Stay IN AND Speak OUT!

Juvie Minister  Graham West  resigned because, according to the Sydney Morning Herald  he wants “to be able to speak a bit more freely.” I can’t help but wonder at how much more it would stir politics up if West had not resigned but spoken out from office. It would put the pressure right back on Keneally, the Labor machine, Head of Commerce and senior bureaucrats. It seems that Labor MPs who start out with some decent intentions, or hope for making reforms, get sucked into the secrecy of political processes.  This allows all the factional  deals and pressure from advisers and lobbyists to prevent changes that might  be unpopular with the press or with large investors. Open policy discussion and debate by advocates of working class interests and social justice is the necessary antidote.

And by the by – the media don’t help – there is much more coverage of the resignation of Ian McDonald and his snout in the trough of travel largesse, than there is of West whose resignation is over policy. Ho hum!

He was pissed off when discovered that the Department of Commerce had not informed him that they had scrapped a tender for his project to establish bail houses to keep young people charged with offences out of detention. He is not standing for his seat at the next election ” I know Graham West is no radical, but his plans for reforms to Juvenile Justice do challenge the punitive law and order views that dominate popular media and grip most politicians. I don’t know the detail, but they seem worthy reforms that could reduce imprisonment of youth.

But by resigning, he is not increasing his ability to fight for these reforms, he is weaker. Speaking out from office against the government would be far more potent than continuing to speak no longer in office. It concedes that Labor politicians cannot or should not be voices of dissent from the parliamentary Labor Party. Dissent is essential if  the interests of anyone other than the powerful are going to be asserted.

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