By Tristan Ewins
The following below are a series of motions that I am trying to have adopted in substance at the 2011 Australian Labor Party (ALP) National Conference this December. While not exhaustively addressing the issues I am concerned with, the most important change Labor must make is to drop its commitment not to increase the tax intake as a proportion of GDP. Even a small increase in the Federal tax take of 1.5% of GDP would bring in new funds in the vicinity of $20 billion a year. This could be a modest progressive tax rise which nonetheless could deliver very significant reform of this country's welfare state, social wage and public sector.
Without change here Labor will lack the flexibility it needs to implement the kind of genuine and robust reform that alone can win back voters' confidence. The prevailing policy straight-jacket means Labor cannot initatiate substantial new initiatives (eg: the National Disability Insurance Scheme) without defunding other important programs. (for instance, there are much tougher eligibility rules for the Disability Support Pension - even affecting people whose job prospects are very significantly reduced by their disability.)
For a reforming, progressive Labor government we need to do more than 'tread water' when it comes to the welfare state and the social wage. There is desperate need for more funding for Aged Care - where our most vulnerable are facing degradation, loneliness and untold suffering. And the National Disability Insurance Scheme will cost many billions if it is genuinely to serve its purpose.
Bill Shorten, in particular, was at the forefront of the push for the NDIS. Now he needs to take the lead publicly to ensure Labor raises new funds to implement the program as soon as is possible. And also to fund stop-gap measures in the mean-time - so Labor is seen 'to deliver the goods' well before the next election.
The Greens, meanwhile, are talking about incorporating dental into Medicare. And Labor's best chance of achieving re-election will be to meaningfully and extensively address the Cost-of-Living crisis where it comes to energy, water and housing stress. 'Cost-of-Living' is the mainstream issue that will 'make or break' Labor at the next Federal election.
The plight of the unemployed must also be addressed with reform of the punitively-meagre "Newstart Allowance". And all this must also involve billions in new funds if Labor is to achieve its object - and win over voters. Labor needs to show substance in the face of an electorate sceptical about half-measures and spin.
Finally Labor needs to reconsider its policy of privatisation, looking to the market forces which see privatised energy, water and infrastructure costing consumers more than would have been the case had these remained in public hands. This is as a consequence of higher borrowing costs, the need to internalise profits into cost-structures, and the lack of market power of small consumers. A long-term re-orientation to the mixed economy, with strategic re-socialisation - is where Labor must therefore position itself. Efficiencies, meanwhile, can be retained as a consequence of co-operation with unions - sharing the benefits of increasing productivity where possible. Increasing public housing supply to create downwards pressure on housing affordability could also be crucial.
I will be working through the Left to try and have the substance of the motions represented below adopted, even though there may need to be re-wording. (without change of substance) Whether or not these proposals actually get to Conference is uncertain, though. I am hoping figures such as Shorten - in Labor Unity and Doug Cameron on the Left - will take these kind of proposals seriously, and indeed take the lead publcily in advocating the cause. Again: Shorten needs to apply the same principles of decency and compassion he has applied to the NDIS more broadly - and especially into Aged Care where the need as especially dire. And Cameron's high-profile and leadership could bring these concerns 'into the public eye' ahead of Conference. My hope again is that they and other relatively progressive figures will see the need to adopt the substance of these proposals on a cross-factional basis.
For other Labor activists, MPs, officials who are interested in running with these proposals please let me know. I probably will not be at Conference (I am not a delegate) - but I am passionate about these causes.
The draft motions are below.
Tristan Ewins (Left Focus)
The Conference supports this position on the understanding that Labor needs to ‘deliver the goods’ by implementing very significant new policy initiatives in order to secure the confidence of the electorate, and re-inspire its own organisational and core support base.