Stronger Democracy and Social Justice

The pursuit of social justice is at the heart of the labour movement. Party members can look back with pride at the achievements of the former Federal Labor Government. Federal Labor introduced the National Disability Insurance Scheme, amended 85 Commonwealth laws to remove discrimination against same-sex couples and implemented an historic increase in the age pension. Congratulations are extended to all those Ministers who were responsible for these important reforms.

Following Federal Labor’s defeat, there is now the very real threat that the Abbott Government will unwind our achievements. There is no better example than the proposal to amend Section 18C of the Anti-Discrimination Act. Contrary to any suggestion from the Attorney-General, individuals do not have the right to be bigots.

At the 2013 Federal Election, the Liberal Party was very effective at winning the support of migrant communities across Sydney. The proposed changes to Section 18C are a complete “slap in the face” to these communities. Labor must continue to oppose this proposal in the strongest possible terms and recommit ourselves to the values of multiculturalism.

The Committee recognises the significant number of policy motions that were submitted by Party units and affiliates in relation to asylum seekers. The Committee supports the position adopted by the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party at its meeting on June 17 2014. This motion is included.

However, some members of the Committee argued in support of a motion that was unsuccessfully moved in the Federal Caucus: 

1. Caucus notes

(i)  The killing of Iranian asylum seeker Reza Berati and the injuries done through violence to many others at the detention centre on Manus Island in February 2014 for which no person(s) has yet been held responsible.
(ii)  The decision by the AFP not to investigate the above events and the government’s failure to request that PNG authorities allow AFP involvement in the investigation.
(iii)  Reports of inhumane, unsafe and completely unsatisfactory conditions for asylum seekers detained on Manus Island and Nauru.

(iv)  The lack of independent oversight of conditions for asylum seekers detained on Manus Island and Nauru. 

(v) The lack of processing of asylum claims on Manus Island and Nauru, with the consequence that asylum seekers are left in a state of uncertainty, fear and severe anxiety.

2. Caucus observes that these circumstances

(i)  Violate Australia’s obligations under the UN Refugee Convention and other human rights treaties, and
(ii)  Are inconsistent with the ALP National Platform commitment (Ch.9, para 156) to “treat people seeking our protection with dignity and compassion and in accordance with our international obligations and core Australian principles of fairness and humanity”.
3. In light of the above, Caucus decides that the Labor Opposition shall no longer support the transfer of asylum seekers by Australia to Manus Island or Nauru and shall call for the detention centres in those places to be closed down forthwith. 
The Committee also received a number of policy items on the topic of mandatory sentencing. This issue became a topic of community discussion earlier this year when the Coalition introduced laws in response to alcohol fuelled violence. It is important to note that the State Parliamentary Labor Party moved amendments to replace all the mandatory sentences proposed by the Government with a single offence of reckless grievous bodily harm when intoxicated in public and in circumstances of gross violence.

The Committee also congratulates NSW Labor Leader John Robertson and the State Caucus for taking the lead on responsible policies to tackle the scourge of alcohol fuelled violence. NSW Labor took leadership on this issue and the Coalition was forced to resond.

A healthy and robust debate took place amongst members of the Committee on a number of issues. In addition to the discussions noted earlier on asylum seekers, the Committee debated the merits of any mandatory sentencing, religious excemptions to the Anti-Discrimination Act, the position of NSW delegates to the next National Conference on marriage equality, and reform of the welfare system. 

Party Unit and Union Motions (Click to download)