RTBU National Secretary’s NSW Labor Conference address
RTBU National Secretary, Bob Nanva, addressed the crowds at the NSW State Labor Conference last weekend in Sydney – and he didn’t mince his words. Below is a transcript of his speech.
If ever have we had to bear witness to high farce passing as debate, it has come thick and fast this morning.
Here we are, at yet another conference – this most hallowed ground for our party – watching the theatrics from the usual performers who have plenty of bluster about the contrived problems in our party but little by way of genuine solutions.
I thank those delegates for the academy award efforts.
But I’ve run out of the life juices to humour these people and continue this pathetic charade – so let’s call a spade a shovel.
Rather than spending these precious moments having a fair dinkum debate on party reform, we’re going to be bogged down with cynical and self-interested arguments this morning on sideshows like the trade union threat to our party.
Rather than start with the simple premise that we should have a party of more voices, we’re going to have to endure the gibberish that the ALP’s equivalent of the Arab Spring will eventuate if we wipe out the voices of 450,000 affiliated trade union members.
I am sick to death of hearing about the faceless men of the Union movement.
I’m sick of seeing the union straw man erected so that Rodney Cavalier and his intellectual lemmings can come along and blame us for every corrupt activity that went on in the murky corners of Macquarie Street.
These people need to be called out for what they are. Disingenuous charlatans.
Charlatans who are blithely concentrating all pre-selection powers in the hands of the few rather than the representatives of the many.
Charlatans who, in their bloodlust for the trade union movement, will accept the worst of consequences including siding with the verybranch-stackers who have defiled and debauched our party.
Branch stackers who manipulated our party’s low membership numbers, and lax rules, to control branches like rotten boroughs and accumulated the power to appoint rotten people to treasured positions.
What angers me about the hijacking, by some, of the legitimate reform debateat this conference is its intellectual shallowness and dishonesty.
They are going to cloak a proposal to disenfranchise 450,000 affiliated trade union members inside the lofty rhetoric of “democratizing the party”.
If we want to democratise the party, let’s talk about enfranchising – not disenfranchise – 450,000 affiliated members.
Let’s have a conversation about how we can tap into the 450,000 affiliated union members to stop the sorts of predatory attacks by the crooked band of branch stackers who most recently disgraced NSW Labor.
Got only knows our members – who are often the first to man the polling booths and whose dues have helped propped up the party for years – have earned the right to at least have the conversation.
But I know we won’t have that conversation.
Because in the best traditions of a phoney conference debate – I suspect some on the other side are less interested in democracy than making a brazen power play.
We’re not here to look at the extraordinary opportunities presented to a political party with 450,000 working people welded on to it.
We’re here to exploit the base political prejudices of those who want organised labour cut out of our party.
Well delegates, I’d be stuffed if I’m going to sit back silently and allow our party to be run for and by a narrow clique of elite parliamentary staffers and campaign apparatchiks, falling over themselves to chase corporate donations.
The RTBU will not sit back in silence and allow opportunists to degrade the party’s ties with the union movement.
The Labor Party without the Labor Movement would stand for nothing and represent no one.
It would be as hollow as the Greens, and as popular as the Democrats.
We’re not going to sit back in silence and allow this garbage about the party breaking its ties with the union movement drive a wedge between us.
Just as there are some elements within our party that are trying to push us out of affiliation, so too are there rank and file union members trying to pull us out in retaliation.
But our message is blunt. Push your hardest. We aren’t going anywhere.
I still believe in Labor.
My colleagues in the RTBU delegation still believe in Labor.
We’re going to to fight for the values of fairness and collectivism that should differentiate Labor from the rest.
We are going to be here long after the phoney reform proposals are defeated today.
But like many other unions, we’ll have the conversation in the fullness of time with people who are genuine about reforming our party for the better.
Not with the charlatans that are engaged in this debate today.