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Byron Shire
June 14, 2024

A big weekend for conferences, if not solutions

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There were fights over the future of Australia, and the past, at major political conferences in Brisbane and Sydney on the weekend. Cloudcatcher Media with Midjourney AI.

The ALP has just held its national conference, in Brisbane, but most of the progressive ideas were discussed only on the fringes, and on the streets outside, with the official debate constrained. Down in Sydney, things pushed further into crazy-land at the Conservative Political Action Conference, an Australian version of the Trump-worshipping American event.

At the Brisbane Convention Centre, there were no previous Labor prime ministers in attendance, with security presumably keeping a particular lookout for anyone with a resemblance to Paul Keating.

There hasn’t been an in-person ALP National Conference since 2018, and Prime Minister Anthony Albanese arrived to a rapturous welcome. Albo soon laid into the Greens, (who took another seat from his party in Brisbane at the last federal election).

‘They are the blockers, we are the builders,’ he said. ‘And we’ll get on with the job.’

Mr Albanese spoke a lot about ‘Aussies doing it tough’, claiming the Greens had no genuine desire to solve the housing crisis, ‘they just want the issue, the campaign, the social media content.’

PM Anthony Albanese and Richmond MP Justine Elliot. Photo Jeff Dawson.

While not addressing the specific criticisms of Labor’s proposed housing scheme, now a potential double dissolution trigger, he said there would be more housing supply from the middle of 2024 and more rights for renters.

‘We are the party of the Great Australian Dream,’ declared the PM.

Compromise and delay

Unsurprisingly, the construction union’s suggestion of a super profits tax was not agreed to, but some new words about increasing government investment in social and affordable housing via ‘a progressive and sustainable tax system, including corporate tax reform’ appeared to mollify the union’s national secretary Zach Smith.

Outside the convention centre, environment groups and their supporters were demanding an end to the destruction of native forests, and noisy CFMEU representatives were equally determined for it to continue. In the end, the party of compromise did what it usually does, and maintained the status quo, science be damned, saying it would ‘halt and reverse forest loss by 2030’ but not ban native logging.

The convenor of the ALP’s own environmental network, Felicity Wade, said this was a ‘travesty’.

Similarly, on the indexation of HECS/HELP debts, the Labor conference resolved only that the party would ‘work’ to avoid shackling students with a lifetime of debt, without committing to any actual changes.

Three countries whose leaders agree that nuclear submarines are cool, and red white and blue are the best flag colours.

The government didn’t budge on their support of Scott Morrison’s love child AUKUS, but added extra paragraphs offering reassurances on nuclear non-proliferation and waste, to make us all feel better about the extremely expensive submarines.

Asylum seeker policy was softened slightly, allowing study and work rights for people waiting for protection claims to be assessed, and the ALP pledged to raise foreign aid to 0.5 per cent of gross national income. When this might actually happen was unclear.

Meanwhile at the casino…

While all this was happening, down in Sydney, a who’s who of right wing nutcases descended on Star City to furiously agree with each other about how a yes vote in the Voice referendum was going to destroy Australia, at the Conservative Political Action Conference.

Attendees paid up to $7,000 to hear words of wisdom from speakers including Tony Abbott, Alan Jones, Jacinta Nampijinpa Price, Barnaby Joyce, Bronwyn Bishop, Ian Plimer, Bridget McKenzie and Pauline Hanson, along with a grab bag of Americans with suspiciously white teeth.

Organisations associated with the event include the Institute for Public Affairs and Advance Australia, which describes itself as ‘a movement of 250,000 Aussies fighting for the Australian majority against the toxic influence of the left.’ In practice this apparently means lying about the referendum as often and widely as possible.

What kind of future for Australia? Cloudcatcher Media with Midjourney AI.

Media were given red passes with ‘FAKE NEWS’ helpfully printed on them. Alan Jones wore a ‘Vote No’ cap and said he didn’t need to hear any details of the proposed Voice, as he was opposing it on principle.

Tony Abbott declared, ‘This generation of Aboriginal Australians are not victims. This generation of non-Aboriginal Australians are not oppressors.’

Actually, no matter how you dress it up, the latest Closing the Gap figures make it clear that Australia is going backwards in most of the relevant areas that can be measured in terms of relative disadvantage. For example, among Aboriginal Australians, fewer children are developmentally on track when starting school, and the rates of children in out-of-home care, adults in prison and people dying by suicide have all increased.

While politicians from the blue and red teams continue their culture wars and battle for space in public consciousness, actual Australians, particularly Indigenous Australians, continue to fall through the cracks.

David Lowe
David Lowe. Photo Tree Faerie.

Originally from Canberra, David Lowe is an award-winning film-maker, writer and photographer with particular interests in the environment and politics. He’s known for his campaigning work with Cloudcatcher Media.

Long ago, he did work experience in Parliament House with Mungo MacCallum.


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  1. “Media were given red passes with ‘FAKE NEWS’ helpfully printed on them”, that’s fantastic. Thank you for telling us this. That made my day. Unite the Right, people.

  2. Ah same old same old, David. The conservatives are terrible, Labor not really any better and only the Greens worried about anyone falling through the cracks. So worried that they are holding up long term investment in housing – and emergency housing for a group most dangerously affected by homelessness or its threat – on the demand for a rent freeze! Something that would have questionable impact on rental availability and impossible for the federal government to deliver. Yes it’s allowed for continued posturing and theatrics for the ambitious MCM but very justifiably attracts the charge of “ they just want the issue, the campaign, the social media content.“

    Who could argue with that?

    Aspects of the No campaign are abominable but Interesting that you seem to be portraying the whole debate as a culture war between the Blue and the Red teams. Seriously?

    No progressive ideas – I suppose commitments like doubling the contribution of renewables to energy supply, wages growth, strengthening Medicare and making health care more affordable are not at all progressive. Nah! Don’t be too dismissive of statements of commitment to other social aims. Labor has basically delivered on all its pre-election commitments … except for one that attempts a longer-term and more permanent plan for social housing (as apposed to ones that tinker and largely ignore the core issue of supply). Now what would be holding up the HAFF?

    I don’t think PK would be turned away from the Labor conference – but if he was we’d at least know because, unlike the Greens conference, the media are welcome. And how welcome is Linda Gale these days?

    Btw David, I’m still waiting for a retraction or apology for your column suggesting escalating HECS debts were a repercussion of the last federal budget!

    • We are progressives, Liz. We have a brave new future planned, with freedom and wealth for the people. Furthermore, we are constantly pushing for progress towards it. We are not ‘conservatives’, we are not trying to preserve the status quo. You guys are regressive. You are pushing to make the situation worse. Pre-industrial – nay, medieval and feudal. You’re more backward looking than the conservatives.

      • You’re right again Christian, those sorts of labels can be pretty meaningless. The LNP are not “conservatives”, respecting traditional institutions and wanting the status quo. They do appear to have a more radical agenda of individualism and eliminating the concept of society.

        Don’t assume that you know my political ideology in any depth just because I find it difficult not to attempt to provide a balancing view to the unsophisticated pro Greens analyses that dominate these pages.

        • I apologise if I incorrectly tared you with the watermelon brush. When you imply that a functional society requires suborning people’s individual interests for the greater good of the collective, you aren’t delimiting the level of volunteerism in the transaction you propose. On which side of John Locke’s existence are you aiming for?


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