Looking back on the past 50 years the Australian Labor Party once was a dominant political player in the make or break of government policy on a local, state, and federal level.
Labor held the seat of Bowman for half of that time under both Len Keogh and Con Sciacca. Since the end of gerrymandering in 1989, for almost 20 years seats like Cleveland and Capalaba were held by Labor and the seat of Redlands was held by Labor for a good 16 year period.
Labor members have held office at various times on a council level with Len Keogh going on to become Mayor in the early 1990s, and councilors like Frank Bradley, Craig Ogilvie and John Bonney being elected at various times with some form of ties to the party.
Labor won back to back election wins; its branches were numerous, it ran high profile candidates from various backgrounds such as teachers, police, lawyers, and business people and some of whom from diverse multicultural backgrounds with an understanding of the local people and their issues. Some of these MPs went on to become Ministers, one federal and the other eventually on to become the Deputy Premier.
Today Labor has only managed to win only a few roles in government: the seat of Capalaba at the 2015 state election and party member Tracey Huges won a seat on Redland City Council earlier this year. So what happened?
Since the fall of Con Sciacca in 2004 Labor has failed to win Bowman, branches have folded, membership has gradually declined.
Progressives won’t join Labor because of its support for projects like the Adani coal mine and Toondah Harbor. These people are more likely to support the Greens.
Working class people feel as though the party doesn’t represent their interest in a globalized world with many considering One Nation as their option now.
If Labor is seriously thinking about winning more state seats in the Redlands, and the federal seat of Bowman it must do five things:
- restructure the local party branches
- diversify its membership
- become more inclusive of ideas from the community
- establish grassroots connection with local community groups
- stop doing things which have been failing to win popular support
Another problem is that many see a growing elitism of thinking in groups like Labor and Liberal with an us against them mantra when people voice a view contrary to their own and staffers gaining career political status in the major parties such as Labor. If Labor isn’t to restructure by continuing more say for its members, engage in community consultation, and enhance inclusivity locally it runs the risk of becoming irrelevant for a very long time, perhaps forever.
Callen Sorensen – Karklis – 27 November 2016
Callen is an active member of the Australian Fabians Society, ALP, Crime Stoppers, Meals on Wheels and is a Quandamooka Noonucle Indigenous person with a strong commitment to community. Callen has worked in the retail and market research sectors and is currently a student at Griffith University and a manager of a small IT – based business webhaven