson's One Nation
party.  We may then be on the verge of a tragedy, one much greater even
than the continuation of a Beattie style government.

However it is very possible that the mere prospect of the former
One  Nationites with power will be too much for anyone to contemplate.  The
lesson of Pauline Hanson's rapid decline is that the rich and the powerful
eventually came down against her because her party's racism would have been
bad for business in Asia.  Certainly that is the line that Beattie will push.

He will also in all probability stress that the crisis of Labor can be
solved by changes in the Party rules.  These would result in a diminution
of the influence of the trade unions within the party.  Instead of the
present 60% voting power the unions might be offered something like 40% or
even less.  That would indeed see the end of Ludwig's power within the
Party. However Labor will always be Labor.  No mere tinkering with the rule
book will change that reality. Labor will always be a party that is anxious
to serve the ruling elites and eager to show how it can manage the system
for the rich and the powerful. They have the nerve to call this serving the
"national interest". Quite simply, the ALP will never be a party which is
committed to the kind of radical reforms which would see the abolition of
the power of those who currently hold up to 80% of the world's wealth.

Yet it is very radical reform that we desperately need if we are even to
survive as a species. At the very least we must progress beyond the present
world of Tweedledum and Tweedledee, where the only alternative to a right
wing Labor Govt is an even more right wing Coalition. While we remain
trapped within these choices the problems that confront us will never be
addressed. The real solution to the crisis facing us is to firstly
absolutely refuse to even countenance the return of a National Party
government in any guise.  However this refusal must also be combined with a
move to the left of Beattie. That requires the election of Left-Community
candidates who will put forward a program that addresses the real needs of

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