Sale of Queensland Rail finished Labor in Queensland

There is a prevailing belief in the ALP that they can spin their way out of any situation. This sometimes works with people without ideology or class consciousness. The economic crisis has shaken people’s faith in capitalism mainly because poverty means there is less access to consumer goods.

So Anna Bligh and her ministers used spin rather than fix the dams, the payroll system and the hospitals. The government dumped the fuel subsidy saying that the states finances were in poor shape.

The ALP-in-government could always invent a story that would explain any given situation.

Look at the way the government allowed the dams to fail and then blame it on El Nina – the media made Bligh into a heroine because she came on as a concerned mum with the best interests of her family at heart in time of catastrophe.

The pièce de résistance was Bligh’s losing speech at the convention centre when she said that their loss was inevitable because they had been in power for so long. Yet Labor ruled Queensland from 1915 to 1957! 40 years with only a brief period out of government at the onset of the great depression in 1930.

In contrast Bligh (2009-2012) and Beattie (1998-2009) were only in power for a fraction of that time.

Labor’s loss had little to do with longevity or the dominance of the AWU/factional system but a lot to do with policies.

The three main factions in the ALP in Queensland are Labor Forum/Australian Workers Union (Bill Ludwig, AWU), Labor Unity (David Hanna, BLF) and the Left (sic) [Andrew Dettmer, AMWU]

No faction in the Labor Party effectively opposed the sale of public assets at the 2010 state ALP conference that began the Labor slide.

The Left faction (sic) even withdrew its vote on the floor of the conference.

The argument in favour of the sale was to retire public debt so that the government could build more infrastructure.

That argument could easily be rebutted in a state whose major economic activity is moving minerals from one place to another. Queensland Rail coal and mineral freight had subsidized public infrastructure for the past 50 years.

“Bligh won the privatisation vote at the ALP conference, held over the June 6-8 weekend [2009], by 207 votes to 156. Another 44 delegates abstained, most of them from unions in Blighs own left faction, which opposed the sale but did not want to embarrass her. These included the nurses union and the Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers Union.” Direct Action

What all factions in the ALP failed to realise when they voted to sell QRail was they were signing the death warrant of two ALP governments – State (Bligh) and Federal (Gillard).

The only union that attempted to mobilize politically against the sale was the Electrical Trades Union (Peter Simpson) the union that Bjelke-Petersen put to the sword in 1986. The ETU put up billboards saying that Anna Bligh had sold us out.

The unions made the collective mistake of falling in behind the ALP at the election they should have run independent labor candidates against the government to retain public assets and to maintain better health, education and energy system.

As it turned out the ALP lost 1 in every 3 of its metropolitan votes to the Liberals and a similar ratio of its regional votes to Katter in the bush.

The ALP government failed in service delivery and incompetent ministers (i.e. Paul Lucas) appointed through the factional system contributed to this.

The focus of the incoming LNP government is service delivery which may work so long as there is not another economic crisis.

Will an extra-parliamentary opposition emerge to oppose conservative government?

Ian Curr
March 2012

5 thoughts on “Sale of Queensland Rail finished Labor in Queensland

  1. It has been argued that cost of living and other factors showed up in polls as the reasons for the dumping of ALP.

    These broad factors may be the expressed reasons many dumped Labor.

    However more detailed analysis shows better reasons. The ALP disowned its base and its base deserted it.

    This was shown graphically in the west of Brisbane in Labor heartland around Ipswich. The swings in this area were far greater than the state averages. In Ipswich central more than 30 % , in Ipswich west 22% and In Bundamba 20 %. The later less than the others perhaps due to the stated opposition to asset sales by ALP candidate Joanne Miller.

    What is clear from this is that the workers who have supported Labor for 100 years deserted it. This is not an argument about whether Labor could have won the election, for swinging voters also deserted it for other reasons. It is about why it lost so badly.

    Had the Trade unions run their own candidates in these seats they would have taken up the swing to Katter’s party. They may have won more seats in their own right than the ALP rump that has remained. This would have required socialist organisation though which is sadly lacking.

    The future may be different.


  2. Green Left Weekly Public Forum says:

    SPEAKERS INCLUDE: Gary MacLennan, socialist educationist; Liam Flenady, SA candidate for South Brisbane; Rachel Jacobs, Greens candidate for BCC in Brisbane Central ward; Jim McIlroy, SA co-convenor.

    Green Left Weekly Public Forum:


    A panel of speakers address the threat posed by the new Campbell Newman-led LNP regime, the crisis of the Labor Party, and the challenge facing the labour movement and the left in Queensland.

    TUES APRIL 3, 7pm. Meal from 6.30pm.
    Brisbane Activist Centre, 74B Wickham St, Fortitude Valley.
    For more information, ph: Jim on 3831 2644 or 0423 741 734.

  3. 'the ALP has disowned its base and its base has deserted it' says:

    People who know more than I about electoral politics, blame the AWU faction for the current fiasco that the federal government has become. They argue that Kevin Rudd was stupid to listen to Gillard (Left [sic] faction) and Swann (AWU faction) in 2010 when they advised Rudd not to call a double dissolution election on climate change and mining tax.

    The argument goes that ‘If Rudd had called a double dissolution election the ALP would have won the balance of power in the senate and won the house of reps as well’.

    This may all be true. But these are only superficial symptoms of the ALP’s bigger problem — in Queensland, the ALP has disowned its base and its base has deserted it.

    So the ALP is unlikely to win a single seat in Qld at the next federal election.

    The ALP may retain a few senate seats — however if there is a double dissolution election the ALP primary vote is so low (27%) it could be assured of only two senate seats.

    Lets be clear, we are not Labor.

    For some reason attempts to get back to rank and file workers is falling on deaf ears on the Left.

    At the 2012 state election the Socialist Alliance got a reasonable vote in Sandgate because of the local credentials of its candidate (ex-ALP). However the Socialist Alliance could not even get the name of their party on the ballot paper in that seat or the others that it contested.

    So we are confronted with a malaise of both organisation and ideology.

    While this continues and the world teeters on the brink of another economic crisis, the Left in Australia desperately needs to get its act together.

    Ian Curr
    April 2012

  4. Viola Wilkins says:

    What’s the difference between the QLD ALP and a Tarago?

    On Sunday a Tarago will still have eight seats.

  5. 'Bradford' Spring - Galloway defeats Labor in British bi-election says:

    Respect’s George Galloway has won the Bradford West parliamentary by-election, comparing his victory to the Arab Spring.

    There is a forum tonight ‘FACING THE NEW QLD LNP GOVT AND THE CRISIS OF THE ALP: WHICH WAY FORWARD FOR THE LABOUR MOVEMENT?’ organised by the Green Left Weekly.

    Consider George Galloway win Bradford West with a 37% swing against Labor.

    I wonder what would be the result if the trade unions in Brisbane ran a similar campaign in the coming South Brisbane bi-election like RESPECT did in Bradford?

    True, Galloway is a populist. But he did get kicked out of the British Labour party because of his opposition to the Iraq war and he did a good job organising the Viva Palestina convoy to Gaza.

    His victory came from committed activists from the ranks of unemployed and women – it was a grass roots campaign.


    For a campaign that barely lasted four weeks, the conversion of a 10-1 odds at the bookies to the suspension of all bets for a Galloway victory, three days before voting day, is indicative of the sea-change that is taking place. Whether this ripple will turn into a national tide remains to be seen? — see

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