Reflections on a few points about my resignation…

My recent open resignation from the ALP has two groups of recipients.

There is the small group of administrative staff and anyone in the party office who is interested, that makes up the formal recipients. The signed copy of my resignation is still in the mail to them, along with an additional PS pointing out that there were a few hundred reads of the on-line version at the time of signing off.

Then there is the Internet using public – you. A lot of you, at least going by the usual amount of traffic that comes to this blog. My most popular post is one addressing a creationist canard about “new information” not arising from mutation and the misrepresentation of Richard Dawkins to pretend they had him stumped.  That’s at about 1460 views after seventeen months – this isn’t a high profile blog. My resignation seems on the cusp of passing the 1000 mark, probably within the next couple of hours and it hasn’t even been up for 48 hours.

I’m a bit gobsmacked. Ordinary figures for the big blogs, but not for this one!

Of course, it’s not all about me, nor is it that people have just gone and discovered my blog. There was a particular political issue and an opportunity to send a message to the government. An issue that clearly people care about.

I’ve received quite a bit of kudos over this, both in the comments and at forums and the like where the post has been cited but I think that there are plenty of pats on the back to go around. People have thanked me for making a stand, I thank people for caring about our democracy. That’s the way we keep it working after all!

Now, on to a few of the points people have raised here, there and everywhere. I’m not going to be able to respond to everyone, but I’ve noticed some similarities in people’s concerns so hopefully I can get a nice spread of the issues.

From the comments on the post

Paul writes: “Either the ALP becomes a social progressive party again as they were under the likes of Whitlam and Dunstan or the Liberals ditch social conservatism and become a true liberal party.

I think there is a Keating criticism of the then Liberal opposition, that I think is applicable to Labor and indeed the way politics is done these days. “No framework of policy, no philosophical binding… Just a whole lot of mish-mash, unconnected motions.” – Paul Keating responding to a censure motion (1994).

Piecemeal, Popperian reform has a whole lot more going for it than what we have now, and what the Howard years offered. At least Popperian piecemeal can address established, discrete problems of large magnitude (through reform rather than revolution – which is the point). Take Labor on emissions goals and promised broadband – it’s not that they are impossible goals or that the party is too broad a church to cooperate, it’s just that there are no underlying, pervasive, recognised principals of governance to guide the party in getting its act together.

After all the navel gazing of 1998-2004, one would have hoped that the party had this worked out already. But no.

Michael writes: “The Newton episode demanded some sort of slap on the wrist, which suggests Rudd fully agreed with the way it was done.

I’m not sure that one can draw that conclusion, but I think at least one can say that the PM sees fit to trade off an act of principled leadership for some other political end. Which of course is also entirely unacceptable. I’d suspect political cowardice before full agreement.

Dennis writes: “A mandatory censorship is merely a form of “guilty until proven innocent”. The whole country is treated like a bunch of criminals in order to curtail a disproportionate minority of individuals who abuse it.”

Or if you really want to get down to the nitty gritties, prone to Type I error. Which I rather strongly suspect is an epistemological shortcoming of many of Conroy’s (and Fielding’s) supporters.

Lesley Dewar writes: “I have published a post that shows the complete absurdity of the Clean Feed rules.  It would have the site from which I sourced the link BANNED… Australians have the right to view these pictures and to appreciate this art.”

Banned unless people opt out of the voluntary tier, or if the involuntary tier becomes more restrictive which is of course a possibility. I suggest people do go and have a look at Lesley’s link. Some very nice photography. Well worth your time.

Gorgon writes: “Now we have the option to vote freely…”

I’ve always voted freely. And spoken perhaps freely to the point of carelessness. I can remember being at a location of polling in an electorate where Labor had done deals with Family First, and I guess I, in my ALP gear, spoke too freely with the Greens advocate about how crap Family First were in front of voters all day. In front of silently fuming Family First members (or Paradise Community Church draftees at any rate) as well. All entirely unintentional of course. 😉

I accidentally (ahem) didn’t follow the ALP how-to-vote card either.

Angus Grogan wrote: “Fantastic work Bruce, Labor = history.”

I don’t know about that. I think the philosophically bankrupt nature of the party at large will cause it some woes in future, and likely shorten its tenure in government, but the party is monolithic. Indeed, the Howard Government lasted twelve years in power with an incoherent political philosophy, through opportunity, dirty politik and the appearance of cohesion under their leader (when really they were a powder keg of volatile ideologues held together under pressure – and how they have exploded!)

There are a few good eggs in the ALP still though, who unlike me are in a position to make some difference in the quality of political thought within the party. But I can see their work being frustrated by a party that for the most part, doesn’t get what its own culture has become and doesn’t get what problems it faces. I wish them luck!

From a few comments abroad…

Mike at Whirlpool writes: “My compliments to Bruce for a well written and passionate posting relating to his feelings as to how the A.L.P. is performing. As a member myself I can understand why he feels that he must resign from the party.

I have only one question for him and others of the same ilk.

Can we do more to rectify this idiocy from within or from the sidelines?”

I won’t name them, I don’t know if that would be doing them any favours, but there are people in the Australian Labor Party that I very much want to stay there. People of intellectual substance and influence in the party. People with the ability to influence the direction the party takes.

They currently don’t have the ascendance in the party, but they have time. Let’s hope they don’t get worn down!

I like to think I’m a person of intellectual substance, but I know I don’t have the capacity to help the party from within at least not as much as a can from the sidelines. This is in part because of my abstinence from the formal side of the ALP and also because of the specific way in which the party compromises the way I operate.

Not that my objective is to help the ALP. My objective is to do my little bit to help the country and make the world a better place. Previously, some of this was done through the party but that’s obviously no longer tenable for me.

In answer to Mike’s question, I think it’s a case of recognising why you are political active, then asking in what way you can best reach those goals (without in the process inadvertently betraying them) – in or out of the party.

In response to people who have found their way to my open resignation post via Reddit, I say…

Thanks for the kudos, and your concern on the issue is to be applauded, however I’m not, nor have I ever been a politician! Though wouldn’t it be nice if a Labor senator was to resign in the senate over our concerns! Or at least a revolt from the backbenches.

Fhew! Okay, I’m beat! Feel free to continue the discussion without me for a while!

Thanks again, folks.

~ Bruce

P.S. Oh, and before I go I’d better start waving the flag!

No Clean Feed - Stop Internet Censorship in Australia

An open resignation from the Australian Labor Party

I’ve put this off for far too long, so I’ll be sending the following away in the mail some time soon, solving my printer-cable issues just to fire off this one letter in the mail.


How to save on membership fees.

Dear South Australian Labor Party,

I’ve been a rank and file member of the ALP now for a good part of my life now. Not out of any kind of personal ambition, but simply to support the party with the most ties to the tradition of the Australian Union movement, and out of some degree of hope that the party would at least engage in a meaningful philosophical dialogue amongst its members.

My political activity has always been somewhat informal and thus never caring to leave my mark, I’m largely unknown in the party. Like most members.

I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’ve never needed to tie myself down to do what I want to do, and familiarity with the more Machiavellian parts of the party culture is best avoided especially if one can manage to do so without compromise.

A balance between compromise and reaching political objectives to our own favour, as an approach is at worst pragmatic. It needn’t be a cynical exercise at all and I think it’s what I find in common with the better nature of the party.

And that’s why I’m writing this resignation from the Australian Labor Party. Less and less have I had to operate within the party and more and more it seems obvious that the network I have within the party will persist even if I do resign. More to the point, I’m deeply compromised by the party.

Increasingly, my political activity involves my writing. Indeed, this open resignation is being published on my blog so I can openly sever my ties to the party. I’m wondering how many people will read it. Last federal election, I got to a lot more people with my piece entitled ‘The Myth of the economic credibility of the Liberal Party‘ than I ever would have handing out how-to-vote cards or letter-boxing.

I’ve been compromised and embarrassed by a number of things the ALP has stood for, accepted or otherwise involved itself in.

  • Confusing the separation of church and state at a Federal level (where sect. 116 of the Commonwealth Constitution is all that holds the Government back) and outright violating the separation on a state level (where there are no constitutional barriers).
  • Doing senate preference deals with candidates with no dedication to (or even understanding) of liberal democracy.
  • Young Labor idiocy, which has become more Machiavellian than ever and also almost entirely intellectually threadbare. Not that I ever got involved back when I was young enough (it was bad enough then) but some experience with the current crop has been less than encouraging!
  • The party’s treatment of Phil Palmer and the ambos that he watches out for (I really do hope that the Rann Government learnt something from the last exchange).

I could go on at length with more examples, but there is one example that has been the proverbial straw. One more example that I can’t chalk up to real politik.

Stephen Conroy with his unworkable, expensive and dangerously undemocratic filtering schema, and the disgusting lengths he goes to in order to silence dissent (further demonstrating that he is a willing opponent of liberal democracy) cause me the worst of compromises that I’ve experienced from the ALP.

The “clean feed” fails by its own standards as testing has found, although it would still be an adequate obstacle to free speech. You need only a few harmful sites to get through to invalidate the filter, but you only need to block a few harmless sites to violate democratic discourse.

Industry experts (i.e. people Conroy should be listening to) predict that the terms of the filter could be broadened at a whim to buy the passage of bills through the upper house; a concern validated by Senator Fielding and Senator Xenaphon’s expressions of interest in the technology (to place adult content and gambling on the mandatory block-list respectively).

If good old Brian Harradine was still in and had the balance of power, euthanasia advocates would have something to worry about, no doubt. If a rabid Hansonite gets the balance, look out Islam and anything possibly (spuriously) associated with eco-terrorism.

The federal government has taken the right tact in regard to UN moves that could stifle the ability for people to criticise religion. But then the UN doesn’t have a senate seat.

The real problem is one of child welfare, but that’s not what the policy is about. It’s about externalising consequences onto the breadth of Internet users, the consequences of something that is a matter of individual responsibility – parental responsibility at that.

The Internet isn’t, nor was it ever a babysitter. The failure of the Internet to perform as such isn’t a failure of the Internet, it’s a failure of parenting. It is child neglect. All Internet sessions need supervision by a responsible adult.

The fact that Conroy hasn’t the political cajones to front up to the public and tell it like it is, that he overlooks this child neglect, makes his “protect the children” line of rhetoric utterly vapid. Why is it always about sexual content and paedophiles? The former raises uncomfortable questions for some parents and the latter wouldn’t even be mildly inhibited by the proposed filter even if it worked. Why is there a disproportionately small amount of time given to textbook horror cases like the televised, uncensored, visceral Bud Dwyer suicide?

It’s because Conroy and his supporters are being insincere.

But the insincerity isn’t the worst of it. It’s Conroy’s attack on Mark Newton of Internode that I’m talking about.

I’m an acquaintance of Mark’s through the local open source community. As someone with only one subject to go in a science degree that will make me an IT professional, I’m happy to know there are colleagues like Mark out there. He makes articulate, valid points based on fact, acquired though experience and an inquisitive mind. Much more so than what I’ve witnessed from the bulk of ALP members, which isn’t an insult – Mark is quite good. I’m a happy customer of the ISP he works for and I’d be an unhappy one if they were to do anything silly like firing him.

Encouraging an industry professional body to have a concerned talk with Mark’s employer (i.e. to threaten his employment) was a stupid idea executed with bumbling form by one of Conroy’s over-eager apparatchik. So bumbling that it could be traced back.

It wouldn’t be so bad if the party disciplined Conroy and made him pull his head in. But no, he’s had a pat on the head and shows no sign of pulling out.

Sure, the policy isn’t being supported by NSW Young Labor, which gives some hope, but what of the man’s conduct? I can’t reconcile it with my own politics, nor can I reconcile the apparent lack of control the Prime Minister has over him.

Yes, this is some time ago now, but I’ve been intent on formally resigning ever since. Consider my complacency a comment on the priority I place on the party.

Now I’ve probably spend far too many words on a letter that will likely just be discarded. At least, discarded by whoever is processing my membership. I gather, or rather I hope at least some of my readership will find interest in it.

I’ve said my piece, so I hereby resign from the Australian Labor Party!

~ Bruce Everett (Member #20631).