Labor Right

Labor Right

The Labor Right, or Labor Unity is the organised faction of the Australian Labor Party (ALP) that tends to be more economically liberal and socially conservative than Labor Left.

Nationally, the Right is a broad alliance of the various Right state groupings. For example the New South Wales right are know as Labor Unity while their Victorian colleagues organize under the banner of Center Unity. ACT right faction members are split, belonging either to the mainstream union-backed Labor Unity grouping or the personality-based remains of the old Centre Coalition. The Queensland right entitles itself Labor Forum. Factional power usually finds expression in the percentage vote of aligned delegates at party conferences. The power of the Labor Right varies from state to state, but it usually relies on certain trade unions, such as the Australian Workers Union and the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association which send factionally aligned delegates to conference and also from ordinary party members with right wing alliance.

The Right is currently the dominant faction in the Labor party. The faction also holds a majority on the party's National Executive. The faction has 41 of the 115 Federal Labor MP's. The arrangement is that the federal leader of the party is from the Right, while the deputy leader is from the Left. State Premiers such as John Brumby are also associated with the Right. An unusual exception to this rule is Queensland Premier Anna Bligh who is a left member and was groomed for the Premiership by Premier Peter Beattie of the Labor right.

Factional Control

In a 2005 speech prominent Left Faction member, John Faulkner describe the factional system in Australian Labor as being less about ideology and more about patronage. Faulkner pointed out that Unions did not control the ALP but rather the factions which control the party also control the Unions. Furthermore, he described the typical career path for aspiring political apparatchiks "a university degree in law or industrial relations, a paid job in a union, leadership in a union, various positions in the ALP (including paid positions) culminating in a State Secretaryship or the like, nomination to the Senate or to a safe House of Representatives seat." [cite news
date = 2005-10-26
title = Factionalism in Australian Political Parties, especially the ALP
publisher = Humanities Faculty, Macquarie University
volume =
issue =
pages =
url =
accessdate = 2008-05-24

Political views

An overriding theme of Labor right wing governance is of balance between progressive social change and the need for sound economic management as the pathway to community development and growth. For the Labor right, there is a time for change and a time to maintain the status quo and that time is measured by community expectations and needs rather than principles of political correctness. In this context, good community representation and a healthy dialog with the Socialist Left wing of the party is an essential component of continual party debate and policy formulation.

Many Roman Catholics have been prominent and influential in the Labor Party, both inside and outside the auspices of the Labor Right faction. Labor socialists and Protestant conservatives alike have historically criticized the faction as beholden to papal authority. However, this has decreased since the 1970s with the gradual erosion of sectarianism in Australian politics.

The Right views itself as the more mainstream and fiscally responsible faction within the ALP. Some right members derive power and policy from the community they serve while others take a more Machiavellian real politic approach. In an address to the Australian Fabian Society, Right faction luminary Robert Ray warned that not "every candidate needs an Honours Degree in Apparatchikism". In the same speech he described factionalism gone wrong, criticising "the suffocating collaboration of factional Daleks – such as Conroy and Carr. [cite news
date = 2006-09-20
publisher = Address to The Fabian Society Sydney
volume =
issue =
pages =
url =
accessdate = 2008-05-24

The Right is most famous for its support of Third Way policies over Labor's traditional social democratic/democratic socialist policies, such as the economic rationalist policies of the Hawke and Keating governments, such as floating the Australian Dollar in 1983, reductions in trade tariffs, taxation reforms, changing from centralised wage-fixing to enterprise bargaining, the privatisation of Qantas and Commonwealth Bank, and deregulating the banking system. These reforms foreshadowed the high growth economy of the 80's, 90's and into the new millennium.


While the Right has dominated the Federal level of the Party for over 50 years, the general trend of economic policy within the Labor party towards the right has led to the situation where past leaders of the Right, such as Ben Chifley, would now be considered radical socialists in comparison to more recent Right leaders such as Paul Keating and Kim Beazley.

A criticism of the dominance of the Right in the ALP is that it has led to a situation where the Labor party has moved to the political centre on some serious issues of policy, in particular economics and national security. In response, members of the Right emphasise the need of the Party to support economic practices that allow Australia to remain internationally competitive, and allay the fears of many voters that Labor is not a fiscally responsible party. In addition, they stress the need to maintain a broad constituent base that includes the "aspirational voters" of Middle Australia.

The Right's chief objective is to maximise its own influence at the expense of the Left - an aim which it accomplishes through various means. Internal ballots are often viciously contested between Right and Left candidates, and in the past, allegations of unscrupulous conduct in regard to balloting processes (eg. branch stacking) have been a feature of such contests for both sides.

Youth Wing

While the senior faction is broken into various state and union based groupings the Young Labor Right is organized around the various parliamentarian factional leaders and power brokers. The major Victorian Right Faction Youth Wing is Young Labor Unity.

Current members of the Labor Right

In the Australian Capital Territory

Federal Parliament: Annette Ellis
ACT Parliament: Andrew Barr, John Hargreaves, Mary Porter, Karin MacDonald.
Former members include: Terry Connolly, Ted Quinlan, Ros Kelly.

In New South Wales

Federal Parliament: Chris Bowen, Sharon Bird, Tony Burke, Justine Elliot, Joel Fitzgibbon, Michael Forshaw, Chris Hayes, Michael Hatton, Steve Hutchins, Julia Irwin, Belinda Neal, Rob McClelland, John Murphy, Roger Price, Ursula Stephens.
NSW Parliament include: Reba Meagher, Kristina Keneally, Michael Costa, Joe Tripodi, Frank Sartor, Eddie Obeid, Steve Whan, Eric Roozendaal and John Della Bosca.
Former Members Include: Bob Carr, Morris Iemma, Laurie Brereton, Graham Richardson, Kerry Sibraa, Gabrielle Harrison

In Queensland

Federal Parliament: Arch Bevis, Craig Emerson, John Hogg, Joe Ludwig, Bernie Ripoll, Kevin Rudd, Wayne Swan.
Queensland Parliament include: Paul Lucas, Rob Schwarten, Judy Spence, Kate Jones, Deane Wells.
Former Members Include:Peter Beattie, Mike Kaiser

In South Australia

Federal Parliament: Annette Hurley, Kate Ellis, Dana Wortley, Nick Champion, Amanda Rishworth, Don Farrell,
S.A Parliament: Lindsay Simmons, Jack Snelling, Michael O'Brien, Tom Koutsantonis, Tom Kenyon, Chloe Fox, Michael Wright, Carmel Zollo, Michael Atkinson,Robyn Geraghty, Lyn Breuer, Lea Stevens, John Rau, Kevin Foley, Trish White
Former members: Linda Kirk

In Tasmania

Federal Parliament: Helen Polley.
Tasmanian Parliament: Steve Kons, David Llewellyn.

=In Victoria=

Federal Parliament: Senate: Jacinta Collins, Stephen Conroy, David Feeney
House: Anna Burke, Anthony Byrne, Simon Crean, Michael Danby, Mark Dreyfus, Richard Marles, Nicola Roxon, Bill Shorten, Kelvin Thomson.
Victorian Parliament: John Brumby, John Lenders, Joe Helper, Tim Holding, Rob Hulls, Tammy Lobato, Hong Lim, Theo Theophanous, Martin Pakula, Fiona Richardson, Marsha Thomson, Christine Campbell, Tony Robinson, James Merlino, Tim Pallas.

Former Members Include: Bob Hawke, Steve Bracks, Robert Ray, Gareth Evans, Sang Nguyen, Andre Haermeyer, Jane Hill, Robert Sercombe

In Western Australia

Federal Parliament: Mark Bishop, Stephen Smith, Glenn Sterle.
WA Parliament: Michelle Roberts, Mark McGowan, Margaret Quirk.

Former Members Include: Kim Beazley, Graham Edwards

Further reading

* Cumming, Fia (1991) "Mates : five champions of the Labor right". Sydney: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 1863730214. Library catalogue summary: Paul Keating, Graham Richardson, Laurie Brereton, Bob Carr and Leo McLeay recount events which shaped the Australian labour movement from the 1960’s to the 1980’s.


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