Labor loses its values – and votes

The Australian Labor Party has lost its soul. Oh, something is still beating in its carcass but that is just a lust for power.

That’s a harsh assessment, admittedly, but it’s hard to argue its validity. The saddest aspect is the way in which die-hard Labor voters have been abandoned by those who rule their party. These loyal supporters have been sold out by those who see the ALP, more than anything, as a vehicle for their personal advancement.

Take Wayne Swan. He is Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer. But he has no real inkling of what makes ‘working families’ tick. Oh, he talks the talk but he doesn’t walk in their shoes. Wayne is one of the privileged ones who worked the party machine to get into a position of power.

His defining career skills are as an apparatchik. It shows in his inability to understand the basics of economics: that handouts have to be paid for. There is no magic pudding tree and borrowings have to be repaid. It’s the system, Wayne, and you still don’t understand this basic home truth even though you sit atop the fiscal tree.

Sure, there are plenty of foolish people who will eagerly grasp a handout and think they are somehow getting just that little bit ahead. But the inescapable and implacable reality is that, ultimately, the handouts all have to be paid for.

This is why the Republicans and Democrats in America are tied in such a Gordian knot: they are both addicted to handouts but the lolly jar is so damned near empty they are afraid even to shake it anymore.

Bill Shorten is another who has sold Labor’s soul. He wants badly to be Prime Minister. Very, very badly. So much so he is willing to drive a Faustian bargain by pandering to militant unionism. It will deliver him some personal support but eventually it will be yet another body blow to the Labor Party’s ability to remain relevant to contemporary society.

Julia Gillard is the worst of them all. She is a classic power junkie. She cannot tell us what she truly believes in. Even staunch Labor supporters sense there is something wrong in the way our national leader tries to tell us what the future can be. She can’t because she is more worried about her own future than what happens to the country.

Then there is Paul Howes. This unionist who continues to edge closer to a seat in parliament but knows the time is certainly not ripe just now is kicking Labor while it is down. He keeps propping-up Julia Gillard because he knows – and she knows – she owes him. Big time. He put her there and it’s not bad to have a PM in your pocket.

But every Labor voter who fears the results of the looming September 14 election should bear in mind that Howes gave us Julia Gillard as PM. Anyone who thinks he should be forgiven that should recall the shambolic record of her administration over the past few years. It is as bad as anything since federation.

And while all this goes on, Labor’s true heart and soul – represented by people like Senator John Faulkner – are consigned to the scrapheap. These true believers have their cries for the party to heal itself ignored by those too intent on scavenging the last scraps of salvage from the wreck now stricken on the rocks of selfishness. The Swans, Shortens and Howes of Labor are the crabs and sea-lice cleansing the bones of what was once one of the great social democratic parties of the western world.

They should be ashamed but they just don’t give a damn. They have transplanted their greed and avarice in place of the values that once drove Labor. The labour movement desperately needs someone to articulate those values once again. Is there yet a voice in the wilderness with that capability?