5 game-changers at the big Labor conference

Or, not.

Labor National Conference. Three words that could put an elephant to sleep. From a broad distance.

So we’ll make this as informative yet pain-free as possible. When Labor isn’t busy being either in Opposition or Government, the members and factions are deciding just what it is they believe in. That happens every two years, giving issues just enough time to reveal themselves. It’s a cliche, but two years is an eternity in modern politics and a lot has changed since last time when Rudd was leader. For instance, there’s going to be a lot more fired-up debate and possibly dissent.

And it all begins today. In a few minutes, in fact.

Let’s check out the battlegrounds in no particular order:

1. Selling uranium to India

This one came out of left-field, announced just a few weeks ago by the Prime Minister. India has both nuclear power and weapons but has not signed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. Labor’s policy has previously been to not sell uranium to countries that refuse to sign the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. Ms Gillard argued that nuclear power was a cleaner source of energy and would help the world’s second largest country be greener. She also said it did not make sense to sell uranium to Japan, China and the US but not to India. The Opposition has been calling for a reversal in policy for years. The left faction of Labor plans to fight the move tooth and nail, but aren’t likely to be successful.

2. Malaysia Solution and Refugees

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen wants to take the Malaysia Solution back to a vote in parliament next year, now Labor has marginally better numbers on the floor. He’s also wants to lift the number of refugees Australia takes in from almost 14,000 to 20,000 – but not using boat arrivals, who would be sent back to regional ‘transit’ centres around Australia. Labor’s left faction are also opposed to the Malaysia solution.

Live export protestors

3. Live exports


It was the story that won Sarah Ferguson a Gold Walkley – the biggest award in Australian journalism – and it led to a major political problem for Labor as it moved to suspend live exports of beef to Indonesia, a move which crippled the market for northern cattle graziers. Some within the Labor Party will be agitating for a complete ban on some live exports or at least further reforms to the way live meat exports are handled before being slaughtered in some countries. The mandated use of stunning (to knock animals out before being killed) is one goal.

4. Same sex marriage

Well, you’ve probably heard all about this one during the week. But as we get closer to a vote in the two-day conference, hopes among gay marriage advocates are rising as members of both the left and right factions privately want a change to party policy. The left will vote for it but only some members of the right faction agree. In any case, their votes may be binding to the ‘against’ unless some take it a step further and defy the voting order. There is still a lot of support, however, for the Prime Minister’s decision to hold a conscience vote on the matter which would likely fail in Parliament.

5. Jobs, the economy, free trade

With troubles in Europe and debt crises sweeping the globe, the Prime Minister has all but announced 2012 as the ‘Year of the Job’. But how best to handle the economy, the deficit and trade to best stimulate growth is where the debate will come in. The left want a fight on Labor’s free trade policy.

This is just a fraction of what will be raised at the Conference. The National Disability Insurance Scheme will be raised, as will education, as will the way the conferences themselves are run. If you’re filled with any self-loathing today, you can read the full conference details here.

But what about you, what do you want the Labor Party (and therefore, the Government) to be focusing on? What issues would you bring?