April 26th 2014

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Articles from this issue:

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Beware the fine print in Asian trade agreements

ECONOMIC AGENDA: Does Australia export 274 per cent of its wine production?

EDITORIAL: High-profile scientists rebut climate change threat

SOCIETY: Gender agenda will confuse our children

POLITICS AND SOCIETY: Conservatives are wrong to disparage distributism

ELECTORAL AFFAIRS: Ex-AFP commissioner slams AEC's Senate vote bungle

WESTERN AUSTRALIA: Joe Bullock is right: the ALP left is mad

ECONOMIC AFFAIRS: Infrastructure and superannuation: a match made in heaven?

SOCIETY: How political correctness harms children and society

FOREIGN AFFAIRS: The significance for Australia of the rise of Indonesia

FOREIGN AFFAIRS: Landmark elections for European Parliament

OBITUARY: Farewell, Brian Harradine


CINEMA: How 'subversive' is Darren Aronofsky's Noah?

BOOK REVIEW Building a free and prosperous nation

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Joe Bullock is right: the ALP left is mad

by John Elsegood

News Weekly, April 26, 2014

There is at least a prima facie case that the ALP, as a political collective, is mad.

Despite the left-wing mainstream media’s more manic utterances, the controversial WA Labor Senator-elect Joe Bullock is neither an arch conservative nor a dinosaur. He is a traditionalist with mainstream views and a lifetime of service to Australia’s largest trade union, the SDA, known as the Shop Assistants Union.

The anti-Bullock furore, which erupted a week before the April 5 re-run of WA’s Senate election, bordered on the hysterical. During a single week one journalist from The Australian devoted no fewer than five articles to reporting on the SDA secretary.

The catalyst for the attack on Mr Bullock was the recent publicity given to a speech he delivered last November on faith and politics to the Dawson Society for Philosophy and Culture.

It was a well-received speech in which he reflected on his own mortality after suffering a heart attack in 2008; the influence of his father and grandfather; the past battles to combat communist influence in the unions; the need for religious faith to be protected from politics, and also the freedom for religion to be aired in the public square; and the need for politicians to have the courage to speak more openly.

“I don’t understand why people are attacked for expressing sincerely held views,” he said earlier this month.

Mr Bullock’s detractors dismissed his speech to the Dawson Society as “bizarre” and denounced him for holding “arch conservative” views. However, nothing that he said at the time could be deemed to be extreme. His style was honest and forthright, and his speech revealed that he holds firmly to the time-honoured traditions and values that have been the basis of Western civilisation.

The current federal Labor member for Perth, Alannah MacTiernan, who previously served for 17 years as a state MP in the WA Parliament, seems to have a problem with middle-aged males, given her attacks on both former Labor state opposition leader Eric Ripper and Senator-elect Bullock.

At 61, Ms MacTiernan is older than Mr Bullock. If she was seeking to rejuvenate Labor with fresh blood, she could have stepped aside to allow promising young Labor lawyer Matthew Keogh to contest the federal seat of Perth in last September’s federal election when it fell vacant. It had previously been held by former Labor Defence Minister Stephen Smith.

Ms MacTiernan maintained that Joe Bullock’s pre-selection to head WA Labor’s team of candidates for the Senate was costing the party votes. But this is hardly sustainable in light of the results of the 2013 federal election.

Mr Bullock on that occasion received three times as many votes from people voting below the line than did Louise Pratt, Labor’s number two on the ticket.

Yet the Left portray the openly lesbian senator, whose partner has changed gender from female to male, as the greatest female martyr since Joan of Arc.

Ms Pratt, in urging her supporters to vote below the line, stole votes from her party. Mr Bullock by contrast brought members of the silent majority to the ALP’s side.

In his speech to the Dawson Society last November, Mr Bullock said that trade unions provided political ballast to the Labor party as well as financial support. Without union support, he said, the ALP would fly off in dozens of directions and there would be no credible party as many of the rank-and-file members of the party, in his opinion, were “mad”.

He made this observation in the course of urging “regular people” to join the ALP and fight for their principles.

He conceded that the union movement as a whole was politically “to the left of the average punter”, and that the moderate Health Services Union (HSU) had been “disgraced by a bunch of crooks”. However, he maintained that unions overall were still more attuned to the needs of people than were Labor Party rank-and-file members.

Mr Bullock’s point was essentially that Labor should concentrate on bread-and-butter issues instead of allowing itself to be held hostage to “weird, lefty” trends such as support for same-sex marriage.

Labor’s self-defeating proclivities were amply demonstrated in the re-run earlier this month of the WA Senate election. After the poll, retiring WA Labor Senator Mark Bishop slammed his party’s “disastrous” performance, and berated it for going into the election still clinging to a mining and carbon tax in a state like WA.

There is a widespread perception among WA voters that the ALP regards the mining state that pays Australia’s bills and keeps the country running as unimportant.

The dumping of the experienced and capable federal Labor opposition leader Kim Beazley on December 4, 2006, when Labor was 12 per cent in front in the polls, and the party’s choice of two subsequent flops, Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard, is sufficient evidence for many Western Australians that the Eastern states rule.

Accordingly, Labor now struggles to win three of WA’s 15 seats in the House of Representatives and can no longer count on more than one senator being elected at half-Senate elections.

After Labor’s dismal performance on April 5, United Voice union WA secretary Carolyn Smith held a media conference on the steps of the state parliament and called upon Senator-elect Joe Bullock to resign. She condemned what she termed his “inexcusable” speech in November, as if that were the sole cause of the ALP’s latest woes.

Some commentators contrasted her attack on Mr Bullock with Mr Bullock’s statement in November praising unions for being a responsible, stabilising influence within the ALP. Ms Smyth’s United Voice union — formerly known as the Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Union (LHMU) — has itself been the beneficiary of inter-union deals with Mr Bullock’s union, the SDA.

One of these deals saw United Voice candidate Simone McGurk endorsed for, and subsequently win, the state seat of Fremantle. Another former United Voice office-bearer, Sue Lines, filled the Senate vacancy left by Chris Evans’ departure in 2013.

Ms Smith’s hypocritical call for the SDA’s powerful state secretary, Joe Bullock, to resign the seat he had won in the Senate prompted The West Australian (April 11, 2014) to splash her comments on the front page under the banner-headline, “ALP joke”.

Ms Smith’s media stunt unintentionally damaged the state Labor opposition, and infuriated party members, because it distracted public attention from a big news story about a $330 million cost blow-out in the construction of WA’s new flagship hospital.

A report, tabled in state parliament on April 10 by a government-dominated parliamentary committee, found “a litany of evidence” that the $2 billion Fiona Stanley Hospital in Perth’s southern suburbs would not open on schedule this year.

The Smith circus managed to ensure that the report did not make the front page.

John Elsegood is a Perth freelance journalist and a teacher of history and politics. 

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