Brothers and sisters, it is now time for us to turn away from our sinful, sex-and-rock-n-roll-fuelled ways, repent of our unwholesome political ideas, and embrace a higher calling! Or not, as the case may be. Because, it is now time to take a look at that old Catholic, anti-Communist stalwart, the Democratic Labour Party. Please note the ‘U’ in Labour. Like Chekhov’s gun on the mantlepiece, it will be important later.
(Actually, the main thing I’m repenting is deciding to do this in alphabetical order – my blog dance card currently consists of the DLP, Family First, then the Liberal Democrats, and after that, the Libs and the Nationals. It’s enough to make one give up dancing. I think I might have to go review some independents in between, just for the sake of my sanity.)
The DLP’s website starts with the slogan “Putting YOU back into LaboUr.” See what they did there? According to my research, the U only came on board with the DLP in 2013, after a lengthy investigation into its suspected Communist leanings. These suspicions were largely based on U’s refusal to be involved in such good, anti-communist, American spellings of words as ‘color’, ‘valor’ and ‘honor’, though it certainly didn’t help matters that U was at Cambridge in the 1930s and associated regularly with Arnold Deutsch, Antony Blunt, Donald Duart McLean and especially Guy Burgess – though apparently not with Kim Philby.
(at least one statement in that paragraph is true)
(it’s the first half of the first sentence. The rest is basically rubbish.)
The DLP, as one might expect from its Catholic and Anti-Communist origins, tends to be very socially conservative, but in that old-fashioned way that occasionally leads to really good policies on things like disability or aged care. For the Victorian Election, they have seven rotating banners:
- “I want to know my job is going to be secure” (DLP – creating and securing local jobs)
- “I need that peace of mind with my kids.” (DLP – funded sports insurance for families).
- “Helping my business now, when I need it.” (DLP – supporting manufacturing and local businesses)
- “I want to help, not be hindered in my work” (DLP – freedom of conscience for medical practitioners, but evidently not the women they are treating)
- “Caring for an older parent is never easy.” (DLP – Expanding palliative care services)
- “I shouldn’t be treated like this, it’s not right” (DLP – protecting women and children in our society)
- “I never expected to be in this position.” (DLP – harm minimisation for problem gamblers)
Look, if you know anything at all about Catholics and their pro-life stance, it’s fairly easy to see where a number of these banners are going. Conscience clauses for medical and sometimes pharmaceutical professionals have long been a popular tactic with anti-choice groups, as, while they could, in theory, be about almost any sort of treatment, in practice they are generally used to allow doctors to refuse to perform abortions, prescribe (or fill prescriptions for) contraception, or provide palliative care that might shorten someone’s life (as distinct from euthanasia, which is not yet a legal issue in any case). In some particularly nasty cases, people have attempted to use conscience clauses to deny care to patients whose lifestyles the practitioners do not approve of (I’ll let you guess what kind of lifestyles we are talking about). While this has largely been an American thing, anti-choice groups in Australia are doing their level best to introduce similar laws here.
Don’t get me wrong – I don’t think people should be forced to perform medical procedures that are against their conscience. Quite aside from the ethical issues, I’d be a little worried about the practical side of it – is something is against one’s conscience, one probably doesn’t do it very often, and may not be very well trained in it. Neither of these things seems conducive to a good outcome. But I do have an issue with the doctor’s conscience being privileged over the conscience (and potentially, the health) of the patient. We live in a secular country, and the doctor can bloody well make a referral if they have to.
Expanding palliative care is another interesting policy. With the voluntary euthanasia movement gaining momentum, the classic counter-argument is always better palliative care, so that people don’t *need* assisted suicide. I suspect that’s where the DLP is coming from here.
I seem to be getting quite embroiled in policy, but before I really dive in, we really should take a look at the DLP’s group voting ticket.
The DLP’s ticket varies a bit between regions, but the bottom of their ticket is pretty consistently the Greens or the Sex Party. The only exception to this is in the Southern Metropolitan Region, where two Liberal Candidates, David Davis and Georgie Crozier win the coveted bottom place on the ballot. A little research shows that Davis and Crozier jointly tabled the report ‘Betrayal of Trust’, the result of the recent Enquiry Into the Handling of Child Abuse by Religious and Other Non-Government Organisations.
Not OK, DLP. Not OK at all. I can and do abhor your opinions on gay people, women, abortion and the like, while still accepting your sincerity in holding these opinions, but given that the Catholic Church has, absolutely and definitely, had an issue with child abuse, you don’t get to be ‘my Church, right or wrong’ and oppose an enquiry into this. There can be no religious or ethical justification for this stance. It’s just wrong.
Other frequent flyers at the bottom of the ticket are the Voluntary Euthanasia Party (no surprises there), the Rock’n’Roll Party, the Animal Justice Party, and the Cyclists. I’m not quite sure what the cyclists did to alienate the DLP, but right now, I’m inclined to think they should do it again, with bells on.
At the top of the ticket, they pretty much preference a different party in each region, but the top five always include at least four of the Australian Christians, Rise Up Australia, Family First, Shooters and Fishers, the Country Alliance and People Power. According to the DLP’s website, they signed a Public Assurance of Co-Operation with the Australian Christians and Rise Up Australia, which makes sense.
As for Labor and Liberal, the DLP generally prefers the Liberal Party, though occasionally they alternate between Liberal and Labor, and, as previously mentioned, some Liberal Party members get singled out for special treatment. Weirdly, they seem to prefer the Liberal Democrats to either of the two major parties (I say weirdly not just because I find it weird that anyone could like the Liberal Democrats, but because Libertarianism and Catholicism don’t strike me as being closely related philosophies. Then again, Libertarianism is a long way from Communism… are we still worrying about Communism?).
God. I’ve barely started and I’m already quite cross with this lot. But let’s have a look at some policies, now, because they actually do have some that don’t make me grind my teeth.
Let’s start by looking at the DLP’s policy on Life, because to my mind, it informs most of the DLP’s other policies, both good and bad:
The DLP is unwavering in its support for the dignity of all people.
We support life from conception to natural death.
We look to what comprises and sustains the flourishing of all people.
Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater here. There is some good stuff on this page, and to give the DLP credit, when they say they are pro-life, they actually do think beyond abortion and euthanasia. They support universal healthcare, appropriate housing and shelter, and reconciliation, and they are opposed to exploitation of the poor, the weak and the vulnerable.
Their Health policies are thus pretty good – they want more funding for hospitals, particularly to train doctors and nurses and particularly in regional Australia. They are very pro-Medicare. And they are strongly in favour of informed consent for patients, and a patient’s right to accept or refuse treatment.
But they are also very much in favour of the religious liberty of hospitals, and the right of healthcare workers to conscientious objection.
I think I’ve already said enough about that, but I will note that, given their emphasis on informed consent and “access, equity and justice in the provision and allocation of health services”, how do you balance that with the right of a medical practitioner to conscientiously object to providing the service that a patient has consented to? Patients have consciences too, after all.
On Disability, the DLP are also characteristically good – they want to strengthen the Disability Services Act, fund advocacy services, and make sure all care and support is person-centred. They want mainstreaming and community-based care for people with disability, rather than institutional care, and they want to increase access to respite care, as well as invest in the manufacture and production of better disability aids. And they are strongly in favour of the NDIS. All good stuff. They are also big on preventive mental health care, but particularly concerned about the links between mental illness and illicit drug use.
The DLP has some decent policies on education, particularly in terms of increasing Austudy and providing start-up scholarships at the beginning of the year to help with buying books and similar study aids. They also want 30% of student amenity and services fees to go directly to student-run groups who provide student services, which I think is quite a good idea, as it allows young people to get experience at running things. They are big on school vouchers, which I think is a pity, but not a surprise, and want to strengthen TAFE and other technical schools.
The DLP also includes asylum seekers among the people who need to be protected and not exploited, and favour on-shore processing as more compassionate and better for providing job opportunities for Australians. They note that
The DLP realises that Australia only has limited influence in ending the circumstances forcing people to flee their homeland and seek asylum. We must increase our efforts overseas to do all we can to foster peace and stability in areas of conflict around the world. This requires international cooperation; Australia cannot do it alone.
They want closer co-operation with Indonesia, including an increase in intake of refugees who arrive in Indonesia:
There are thousands of people in Indonesia waiting for either a boat or one of the very few spots available in the UN resettlement program. Increasing our intake from Indonesia will give asylum seekers and refugees a good reason not to risk their lives on a boat to get to Australia.
See, if you want to stop the boats, this is a far more compassionate and logically-consistent way of doing it.
The DLP has a policy on Marriage and Family, and it’s nice to see that, while they are still against marriage equality, they have stopped ranting about the Evil Gays, so this is a big step forward from the frankly quite scary things they were saying a few years ago, They want free pre-marriage counselling for couples, and Family Impact Statements for all legislation, and they would like to encourage formation of child-care co-ops. They want marriage to be for life (obviously) and mutter about overhauling the Family Court System, but are not specific as to how. The biggest alarm bell for me is where they support and promote “The rights of children, and the rights and duty of parents to discipline their children.” I’m not a parent, and I don’t have a particular opinion about spanking, but I am aware that there are some very harsh and even abusive ideas about discipline out there. I don’t think that’s a policy I’d want to put out where people could misinterpret it, basically.
Oh, and they express solidarity with the abused, which is nice, given that they clearly do not express solidarity with people reporting on institutional abuse. Grr.
And here’s another good one:
The DLP rejects politically imposed multiculturalism. Instead, we believe in fostering a cosmopolitan community.
Indigenous Australians are entitled to natural justice in their claims for:
• Access and title to historically authenticated tribal areas
• Respect for their cultural heritage and traditions
• Protection of genuine sacred sites and artefacts
Regarding mining and development, Indigenous title should be subject to the same privileges, restrictions and compensation rights that apply to title possessed by non-Indigenous Australians.
The DLP believes in fostering one national identity, one national allegiance for our citizens and the national flag.
I mean, what do you even do with that? There’s good stuff, there’s slightly racist stuff, and it’s all mixed together, inextricably.
Just in passing, it’s nice to see how many parties have started noticing that regional Australia exists. Good job there. DLP has never been one of the problem parties in this respect, but I did want to mention this in general.
The DLP favours a fairly protectionist economic stance, banning imported orange juice concentrate (! strangely specific example!), and creating selective tariffs on other imports, to advantage Australian farmers. They also want to decentralise population growth from cities to regional centres. They also believe in everyone’s right to clean air and water, freedom from pollution and public access to places of natural beauty. They want a national bushfire mitigation plan, including establishing refuge safe areas and tightening building regulations in fire-prone areas.
They are so-so on conservation and the environment:
As a general principle, whenever an area of native bush land is cleared for development, another equivalent area should be protected or created. The need to protect native plants and natural beauty must be considered before any action taken toward development.
The DLP are also against coal seam mining – but they do view oil refining as a matter of national energy security. They want to replace coal with Polywell Fusion, something I have never heard of. I can’t make head or tail of what it is, so I’m just going to link you to their policy.
They finish by commenting that:
The country or organization first to achieve net power with Polywell will be able to supply the world with unimaginable opportunities for raising the living standards of any poor community at an affordable price.
Oh, DLP, why do you have to be so obnoxious when you actually have some really nice ideas underneath?
Economics and Foreign Affairs
The DLP doesn’t trust foreigners. OK, that might not be fair, but they really do go on about making Australia self-reliant and they do not like foreign ownership (fair enough) or excessive imports. And they don’t like treaties which might disadvantage Australian small business and farmers, which is fair enough. They want to increase defense spending and encourage a volunteer gap-year ADF program.
The DLP has a lot of ideas about Indonesia, as our nearest neighbours. On the one hand, “The Indonesian government should immediately allow United Nations Observers and international journalists into the West Papuan provinces,” with a view to independence and autonomy for West Papua – but they also stress the importance of friendly relations with Indonesia, and indeed, their entire refugee policy depends on this. They also want to increase humanitarian and foreign aid in our region – but also support embargos on regimes guilty of human rights abuses.
On the economic side, the DLP is still excited about a Development Bank to provide a source of funding for infrastructure projects and decrease reliance on foreign markets for funding. They support small business and are anti-bureaucracy.
The DLP does not trust foreign treaties, and they want Australians to be able to initiate referendums, which is kind of cool. They also oppose compulsory identification cards as ‘anti-democratic surveillance’, and inform us that “A Bill of Rights is unacceptable, partly because it would render to un-elected judges the power to make final decisions on public and social policy.”
Someone has been listening to the Americans again…
And that’s about it. What we have here, then, is a party that would probably describe its policies as ‘compassionate conservatism’. I, personally, think that its conservatism overrides its compassion, though there are definitely some good policies in there.
But I’m afraid I really can’t forgive their opposition to the Betrayal of Trust report. While I do feel the Catholic Church has done many good things over the years, it is beyond question that they have handled the charges of child abuse extremely badly from start to finish, and the Church needs to acknowledge this. Neither the Church nor the community is served by pretending that everything is fine and that people are just picking on them.