Politics, Poetry and Reviews

Victorian Senate Group AM: When the Labour Party becomes Democratic

Last party!  Though there are still two ungrouped independents to go, of course, but still, the end is in sight!  And now we get to meet the Democratic Labour Party, which informs me that it is “Putting YOU back into Labour”.

The Democratic Labour Party actually is related to the ALP (though they could certainly not be considered to be allies), being a Catholic off-shoot of the party, founded in 1955 as a reaction to a perceived Communist takeover of the Labor Party.  Their original name was the Australian Labor Party (Anti-Communist), because you wouldn’t want to be too subtle about this, but they eventually changed their name to the Democratic Labor Party.  In the past, their policies in areas of have been a weird mix of the very well thought-out and the intensely reactionary, but they seem to evolve a bit every election, so it’s hard to say where they will go this time.

Let’s look at their Group Voting Ticket for some clues…

The DLP is wearing their Catholic hearts on their sleeves at this election, favouring Rise Up Australia and the Australian Christians, followed, interestingly, by Katter’s Australian Party and the Country Alliance.  Next we have Family First and One Nation, suggestion that the inclusion of Rise Up Australia at the top of their ballot was not the hideous accident that we might have hoped it was. The DLP is apparently also now wearing a somewhat racist heart on its sleeve. Rather a shame – they used to have the occasional policy I liked, but it looks like they are moving away from all that.  Of the Big Three, they favour most of the Coalition over most of the Labor Party, but they do cherry pick a bit.  These are found mid ticket, but the heathen Greens once again get pride of place at the foot of the ticket, below even such Communist and un-Catholic choices as the Australian Sex Party, the Socialist Equality Party, WikiLeaks and the Secular Party.

Oh, DLP, you are not looking good to me right now…

On their front page, we have another of those flashing / rotating banners which are the bane of my existence this election: “Standing with workers”, “Fair Trade, not Free trade”, “It’s Time to rebuild manufacturing”, “For families and life, guaranteed”, and “The party of small business people”.  This is actually a little more promising than I expected.

In addition to policies, the DLP has sections on their History, as well as Perspectives, Objectives and Principles.  I shall take a brief glance at these, before moving on to the policies.

The Democratic Labour Party shall promote the political, social and economic order of the decentralist nation-community as a preferred alternative to the authoritarian rigidities of socialist-centralist control and the libertarian extremes of the capitalist global market.

The DLP is big on smaller units for everything, really.  They ‘favour the smaller unit of responsibility and decision-making, rather than the larger, in government, business and community affairs’, they don’t want the rights and responsibilities of families and individuals to be relegated to the state, and they want to protect small businesses from ‘larger, more capitalised concerns’.  They want the widest possible distribution of political, social and economic power and a decentralised society, and they want practical social justice.

So far, we agree.

The DLP also view themselves as the direct descendents of Ben Chifley, quoting his Light on the Hill speech on their Objectives page.

To establish, under Almighty God, the political, legal, social and economic foundations for a just, free and democratic society and for a self-reliant and secure Australia

This involves protecting the fundamental rights to life, liberty of conscience, equality and natural justice, ownership of property and dignity.  They also want to advance traditional marriage “as the primary provider in the nurturing, rearing and educating of the young and in the care of the infirm and the aged”.  But they still want governments to protect the welfare of the less privileged.  Finally, the DLP wants to contribute to foreign aid and international understanding.

The DLP wants to uphold democracy, resist totalitarianism, provide just wages and adequate social security, as well as fair rewards for enterprise.  They promote civic responsibility and orthodox values and traditions, including “the sacredness of human life, from conception until natural death, as the fundamental basis for all human rights”.  And they want to uphold principles of peace and co-operation between nations, though interestingly they also want to be vigilant against “unilateralism, pacifism and appeasement and the strategic instabilities they abet”.  I’m guessing the pacifism thing must be an anti-communist thing – nothing else makes sense of it in this context.

Interestingly, the DLP think of themselves as a centrist party.  This is not where I would have placed them on the political spectrum.

The DLP want to promote their own economic system, Distributism:

Distributism is concerned with improving the material lot of the poorest and most disadvantaged. However, unlike socialism, which advocates state ownership of property and the means of production, distributism seeks to devolve or widely distribute that control to individuals within society, rejecting what it saw as the twin evils of plutocracy and bureaucracy.

According to distributism, the ownership of the means of production should be spread as widely as possible among the general populace, rather than being centralised under the control of the state (state socialism) or a few large businesses or wealthy private individuals (laissez-faire capitalism). As Chesterton said, “Too much capitalism does not mean too many capitalists, but too few capitalists.”

This is actually a really interesting-sounding way of doing things, and I’d recommend reading the whole section.  I don’t think I’ve seen any other parties promoting anything remotely like it.

While we are talking about economics, the DLP is another party who wants that Federal Development Bank we keep hearing about, to provide a source of funding infrastructure.  This version is less interested in low-interest loans to farmers, though it is all about regional development, so this may be implied.

They are proud of being the first Australian political party to promote:

  • The vote for 18 year olds
  • Equal pay for equal work
  • Equity in education funding
  • An end to the White Australia policy
  • Decentralisation of government
  • Industrial democracy
  • Responsible environmental protection
  • Family tax splitting
  • Support for life
  • Capital Grants for family homes
  • Portability of superannuation
  • Diversification in trade
  • Low interest loans for small business
  • Enterprise profit sharing
  • Producer/worker cooperatives

These are, in fact, things to be proud of.  Let’s see what they are standing for now…

(aargh, so many policies!)

The DLP would also like to limit urban growth and density by encouraging people to move to regional centres. To encourage this, they will create low-interest housing loans and fund more road, rail and energy infrastructure to these regions. They will create a national bushfire mitigation plan and will build new reservoirs to conserve water and mitigate flooding damage. They will apply environmental protection laws more strongly, and encourage community-based efforts to care for the environment. Protecting biodiversity should be considered when bushland is cleared for development.

In order for Australia to become energy self-sufficient, the DLP supports:

  • the exploration and development of new and traditional forms of power generation;
  • the establishment of a national oil and gas reserve; and
  • the preservation and conservation of a domestic capacity to refine oil.

The DLP views domestic refinement of oil as a national security matter until alternative energy supplies become available. They would therefore review current closures of oil refineries. This is all very well, but if it is a national security matter, how about developing other sources of energy which we can also control, thus spreading the risk a bit? Aha, I see they do – they want a Polywell fusion plant. The DLP carefully avoids using the word nuclear anywhere on this page (though they talk a lot about how it is very safe and there are no radioactive by-products), but it is, in fact, a nuclear reactor. Their view is that this is much cleaner than any other technologies out there, and that “the country or organization first to achieve net power with Polywell will be able to supply the world with unimaginable opportunities for raising the living standards of any poor community at an affordable price”.

The DLP is against Coal Seam Gas Mining (as is practically everyone, it seems).

Their asylum seeker policy is actually not too bad.

The DLP believes in a bipartisan approach by Parliament in working to address this issue. It is time our leaders put politics aside and give the issue the respect it deserves.

We must focus on what we can do to help the plight of asylum seekers in a balanced, dignified, safe and compassionate way. Rather than spending billions of dollars every year on keeping asylum seekers detained offshore, we should be spending this money within our domestic economy through an onshore processing solution. This will create jobs for Australian workers while treating asylum seekers with dignity. It will save lives and strengthen our economy.

Go, DLP!

They will reduce aid payments to Indonesia by $1 million for every vessel that leaves their zone undetected for Australia, and increase our refugee intake from Indonesia. The idea is that if we increase our intake, this gives people less incentive to risk their lives on boats. Those who still come by boat will be transported to one of five UN-accredited refugee camps of their choice.

The DLP says that refugees will initially be granted only temporary visas of up to five years. I would really like to know what happens after that, and whether they will be permitted to work while on this visa, because these things make a big difference.

Looking at their onshore processing plan, it sounds like they plan to create ‘secure communities’ for processing, which are intended to be small, town-like arrangements, closed off from the rest of Australia, though they will be allowed to have visitors. Their housing ‘would be modest, compared to that enjoyed by many Australians’, and processing would be fast. Refugees would then be moved to a ‘regional estate’, ‘a newly developed area which would cater for up to 600 refugees who are still within their first five years of seeking asylum. The estates would be located primarily near regional towns and cities, ideally in areas nearby nation-building projects in need of a workforce.’

Sounds like they will be allowed to work. It’s very much second-class citizen stuff, though:

Housing would be built to be durable and easy to maintain. It would also be built to comfortably house a large number of people where possible. Only few designs would be made available for construction. Children will be able to attend local schools and participate in sport, and adults will be required to either work or undergo a form of education or training.

Each person would be entitled to basic welfare. It should take into account Australia’s generosity of accepting them into our communities and therefore should only be a portion of what is provided to Australians who are also doing it hard. Workers will not be entitled to receiving superannuation prior to becoming a permanent resident.

So, on the up-side, children would get to go to school, adults would be allowed to work, and there is clearly the possibility of becoming a permanent resident. These are all very good things. On the down-side, there does seem to be a lack of generosity in the intention of all this. I’m not saying that everyone should be housed palatially, but there seems to be a lot of care taken to show that they aren’t going to have it as good as ‘real’ Australians. It does sound like refugees would be an underclass in this program, required to be grateful for whatever largesse they receive.

The DLP also ‘rejects politically imposed multiculturalism. Instead, we believe in fostering a cosmopolitan community,’ but is also anti-discrimination.  Weirdly, they also want a long-term population growth rate of at least 3% annually, which is more or less the opposite approach to most other parties who talk about population – the rest all want to limit population growth.

The DLP is unwavering in its support for marriage and family, and acknowledges it as the foundation of our society and human thriving.

They want to reform the Family Law Court (but do not say how), support open adoption and the expansion of overseas adoption, and oppose same sex marriage. They support Family First’s idea of a Family Impact Statement in legislation, and they support the establishment of child care co-operatives,”in which parents and carers are trained and certified to be “child carers” and “on duty one day in five” in exchange for child care services.”

I actually like this idea. I was toying with a similar notion if my friends and I happened to get pregnant around the same time.

The DLP expresses solidarity with the abused, the dispossessed, parents separated from their children, and ‘women who find themselves struggling with an unintended pregnancy or who have fallen victim to abortion.’

When it comes to Life, the DLP ‘is unwavering in its support for the dignity of all people. We support life from conception to natural death’.

They manage to avoid saying the ‘a’ word, but there is a lot about the duty to respect the gift of life.

Interestingly, there is also the ‘duty to respect and protect the Freedom of conscience’. So if my conscience tells me that the most ethical thing I can do is to abort this pregnancy, that’s going to be fine with the DLP, right?

Something tells me that this sort of conscience only actually applies to doctors and service providers who would object to things like abortion and birth control.

There is also an obligation to ensure equal treatment under the Law, which could mean a variety of things. It could be a lovely fluffy statement, or it could be one of those things about the rights of the fetus which pro-life groups in the USA have been trying to introduce.

At the other end of life, they oppose euthanasia and support access to palliative care.

The DLP has always had a pretty good record on disability services, and this continues here. They want to strengthen the NDIS and fund advocacy services. They want to require mainstream services to accommodate people with all types of disabilities, and to close down institutions, moving residents into community-based options.

This is an excellent idea up to a point, but there are some children with very profound disabilities who require round-the-clock nursing care. It’s hard to see how this would translate into community-based support, so a little more nuance would be required here.

The DLP would want to expand respite care to help families avoid relinquishing their children into state care, and they would encourage innovation in design, manufacture and production of aids, therapies and equipment. They recognise mental illness as a serious problem, and want to focus on prevention (avoid illicit drugs!!), early intervention, recovery and community development.

The DLP is pro-Medicare, which “should remain the main provider of general practice services”, patients have the right to informed consent, and funding for hospital should be allocated by an independent funding body, rather than a politically-motivated one. They also want faith-based hospitals to have religious liberty in employment and service provision, and health care workers maintain a right to conscientious objection.

I wonder how far they would take this, really? I mean, this obviously harks back to the Life stuff about abortion and euthanasia, but what about nurses with ‘conscientious’ objections to vaccines? Should they be allowed to work with immunocompromised patients? And what about Jehovah’s Witnesses, who might object to blood transfusions?

And if, as they say ‘every Australian is entitled to access, equity and justice in the provision and allocation of health services’, where does that leave us if our health providers conscientiously object to doing providing said services?

Moving to education, the DLP wants a voucher system, to encourage children to be able to get to private or faith-based schools. They also want to establish more trade, technical and agricultural schools, which I think is a great idea. They also want to increase Austudy to above the poverty line and lower the age of independence to 18, and to retain Start Up Scholarships, easing the burden of costs at the start of semester.

On Housing, the DLP wants to ensure that public housing is owned by the government, and that rental rates should be capped at 25% of earnings, or 15% for people with disabilities.  They would also like to allow first home buyers to access their superannuation to fun up to 5% of the value of the home.  And speaking of superannuation, also want to encourage a ‘hands-on’ approach to superannuation, and reinstate government contributions for voluntary member contributions.  They want to discourage foreign ownership of Australian property with higher taxes.

The DLP has a number of policies aimed at supporting small business, particularly by reducing taxes during the start-up phase and requiring the government to pay superannuation and workcover costs for the first 12 months that a business employs its first full-time employee.  Interesting.  They also want to review the penalty rate system – penalties must be guaranteed ‘but at an affordable level’. I wonder what they view as affordable?

There is a whole lengthy policy on sport, mostly centering around the government providing sporting insurance to all amateur sport participants. I am slightly boggled, but I suppose that encouraging amateur sport is a good thing.

The DLP is also rather big on Defense, and wants to encourage young people to do a volunteer ‘gap year’ in the army.  They feel that we need to put more money into the army generally.  They also want to put more money into foreign aid, particularly in Indonesia, for both humanitarian and security reasons and, oh dear, they do like those anti-terrorist laws:

Further, we support summary detention and timely execution of lawful warrants as to further detention, deportation, extradition or commitment for trial of any person residing or arriving in Australia reasonably suspected of:

  • involvement in terrorist activity
  • unlawful association with terrorists
  • representing any organisation or government lawfully proscribed for supporting or sponsoring terrorism

And finally, they want Australian citizens to be able to introduce legislation providing for the holding of a referendum to alter the constitution.  Having just spent the better part of two weeks reading the sort of policies people come up with when they are feeling politically active, I can only imagine the sort of referendums we might end up with.  The mind boggles.

And that’s the last political party on the Victorian Senate Ballot Paper!  Hooray!  Just two more un-grouped independents, and this project will be *done*!


  1. Loki

    Wow, is the DLP the only party to be in favour of Citizen-Initiated Referendums? That’s kinda frightening.

    Also, despite their claims, the original DLP dissolved in 1978. The current DLP emerged some years later, with some continuity in membership, but less than the website implies.

    Also, frankly, I’ve never been able to bring myself to vote for these guys ever since one of their candidates told me he was glad AIDS was around because it would kill off all the gays.

    • Catherine

      There might have been another one who liked referendums, too, but I can’t remember which. I’ve been doing these so fast that I don’t think they are making it into my long-term memory!

      I believe they do say on their website that they had a break in the late 70s, but they definitely claim the same lineage.

      Also, wow, that is an impressively appalling statement.

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