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Australia could be the long-term winner worldwide

By Peter Bowden - posted Wednesday, 24 November 2021

The opposition, the Labor Party also needs to reform - first to think through its purpose for existence and secondto rid itself of the shibboleths of the past,

Of significance is the overall poor election performance of the Australian Labor Party. Since 1901 there have been 44 House of Representatives elections and 42 Senate elections. In the House of Representatives elections, non-Labor parties or coalitions have won 30 and the Australian Labor Party (ALP) has won 14. Labor's primary vote fell to 33 per cent at the 2019 election, with sharp falls among blue-collar workers. It was the first time since 2001 that a Federal government in Australia won a third consecutive term in office.

Labor's reform is firstly in its commitment to the trade unions. Membership of trade unions in Australia has fallen from just over 1.5 million union members in 2016, compared with just over 2.5 million in 1976. Since 1992, the proportion of employees who were trade union members has fallen from 40% to 14%.


The Australian Labor Party was formed by trade unions in the 1890s. Currently, they provide financial and personnel resources for electoral campaigns. The 45th Parliamentary Handbook of the Commonwealth of Australia, 2017, states that about one third (33.7%) of Labor's currently serving federal MPs have worked in trade unions, or 32 of Labor's 95 membership. Union officials entering parliament as Labor members peaked in 1901, at 79% of Labor members,

There are several reasons why we need to divorce the trade unions from our political system from. One is corruption. Last year, former national secretary Kathy Jackson of the Health Workers Union pleaded guilty to two charges of obtaining financial advantage by deception, relating to the use of union funds for travel and personal items.

The history of trade union corruption is long-standing. The Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption reported on December 2015, finding "widespread and deep-seated" misconduct by union officials in Australia.

But the need for change in the Labor Party is deeper than the trade unions.

We need constructive thinking from the left. Not querulous complaints. The day of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition is long dead. The phrase 'His Majesty's Opposition' was coined back in 1826. It is no longer applicable. What we need to hear now are positive statements of what Labor intends to do if they win government- How they will make a better Australia. This viewer of the TV news is fed up to the back teeth with the endless attacks on government.

What we want to hear are the positives. What they believe should be done. I know that they are supposed to be the government in opposition, but do they always have to oppose? We follow leaders who are more positive, as textbooks and articles have been telling us for years. The Labor Party is not generating followers.


The overriding reason is that Labor policies and union thinking are not how people in a winning nation think. All of us want to make the best of our lives – to win out in the competition with others, to do better than the next man. Those on the rise, or the even larger number who believe that hard work and effort will win out for them in the long term, will vote for the party that appears to embody that opportunity – the conservative Liberal-National Coalition.

Many of us, however, this writer included, cannot vote for the Coalition. It is too committed to the big end of town, too unwilling to obey that universal moral rule: "Our duty in life is to help others" – a rule which a University of Oxford study says is universal: "Help your family, help your group, return favours, be brave, defer to superiors, divide resources fairly, and respect others."

So this writer votes Labor. Because he believes they will deliver a more moral society – a society more willing to "help others". But his vote is somewhat unwilling, as he believes that a rule, just as important, is that the winnings should go to those who work harder and smarter.

So we need to reform our political parties or even get rid of them and place our trust more in independent thinking.

Another task: Our first Australians have left us many lessons, but they suffer a lot. We must do more for them -a task we all want to take on. And which cannot wait until we strengthen our political decision-making systems. But that task, imperative as it may be, is a whole new issue.

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About the Author

Peter Bowden is an author, researcher and ethicist. He was formerly Coordinator of the MBA Program at Monash University and Professor of Administrative Studies at Manchester University. He is currently a member of the Australian Business Ethics Network , working on business, institutional, and personal ethics.

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