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Labor Party Conference in BrisVegas

A few days ago I landed in Brisbane to, once again, attend the ALP National Conference. As is usually the case, the results on contested issues are pretty well-known before the vote is actually taken. The Guardian has provided a pretty good summary of events (day one, day two, summary). Contentious issues which, of course, attract the most attention included AUKUS submarines, logging in Native Forests, and housing matters. The hawks won on the day with AUKUS, it is but the first salvo in a battle which even their most ardent supporters must realise that they will eventually lose, and with regard to forests I also suspect that there will be a national ban on Native Forest logging within a few years. There was also a nice victory for Labor for Refugees (the group I started in 2001 is still going!), and I think we'll see Federal Human Rights laws soon as well.

Nearly all my time at Conference was spent at the Labor Fringe events which really is a series of presentations and discussions by some pretty switched-on think tanks and lobby groups. The importance of these discussions is that they will be the key drivers in policy over the next few years. I went to four sessions relating to housing (Community Housing Industry Association, Centre for Equitable Housing, National Shelter, Prosper Australia), four related to conservation and the environment (Climate Action Network Australia, Australian Alliance for Animals, Australian Climate and Biodiversity Foundation, Australian Conservation Foundation, Labor Environment Action Network), one on asylum seekers (Labor for Refugees) and one on progressive strategy. Two others I also wanted to attend included the abolitionist Justice Reform Initiative and the Make It 16 group that wants to reduce the voting age.

Outside of the conference proper, I had a wonderful evening with the crew from Prosper Australia (an organisation that I was briefly president), and also had an excellent discussion with Dr Ken Henry; I've been a "bit of a fan" of his work for a while, and he was amused and accepting of an article where I compared his famous report to the policies of Henry George. This afternoon at the end of the proceedings I had lunch with a number of people from the Fabian Society and I promised them an article comparing the strategy of the society with the strategy of their namesake, Quintus Fabius Maximus Verrucosus - it's quite different! One thing that does concern me, despite all of this, is how the contemporary political landscape is less concerned with evidence and more concerned with demagogic divisive popularism. There is definitely a lack of deliberative democracy in the Anglosphere - and that does not bode well for the future.