[This article is posted at Independent Australia today.]
The Australian Labor Party needs major reform, even leader Bill Shorten thinks so. But what constitutes “major” reform depends on who’s talking. To Shorten it reportedly means you don’t have to be a union member to join Labor, and perhaps unions and factions will have a little less say in preselections.
A few weeks ago I suggested Labor ought to disavow the market-fundamentalist neoliberalism that has dominated Labor and most of the world for the past three decades, because neoliberalism has been the major cause of rising economic and political inequality, and it directly caused the Great Recession that still grips much of the world. Not only does neoliberalism undermine Labor’s founding purpose, to stand up for ordinary people, but it is a baseless and discredited ideology, as I have explained in my book Sack the Economists, and it has brought the return of plutocracy and the new gilded age, as exhaustively documented by French economist Thomas Piketty.
Although I advocated reform of the ALP, I hold little hope it will happen. Even where they are not overtly corrupt, Labor and too many unions are dominated by careerists whose only goal seems to be to acquire power for power’s sake. Shorten’s incremental changes will not break the power of these people. Indeed there seem to be few left in Labor who have not accommodated to the betrayal of Labor’s purpose. (I hasten to add I am a supporter of unions in principle, but too many of them have also become ossified.)
Left to its own devices, the ALP is unlikely to fundamentally reform itself. It would take someone at least of the stature of Gough Whitlam, and no such reformer is in evidence. Therefore a different strategy is required.