Events Recap: The Problems of the Labor Party

**Sean O’Beirne recaps some recent politically-focused Readings events **

We had two events at Readings recently about the problems of the Labor Party. Jim Chalmers talked about his new book, Glory Daze, and Aaron Patrick talked about his new book Downfall. Jim Chalmers argued that things weren’t that bad. Aaron Patrick argued that, oh, yes they were.

The Jim Chalmers event was some answer to those who, after the ‘PNG Solution,’ find no reason to feel sympathy for anyone in the Labor party. Chalmers, who for six years was Wayne Swan’s Chief of Staff, made a strong case that during the Global Finance Crisis, the Labor party, in government, really did do the right thing, in the right size, and for the right amount of time, and that very few governments in the developed world were able to do this. Chalmers said that the ALP never got enough thanks, partly because it was too awkward to try and tell the electorate: ‘we saved you, you remember, when we were led by that bloke we had to get rid of.’

But if Jim Chalmers is saying, please, look what Labor’s top floor can still do, Aaron Patrick is pointing at the basement, and the basement stinks. Down there, where they decide who gets to the top floor, the rooms are full of union officials, who’ve got no interest other than keeping things almost exactly as they are - or being a little corrupt. Or a lot corrupt, like Eddie Obeid, who became NSW State Minister for Mineral Resources and awarded himself a mining licence worth $100 million dollars. Although his son later explained in court that the real figure was much more likely to be only $75 million.

And right up the tippity top, the party has Kevin Rudd, again. Aaron Patrick, at his event, said very freely that Rudd should not be put in charge of anything, because he always functions as two people: the cheery one, who wins Labor elections, and the petulant one, who destroys it once it’s in government. Both Jim Chalmers and Aaron Patrick (for all his pointing at the stench) believe that Labor can still be a great reforming political party. Maybe. But it seems more likely that the markets, which the Labor party tried to run, have slowly turned the Labor party itself into a kind of market. And what it’s mostly trying to sell us now is a lot of tents on Manus Island.

Sean O’Beirne is an Events Co-ordinator for Readings.