For those who were there, the June meeting of the Cockburn Lakes, Jandakot and Jervoise Bay branches at Parliament House will surely be a highlight of 2014. Special guests Kate Doust, Mark McGowan, Melissa Parke, Linda Oshalem (and Fran, of course) were in attendance, as well as a great showing from branch members. We gathered for refreshments in the Labor caucus room, where Labor MPs have convened since the building was completed in 1904. There was a great sense of history and significance in the room, which created the perfect atmosphere for the discussions that followed.
Mark McGowan gave an optimistic report on the current state of WA Labor, the message being that the days of the Barnett government are numbered due to their broken promises and gross mismanagement of the state. WA Labor, on the other hand, continues to deliver forward thinking solutions to real issues. Perhaps most importantly, Mark spoke about the introduction of a bill to recognise Aboriginal people as the original owners of our country in the state’s constitution. Similar bills have been introduced in other states, and Mr. McGowan strongly believes that it is time for WA to take this momentous step towards reconciliation.
Kate Doust, Cockburn’s representative in the Upper House and Deputy Opposition Leader echoed Mark’s sentiments and stressed that, particularly in the South Metropolitan electorate, Labor will rise again. Of special interest to her is the seat of Jandakot, currently held by Liberal MP Joe Francis. Kate and Fran are confident that this seat is within our reach at the next election, and that support from Cockburn will be integral in delivering this result.
Linda Oshalem, Assistant State Secretary for WA Labor, was a last minute inclusion to the guest list, but her update on the party’s Shaping Labor initiative was a welcome addition to the meeting’s proceedings. While the final report of the initiative has yet to be published, Linda informed us that many of the changes that members argued for can be implemented without major rule changes. Efficiency through improved communication (between branches, members, administration and elected members) was the major focus of the report’s findings, and she assures us that the coming period of change will make the ALP a stronger and more pervasive force in Australian society.
The federal report by Fremantle MP Melissa Parke was largely centred around the broken promises and destructive policies outlined in the Abbott government’s federal budget. Ms. Parke has been extremely vocal in her criticism of last month’s budget, calling it “disappointing, short-sighted and dishonest.” It is a budget that especially targets students, single parents, pensioners, low-income families and the unemployed, while falsely claiming that all Australians will share the burden equally. It cares little for the health and education of the Australian people, depriving schools and hospitals of billions of dollars of funding. It will cripple the ABC and SBS, leading Melissa to join and co-chair the newly formed Parliamentary Friends of the ABC, which will defend the sanctity of public broadcasting in Australia. It removes all incentive for large companies to reduce carbon emissions, no longer forcing big polluters to pay for their actions. It will fund the extension of Roe Highway through the Bibra Lake wetlands, destroying large areas of the Beeliar Regional Park. In her eyes, and indeed in the eyes of everyone in the room nodding along, it is a budget that is simply unacceptable. She, along with her colleagues in federal parliament, has vowed to oppose many aspects of it in the coming weeks.
The meeting was followed by a tour of the building by Fran Logan, which was an incredibly enriching experience for members. Many had never visited Parliament House and were thrilled to get a chance to see such a historic place in person. The experience was made more exciting by the fact that Parliament was sitting that day, and members were able to see sessions taking place in both the Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council. All in all, the evening was a success, and will certainly not be the last branch meeting to take place in those hallowed halls.
For more information about becoming a member of WA Labor or simply coming along to a meeting, visit http://walabor.org.au or contact Fran’s office on 9414 3266.