THIS IS THE 60TH YEAR OF THE NSW LEFT.
We were an organisation originally formed to fight the industrial groups. To fight an attempt to take over the Labor Party, by those who saw themselves as ‘agents of truth.'
Members of the Labor Party, whose loyalties were not necessarily to Labor.
Recent events in Western Australia are a reminder that our job isn’t done yet.
Penny Wong spoke at our Annual Conference dinner in 2008. She gave a serious, thoughtful speech about the importance of left values.
I am pleased to be able to welcome her back to this more considered format. It is a deliberately political event. A challenge to the NSW Party culture to discuss important ideas, to debate them seriously.
One of the people I spoke to as we prepared for this event was Bruce Childs.
Bruce of course was supportive. Immediately he put some views: It should be annual.
We should name it after one of our leaders, someone who everyone loved, someone who was dead.
To which I was able to reply: ‘Bruce, I’m glad you think that.
‘It will be annual, it will be named after one of our leaders, someoneeveryoneloves,although they’re not dead.
‘Bruce, we’re naming it after you.’
We are doing that – this event will be the Annual Bruce Childs Lecture Series.
Of course, when Bruce spoke about our leaders he was thinking of Chifley or Curtin, rather than himself.
We wanted to name this after Bruce because he embodies the Left at its best. He is a former Secretary of the Printers’ Union, the first Left Assistant General
Secretary of the NSW Branch, a former Senator and a long-term community and peace activist.
Bruce is the living embodiment of the Principles of Action of the ALP.
The Principles of Action are set out in Labor’s Basic Principles, and they say this: that we believe change happens through a combination of action in the parliaments, through the union movement, and through organised community groups.
Bruce more than anyone, has lived those principles, has been active in each of those spheres – as a tireless activist, and as a Left leader.
It is Bruce’s example and Bruce’s values that we need to keep in mind as we tackle some of the political questions of our day:
- Finding a more humane answer on asylum seekers, while acknowledging that will only be possible if we campaign and change public opinion.
- Taking on the big discussion about the role of government, the size of government, and the revenue we require to deliver this.
- Fighting to win on marriage equality, particularly in NSW, where the NSW Conference now has the most conservative position of any state conference on this issue.
- Fighting for reform, and a Labor Party where more people have a say in our decisions.
60 years ago Bruce Childs was there at the start.
JOHN GRAHAM IS ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF THE NSW ALP. THIS IS AN EDITED VERSION OF HIS 15 APRIL SPEECH AT THE INAUGURAL ANNUAL BRUCE CHILDS LECTURE SERIES.