Keeping Labor's light on the hill bright

Resurrection for Labor?

When I was contacted by the ALP to consider delivering the 2013 'Light on the Hill' Address. I told the organisers that usually I would despatch such an invitation to the wastepaper bin, writes Frank Brennan.

- Eureka Street

The reason was that as a priest, I considered such an inv itation too party political. However, on reflection, I called back. I was very blunt. I expressed the view that electoral wipe-out was the only conceivable outcome for the ALP and that there would be a need for the good of the country to re-found the party getting back to basic values, re-setting the political compass. I was told that was why I was being invited. So I said yes and we agreed to a date — 21 September 2013. Prime Minister Gillard then set 14 September as the advance election date. We thought that a wake one week later would be appropriate time for reflection.

Then Kevin Rudd returned to the helm and put the election date, as well as many other things, back into the mix. So we agreed to delay the dinner, being assured that the election would be done and dusted no matter what Kevin decided. A mate of his, I did not think he could win but that he might save the furniture. I thought he could pull off what George Wright this week described as a 'Dunkirk — suffering major defeat but managing to escape with ... army intact'. Labor 'ended up holding 55 seats', living 'to fight another day'. Its next generation of leaders has kept their seats in the parliament.

There have been innumerable post-mortems and words of advice as to how the party with new structures, election rules, and policies can pick itself up, dust off, and win the next election. Sadly some of those post-mortems have come with more coatings of spite and loathing. It is no part of my role in the public square as a Catholic priest to offer such advice, even if it be offered in a non-partisan, reconciling tone.

I daresay it would be of little value anyway. I am neither a professional politician nor a political scientist. I am not and never have been a member of any political party. But I am a citizen who cares desperately about the health of our body politic, the contours of political morality in a pluralist democracy under the rule of law but without a bill of rights, and the values that motivate our elected leaders and that underpin the laws and policies they enact.

FULL STORY Keeping Labor's light on the hill bright

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