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Queensland Labor needs federal intervention

By Ken McKay - posted Wednesday, 15 September 2010

The Queensland Labor Party in the 1970s was a living joke, incapable of winning state government and a lead anchor for the ALP in Federal elections.

Graeme Richardson in the book Mates regales in stories about how the Queensland machine men campaign activities were long liquid lunches and woeful election campaigns.

The efforts of Dennis Murphy, Bill Hayden and Peter Beattie in securing Federal Intervention were visionary. It enabled the old fossilised machine men dedicated to protecting their fiefdoms to be thrown out and skilled operators such as Terry Hampson and Wayne Swan who created the framework for Labor government to be in power in Queensland for 18 of the last 20 years.


Contrast this with the current machine men led by Anthony Chisholm: one only has to look at the efforts in the Brisbane City Council and the recent federal election to realise there is something wrong in Peel Street.

The Brisbane 2008 council elections saw the Labor Party secure only 29 per cent of the primary vote for the Mayoralty, 33 per cent on a two-party basis.

In the recent federal election we saw a swing in Queensland on two-party preferred basis of more than double the national average (Queensland, 5.35 per cent; nationally, 2.6 per cent) against Labor.

It has been reported in The Courier-Mail that the State Secretary, Anthony Chisholm has briefed the caucus on the federal election, claiming that the performance of the state government was not a factor in the federal vote.

The question needs to be asked, then, why did the ALP have the worst result in the nation?

If the performance of the Queensland government is not the reason, this only leaves the performance of the Queensland party machine.


The Queensland ALP this year cancelled its annual conference yet again. An organisation that runs from debates and avoids the contest of ideas becomes introverted.

The administrative committee delayed getting federal candidates into the field while the faction bosses argued and tried to manipulate rules about whether there would be pre-selections or central selections.

Democracy in the Labor party cannot be the plaything of the faceless factional bosses looking to entrench their own style of Tammany hall rule.

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About the Author

Ken McKay is a former Queensland Ministerial Policy Adviser now working in the Queensland Union movement. The views expressed in this article are his views and do not represent the views of past or current employers.

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