Socialist Left (Australia)

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For other uses, see Socialist Left (disambiguation).
Tanya Plibersek, Deputy ALP Leader and Socialist Left member.

The Socialist Left also known as Labor left is a faction of the Australian Labor Party. The Left is an organised political faction that advocates within the party for traditionally Labor interventionist and socialist economic policies. However, since the party reforms by Gough Whitlam in the 1970s, the Left has also been the principal champion in the party of socially liberal values, such as women's rights, gay rights, reconciliation with Aboriginal Australians and land rights. It advocates an independent foreign policy which benefits Australia and its citizens rather than its foreign allies as many members of the faction are unenthusiastic about the Australia–US Alliance.

History of the Socialist Left faction[edit]

Historically, the name "Socialist Left" is a truncation of the full faction's name, the "Combined Unions Socialist Left". This was first adopted by the left-wing of the Victorian branch of the Australian Labor Party.

Federal executive intervention[edit]

The NSW 'Steering Committee', or the 'Socialist Left' began as a reaction movement to the anti-communist campaigns by the 'Groupers' led by B.A. Santamaria in 1955.

Industrial Groups of the ALP existed to counter Communist Party of Australia activities within trade unions. In 1955, the majority of the branches and members of the Victorian branch were expelled with similar moves, although to a much lesser extent, in New South Wales.

The formation of the faction occurred after intervention by the Federal Executive of the party into the Victorian branch. The Federal Executive's intervention resulted in the sacking of its elected officers and dissolution of the branch in 1970. Gough Whitlam sought to modernise the Victorian branch to increase its chances of electoral success. Dismissed officers are tabled below.

Position Dismissed officers
Secretary Bill Hartley
Assistant Secretary Glyde Butler
President George Crawford
Organiser Bob Hogg

Response to dismissals[edit]

In response to their dismissal, Hartley and Crawford formed the Socialist Left as a rank and file organisation to propagate socialist views within the Australian Labor Party. It published a fortnightly newspaper called Action that covered union, community and internal party matters. The faction emerged from intervention as the largest faction with strong discipline and a program of monthly general meetings.

The faction also drew considerable support from the trade union movement, especially from figures such as Ken Carr and Jim Roulston. Incidentally, George Crawford was also a prominent leader in the Plumbers and Gasfitters Employees Union of Australia.

The faction's membership included several notable members of state and federal parliament including Bill Brown, Jim Cairns, Kim Carr, Moss Cass, Bruce Childs, Joan Coxsedge, Arthur Gietzelt, Gerry Hand, Brian Howe, Dr Harry Jenkins, Joan Kirner, Andrew Theophanous and Tom Uren.

Expulsion of Bill Hartley[edit]

Founding faction chairman, Bill Hartley was expelled from the Australian Labor Party in 1986, despite being regularly elected to Federal Executive and the National Conference of the ALP, because he was found to have brought the Party into disrepute by reason of his persistent public criticism of Labor Prime Minister Bob Hawke.

Contemporary Left Faction[edit]

The Left is the smaller of the two main factions in the federal Caucus. Under factional agreements, the Labor Leader in the Senate comes from the Left, their Deputy from the Right, ordinarily the reverse of the situation in the House of Representatives. Former Prime Minister Julia Gillard of the left is a historical exception. Key members of the Left include the Deputy Leader and Foreign Affairs Spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek, former Keating, Rudd & Gillard government minister, Senator John Faulkner, the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate Penny Wong, former Deputy Prime Minister of Australia, Rudd & Gillard government minister and current Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, Anthony Albanese and Shadow Ministers Jenny Macklin & Mark Butler. Most Labor state premiers and chief ministers usually come from the Right, notable recent exceptions being Queensland's Anna Bligh, South Australia's Jay Weatherill, Tasmania's Lara Giddings and the Australian Capital Territory's Katy Gallagher. On a state and territory branch level, the Socialist Left is currently the dominant faction in Western Australia, Tasmania, the Australian Capital Territory and has recently taken back control over the Queensland branch from the major right-wing faction, the AWU-aligned Labor Forum after over two decades.[1]

Labor Left factions from all jurisdictions[edit]

Jurisdiction Major Left Grouping Conference Floor Percentage 2014 Majority Minor Left Grouping Conference Floor Percentage 2014
New South Wales NSW Socialist Left 42.24%[2] No
Victoria Victorian Socialist Left 37%[3] Stability Pact with Labor Unity and SDA Independent (Ferguson) Left 5%[4]
Western Australia Broad Left 65%[5] Yes
Queensland The Left 50%[6] Yes (supported by Labor Unity)
ACT Left Caucus 51%[7] Yes
South Australia Progressive Left Unions and Sub-Branches (PLUS) 35%[8] No Industrial Bloc 20%[9]
Tasmania Broad Left 70%[10] Yes
Northern Territory The Left 60%[11] Yes
National National Left 48%[12] No

Federal Members of the Left[edit]

Name Position
Alan Griffin Member for Bruce
Anne McEwen Senator for South Australia
Anthony Albanese Former Deputy Prime Minister of Australia, Member for Grayndler, leader of the NSW Socialist Left
Brendan O'Connor Member for Gorton
Carol Brown Senator for Tasmania
Catherine King Member for Ballarat
Claire Moore[13] Senator for Queensland
Doug Cameron National convenor of the Socialist Left, Senator for NSW
Gavin Marshall Senator for Victoria
Graham Perrett Member for Moreton, leader of the Queensland Socialist Left
Jan McLucas[14] Senator for Queensland
Jenny Macklin Member for Jagajaga
Jill Hall Member for Shortland
John Faulkner Senator for NSW
Julie Collins Member for Franklin
Julie Owens Member for Parramatta
Kate Lundy Senator for the ACT
Kim Carr Senator for Victoria, leader of the Victorian Socialist Left
Laurie Ferguson Member for Werriwa
Lisa Singh Senator for Tasmania
Louise Pratt Senator for Western Australia
Maria Vamvakinou Member for Calwell
Mark Butler Member for Port Adelaide
Melissa Parke Member for Fremantle
Penny Wong Senator for South Australia
Stephen Jones Member for Throsby
Tanya Plibersek Member for Sydney, Deputy Leader of the Opposition
Terri Butler Member for Griffith
Tony Zappia Member for Makin
Warren Snowdon Member for Lingiari


Further reading[edit]

External sites[edit]