Hi there, fervent followers. This writer is just back from a spot of R&R. Sorry about the lack of fodder for you to consume or criticise.
You know, when one travels overseas, one loses the thread of community opinion often because of a paucity of access to locally produced news and current affairs. The federal government’s fortunes are fairly easy to follow but the vicissitudes of local affairs are a void. Or so I have often thought.
As with many Grumpy Retired Uber B@stards (GRUBs for those who like this stuff), when I got back, I wandered the halls of TV and radio news, looked at the opinion columns of the Crimes and even read the Chronicle once. The consensus I reached was that nothing much had changed. People were still whingeing about the government, the tram, planning issues, Icon water bills. It was the same before I left and the writers were the same old GRUBs.
But last Thursday’s Letters to the Editor made me sit up, take notice and spit out soggy cornflake remnants and Shape milk. Jon Stanhope had gone for Andrew Barr’s throat.
This letter was a confusing one for me because many of the sentiments previously expressed by the last Chief Minister but one I do strongly agree with. The Asylum seekers plight being the main one.
But, methought, isn’t there a time when relevance is shunned, the deprivation sought, and policy rage receding?
When I decided to give public life away, three years before the election I did not contest, relevance deprivation in the public arena looked pretty enticing. Sure, we all need to feel important and needed from time to time but the public area should not always be the panacea for our relevance deprivation syndrome (RDS).
One of the symptoms of RDS is brain snapping. Shooting from the lip (or the pen/keyboard). The first casualty after the reputation of the writer is truth. Fact and truth are interchangeable because they are both absolutes. There are no alternative facts. But don’t let the facts get in the way of a good Letter to the Editor.
Returning to the Letter. Mr Stanhope berates the Chief Minister, whom he mentored to an extent whilst I was on the team, for suggesting that the CM would only deal with a new peak ACT Clubs association. He described that new group as the CFMEU Clubs Association. He also described the CFMEU as the most powerful and influential organ of the [Labor] party. He also said that if the Labor Party was smart, it would sell the clubs (before the establishment of an independent integrity commission).
I agree that the current CM should consult as widely and comprehensively in the contemplative stage of any policy development, regardless of whether the party to be engaged with suffers an antipathy to the government. But that is all I agree with.
Firstly, the new group is chaired by Athol Chalmers, President of the Burns Club, not anyone in the CFMEU. Athol Chalmers is a well-respected member of the community, engaged in many community benefitting activities and a man of immense integrity. Also, the CFMEU is not a club. It is a union. The Tradies group is the club which is a member of the new group as is the Hellenic Club. And… the Labor Club Group is not a member of either peak association at this stage. You propagate alternative facts, Jon.
In the dark ages, the ACT ALP was ruled by the Left faction and to some extent that is still the case. And it is true that the CFMEU was the dominant union which was affiliated with the party. Another significant union was the SDA (the shoppies) and the TWU. But a number of years ago the CPSU affiliated and their numbers at the annual conference meant that the CFMEU and TWU combination was outgunned by that one union. Fortunately for those unions, all three are affiliated with the non-official Left faction. So, shenanigans were played out with that faction’s caucus and some solidarity expressed on the conference floor. But the point is that Jon’s notion of the dominance of the CFMEU is outdated and has been for some time.
Jon also perpetuates the myth that the Labor Party ”owns” the Labor Club Group. No organisation can “own” a licenced club in the ACT. It is illegal. Only members of a club can “own” one. The members of the Hellenic and Burns Clubs own those clubs, not the Greek or the Scottish communities. The Raiders don’t own the Raiders clubs, the Ainslie Football Club doesn’t own the licenced Ainslie Football Club group nor does the Belconnen Football Club own the Magpies anymore that the Catholic Church owns the Southern Cross Club Group.
If Jon wants the Labor Party to divest itself of influence through membership of the governing board, fine, but don’t perpetuate the lie that the Labor Party owns the club and benefits directly and immensely from it. He knows only too well that the Labor Party cannot “sell” the Labor Club Group. He also knows too well that the membership at a Special General Meeting would need to vote to put the Group on the market. He also knows that the market doesn’t have an appetite to “buy” the clubs in the group and that there is a real movement by clubs to find alternative revenue sourcing to replace dependence on pokies.
Additionally, he would know that the membership is aware of where the Club’s revenue goes and they are not under any illusions about the group’s support for the ALP and they join the club voluntarily because of it or in spite of it.
He would know that the party created a foundation to divorce its earning from the clubs’ industry to the child care industry and he was party to the discussions to create that foundation.
As for the rest of the article, his language diminishes himself as a former Chief Minister and damages his legacy. His description of the Chief Minster’s “Trump-like response” was uncalled for, inaccurate and unbecoming.
Jon’s venomous antipathy to poker machines in the casino, the CFMEU, and it would appear, Andrew Barr, would not be tolerated in the party if he were an ordinary member. Barry Reid was a former member of the House of Assembly here in Canberra, a member of the Left and when he spoke out publicly against Rosemary Follett, CM at the time, he was expelled from the party.
In his second paragraph, he said “I don’t know if it is just me, but…”. Well, Jon, it is just you.
My plea to Jon Stanhope is to stick to advocating for the asylum seekers and do any complaining about party policy inside the tent. Once he had a strong guiding hand on policy within the party but not anymore.
Old soldiers should just fade away.