ACT Labor Conference: A common effort brings the Left out on top


Reporting from the recent ACT Labor Conference, delegate Alex Cassie writes that a common effort saw the ACT Left come out on top.

After the 2014 Conference, ACT Left made a decision to focus on economic policy leading up to the next conference.  This was based on two key insights: that our caucus can provide an articulated vision of socialist economics that serves the society in which we live; and that we differentiate ourselves from the Right by having a policy focus through which we can bring out ideas and support member development.

The 2015 Conference saw this plan come to fruition. The day was dominated by Left resolutions and platform changes, particularly across the economics and employment, planning, and industrial relations chapters. Left speakers and movers held the floor for the majority of the time, particularly notable for having a diversity of speakers and many first time speakers.  This was the result of a conscious effort to encourage people to speak on topics that we had heard them wax lyrical about in the caucus room, or those that we knew that had expert insights.

We had also intended to focus on economic policy to draw out the Right on some of their more neo-liberal policies.  The Right were not to be drawn, however – fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it (some of course disappointed by the lack of a good argument!) there were very few debates on the floor.

One of the most interesting issues – the appropriate regulation of Uber and other currently unregulated informal companies – was settled without a whimper.  UnionsACT Secretary Alex White moved a resolution ensuring regulations for workers in the taxi, hire-car and on-demand transport sectors require operators to provide the National Employment Standards, or better.  A similar resolution was also passed ensuring that an ACT Labor government will not legislate to enable any informal ‘app’ companies to operate in the ACT without also providing the NES.  Both resolutions passed without any opposition; however we know that vigilance must be maintained to prevent undermining of wages and conditions by false claims of “independent contracting”.

We also amended the platform to explicitly maintain a single public provider for bus services. The ACT’s public transport system is set to be enhanced by the Capital Metro project, and during this time of change the platform serves as recognition that only Government will maintain a high-quality bus service based on need.

Further on economics, the Left resolution on Divestment was adopted unamended.  This commits the ACT Government to develop a plan to responsibly divest over a five year period from companies that are listed in the Carbon Underground Top 200 list published by Fossil Free Indexes.  This was announced by the Chief Minister along with the exciting plan for Canberra become 100% renewable by 2025.

Other great initiatives for Canberra were adopted as moved by Left members.  Sometimes the most rewarding moments of Conference are when we are able to support great new ideas that had been brought up by rank-and-file members.  This year, this included such ideas as: enhancing city life by differentiating noise regulation subject between noise created by musical and cultural activity and noise created by other activities; the feasibility of a ferry service across Lake Burley Griffin; and legislating to ensure the presence of Residual Current Devices in all homes.

The Left brought the heart and soul to the Conference as well, reminding us all that as we are in a position to create the law we should ensure that it is equitable, just and effective. Left members showed their true staying power late in the afternoon, moving ACT Labor to once again reiterate its opposition to refugee boat turn-backs and calling for a regular binding vote on marriage equality.  ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elected Body Member and Left member Jo Chivers received a standing ovation for sharing her experience of family violence while moving the Indigenous Labor Network resolution on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander family violence strategy.

Through our power of organising and solidarity, the Left can make real and necessary improvements to people’s lives.  It is through listening to our members and supporting them to bring their ideas to maturity and success that we become more than the sum of our parts.  By bringing a renewed focus on economic policy and finding what interests the members had, ACT Left has grown the skills and solidarity of the caucus, and strengthened its ability to articulate a complete vision for our society.

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