#Indivotes independent candidate @jenpodesta explains why she’s joined the ALP


Last year I stood as an independent candidate in the federal Seat of Indi – now famous for the outstanding win by another independent, Cathy McGowan, over the three-term incumbent Sophie Mirabella. Much has already been said and written about that.

The experience of standing as a candidate was at once exhilarating and heartbreaking, but I grew enormously from the opportunity and came away from it surer than ever that despite the general lack of enthusiasm for politicians and politics in the electorate, it was indeed the path I wished to follow.

After letting the dust settle, in November last year I made the decision to join the ALP. Having expressed some strong concerns during the campaign about the keenly partisan nature of politics in Australia, and having already left the Greens in early 2013, the decision to join Labor was not taken lightly. Following are some thoughts about why I decided to do so.

Whilst I think the voice of independents and minor parties remains important to providing dissenting views and diverse voices, I have come to believe it is the nature of Australian politics to be a strong two-party system and it is these two parties that have and will continue to have the greatest capacity to shape the future of our nation. I feel I have the skills, experience and passion to contribute to this future and that I can best do that as a member of the Labor Party.

I am currently completing a PhD in sociology and as such I study the links between the structures and institutions of society and the lived experiences of individuals. I have been lucky enough in my life to travel to many parts of the world and one thing that is always made clear when I travel is how very lucky we are in Australia in so many ways. But what is increasingly clear to me is how wide the gap is getting between those who can benefit from that luck and those that can’t – be it in health care, education, jobs, housing or opportunity. Rather than the country of the ‘fair go’ we are increasingly becoming a country of deeply entrenched inequality and exclusion that impacts most severely on those who most need our care – our children, our disabled and our elderly.

For me the Labor Party is the party that has continually had the vision to stare that inequality in the face and make the changes needed to address it. Sometimes efforts to make those changes have been hasty, badly implemented, incomplete and costly. But those are things that can be learned from, improved on, and hopefully better managed in the future. The big changes – the tough things that are worth doing – don’t always run smoothly, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pursue them.

Labor understands that as individuals we are only as safe, healthy, secure and strong as the communities we live in and that the first and most important role of government is to ensure that its people are cared for when they aren’t able to care for themselves, and that there is as much equality of opportunity as possible. It understands that unfortunately every child is not born equal, but that the best way to address that is through education: ‘pulling oneself up by one’s bootstraps’ is a lot easier to achieve if you have strong social networks, great role models, self-confidence and a secure safety net.  My own research with the children from disadvantaged families provides plenty of evidence about this. You cannot lift a country up by leaving people behind and punishing the weak and those least able to fight for their rights.

My decision to join Labor has, I think, been strongly vindicated by the recent actions of the Coalition governments state and federal. It is my belief that the Coalition in power takes this country backwards economically, socially and, most importantly, spiritually. Its focus on the budget deficit almost to the exclusion of all else reveals an ideological position that is driven by fiscal priorities that preference business and market imperatives over the needs of people. This ignores the long-term costs of not investing in the wellbeing and skills of the nation. It thrives on the narrow-minded fear of those who have been fooled into believing that if we shut out the things we don’t like or the ideas that challenge us they will just go away and that if we all just protect our own interests then we will be okay. It has been my experience in life that I get the greatest rewards when I put the needs of others ahead of my own and when I open my life to share it with others. I believe our country is the same and we need leaders who will articulate that to the electorate. ‘Aspiration’ is a word that has become synonymous with the Liberal side of politics, and I think aspiration is essential, but it just can’t be for individuals; we also need to aspire for things as a collective – to be better in our families, our communities and as a nation.

Having said that, I am not going to pretend that I agree with current Labor policy on all issues. I also think the Labor Party has a lot of changing to do both in terms of its inner workings and its policy.  Again, I think as a sociologist, a small business owner, and living in regional Australia, I am in a good place to contribute to that. The world is changing at a rapid pace and we need to change with it: adapt so as our policies and institutions are equipped to meet those changes. It is not good enough to be responding to 21st century issues with 20th century policies and actions. We need to be progressive in order to meet the challenges of the future not stubbornly hanging on to things of the past.

As a party, Labor is working on changing itself, although like most change it will be incremental, sometimes painful and even cathartic. There will no doubt be casualties along the way and sometimes it won’t be pretty. But it is becoming more open, more democratic, and more diverse and inclusive – for example I am not, nor have I ever been a member of a union.

It is only by becoming involved that it is possible to make change happen. I have a strong desire to contribute to that process and look forward to seeing how my involvement with the party develops over coming years.

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  1. #Indivotes independent candidate @jenpodesta explains why she’s joined the ALP http://t.co/iRcp7NP6bZ via @NoFibs

  2. Caroline Mackie says

    From the Sydney Morning Herald – why let yourself in for this?????
    Jodi McKay wept in the witness box when she learnt the depths of the treachery of her former colleagues Eric Roozendaal and Joe Tripodi.
    In a day of dramatic evidence before the Independent Commission Against Corruption, the former Labor MP for Newcastle revealed that former coal magnate Nathan Tinkler had tried to bribe her.
    Ms McKay said his development company, Buildev, had plans for a coal loader at Mayfield, which was “a billion-dollar proposal and [Mr Tinkler] was going to benefit enormously from that”.
    Day of drama: Jodi McKay leaves the ICAC.
    Day of drama: Jodi McKay leaves the ICAC.
    She said she had learnt only from a journalist that Buildev had donated $50,000 to her 2007 election campaign. Once she became aware of the donation, she felt it was morally wrong to discuss with Mr Tinkler his plans to build a coal loader in a residential area.
    Ms McKay said that during the month before the state election in 2011, Mr Tinkler approached her to talk about the Newcastle Knights football team, which he owned. During that conversation, he pointed out that it would be difficult for her to win the forthcoming election and offered to donate to her campaign. “I said you can’t, you are a developer,” Ms McKay said, referring to the ban on developers donating to political parties.
    “His immediate reply was ‘I have hundreds of employees and I can get around the rules that way’.”
    Jodi McKay wept as she learnt the depths of treachery of former colleague Joe Tripodi.
    Jodi McKay wept as she learnt the depths of treachery of former colleague Joe Tripodi.
    Asked if she thought it was an attempt to bribe her, Ms McKay replied: “It certainly felt like he wanted my support and he was prepared to buy it.”
    She reported the matter to the police, the ICAC and the Electoral Funding Authority.
    In a shocking development, Ms McKay said the then treasurer, Mr Roozendaal, knew she had met Mr Tinkler. She said she had a conversation with Mr Roozendaal in February 2011 about her opposition to the coal loader plans.
    “He went silent and in a low voice he said, ‘Haven’t you spoken to Tinkler?’ ” Ms McKay recalled.
    After that, Mr Roozendaal’s office took further measures to pave the way for Mr Tinkler’s development.
    Ms McKay was furious. “I said to him, I will not support what you are doing. I will not be a part of what you are doing.”
    Mr Roozendaal’s reply was “Don’t say things like that over the phone,” she said.
    Ms McKay said she thought he believed the ICAC was listening to his calls.
    She said that in early March 2011, leaflets making damaging allegations about her were distributed throughout her electorate.
    “If I told you we’ve got pretty good information, Ms McKay, that indicates that there were three people behind this document: the Tinkler group, Miss Anne Wills [an associate of Mr Tripodi and a consultant to Buildev] and Mr Joe Tripodi, what would you say in response to that?” junior counsel assisting the inquiry, Greg O’Mahoney, asked.
    Through her sobs, Ms McKay said : “I knew they didn’t want me in the seat, but this is the first time … you know what, it’s good news, because now I know.
    “I am sorry to cry, you don’t want to cry at ICAC,” she said, half-laughing through her tears.
    Outside the inquiry, Ms McKay said she thought the ICAC had done “a wonderful job”.
    “I feel relieved that I’ve been able to finally give evidence in relation to what I reported and it may have taken a while to get there, but I always believed that I would one

    Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/icac-inquiry-jodi-mckay-eric-roozendaal-and-the-nathan-tinkler-bribe-20140501-zr2qi.html#ixzz30Y6m0xfS

  3. Kelly Bowman says

    Same same same, I joined Labor after after yrs of resistance, basically to feel independant fom my labor MLA father in nsw parliament of the late 70’s and 80’s. I heard all the horror stories around the dining room table about Mc Donald, Obeid and the saga of the Shortland preselections from my parents from the age of 8 to 21.

    I eavesdropped on the phone calls and had to hand my room over to deputy prime ministers on quiet visits to Newcastle when they didn’t want a fuss, the Minister for Education dropped in to the little town I taught in and told the Principal he was taking me to lunch whether he liked it or not but I waited until I was 49 to join the Labor party.

    I joined because I was was immune to the stupid shit of young labor and I had my bullshit meter primed by experts and because I recognised who my people are.

    My people are the working class and everyone who basically gives a shit about others. My people are the people who believe in the fair go and expect to share the wealth around. My people aren’t the corporate vested interests whose donations legal and illegal are the life blood of the Libs who I despise.

    So it’s simple, I want to be on the team that can win government not the disaffected fringe of the left wing in the Greens or isolated independants. Labor has lost 5% of our vote to the Greens in WA and we need to either work together or get in the same tent otherwise those selfish captives of the vested interests will hold power for decades.

    • Relieved, of Marrickville says

      I’m glad to see people in Labor wanting to work *with* the Greens rather than against them. The whole “I’d rather be in opposition forever than share” stuff makes me look for a party that actually wants to govern. Ideally a left wing one, but if green wing with a bit of left is what’s on offer, that’s what I’ll vote for. Especially now that I no longer have a hard-brown local MP (Martin Ferguson) who, honestly, was completely off his rocker.

  4. At the moment the majors are losing members at an extraordinary rate.

    I think the major progressive party will soon be the Greens. Labor’s shift to the right started with Hawke-Keating and hasn’t let up since.

    All these ‘aspirational’ statements about Labor could be are solidly undercut by what Labor has actually done – kicked single parents on to the dole, wimped out on climate change, caved to a mining company advertising campaign. Labor may want to see itself as progressive, the rest of see the real story in what they have done (and not done).

    • Jennifer says

      Don’t disagree Evan, Labor have chased the Coalition and the electorate to the right over decades. Maybe I am just an idealist but I still believe good people can and are pushing to change that.

    • Labor has gained just over 20,000 new members after the Albanese/Shorten election. The tide of ALP members leaving has turned in the return of former ones as well as totally new ones.

  5. Kelly Bowman says

    But the greens are never going to be in government without alliance to another bigger party, that’s is the only, still considerable power they can assert.

    • For the moment Kelly. The story that keeps not getting reported is the huge decline in the membership of Lab/Lib and the rate at which voters are deserting them, and going even for the loonie fringe.

    • Relieved, of Marrickville says

      It looks very likely that the ALP will never be in government without The Greens, too. They might be able to build some kind of confidence and supply deal with Palmer in federal parliament, but the more they rely on that the more members and voters will swing to The Greens. All that’s saving ALP MPs right now is the voting system that means Green votes flow to ALP members in the lower house, because most Greens prefer left over right when they have to choose.

      PUP voters, on the other hand, mostly seem to be against things, with a bit of “he’s funny, and rich” thrown in. I’m not sure chasing them is a stable long-term strategy, although I do hope that a lot of them are basically sensible and just revolted by the nonsense we’re seeing right now. ICAC in NSW, whatever the heck is happening in Queensland, the neo-fascist elements in the Liberal party in Victoria (you can be arrested if Police decide you might break the law later. Really? They really think that is a good idea?)

  6. joy cooper says

    Good for you, Jennifer & Kelly. My partner & I have joined the ALP/ Country Labor in our ‘dotage”. We attend branch meetings which is invigorating as we CAN make a difference with policy suggestions, etc. It makes you feel as though you are contributing & not just sitting back, moaning about why isn’t the Labor Party doing this, that or whatever. It is all too easy to be critical but with a little effort one can make a contribution. Our words & ideas are heard & taken note of. We all need to take an active interest in how our country is run for the benefit of all. My partner has now been elected as a local delegate to attend the huge NSW Country Labor conference to discuss policy ideas for the ALP. So we all can do our bit.

    The reality of the Greens is that Christine Milne seems, to my mind, to be more comfortable dealing with the Liberals. This may be a result of her experience in Tasmanian state politics of forming government with an alliance with the Tasmanian Liberals. Who knows, but don’t forget she has sided with the federal Liberals on more than one occasion.

    • Kelly, in case you hadn’t noticed, the Greens aren’t a branch of the Labor party – they aren’t actually required to foliow Labor’s policies. Christine’s behaviour may have something to do with her experience with Gillard I would think.

      As to influence. Which input of you or your branch has changed policy?

      (I hope it is clear that I am not defending the current bunch of benighted thugs occupying the government benches for the moment.)

      • Kelly bowman says

        Well Obviously the Greens are another entirely separate political party and in 100 yrs they may get over 20% of the vote but meanwhile they will only exert influence in the Senate, such as current circumstance or in a hung parliament. If like minded Greens were in labor they would have been able to balance the voice of the shop pies De Bruyn, vote for Albo & enjoy the right to same sex marriage in the Act where we live, ably assisted by Shane Rattenbury. If the greens had supported labor’s first attempt by Rudd to get a carbon price it would have been done and dusted before Abbott and his vested interests mounted their propaganda machine & Turnbull supported it. The Democrats died in the arse after Meg Lee’s effort with Howard on the gst, the same will happen to the Greens if they can work out who their mates are.

      • Relieved, of Marrickville says

        That matches my experience of the ALP. I found that all that was acceptable was my membership fees and doing what I was told (HTV’s, letterboxing, canvassing). Actual input on policy required either large donations or lots of union members electing me as their representative.

        In NZ it was even worse, a lot of Labour people were very focusing on opposing The Greens, even at the cost of offending their supporters. They managed to drive a lot of left-wing, green-leaning members out of the party. On the other hand, that campaign was very successful at the last NZ election, with ~10% of the total vote staying home rather than voting Labour, and another 5% voting Green instead. But the Labour Party successfully blocked The Greens from having any affect on the government. It meant another hard-right government elected, but they decided it was worth it to stop the Greens.

  7. #Indivotes independent candidate @jenpodesta explains why she’s joined the ALP http://t.co/WLMWMI46qF via @NoFibs

  8. #Indivotes independent candidate @jenpodesta explains why she’s joined the ALP http://t.co/xWGaoy2fXz via @NoFibs

  9. #Indivotes independent candidate @jenpodesta explains why she’s joined the ALP http://t.co/Dg1dKF7iu0 via @NoFibs

  10. Well I, along with many others, left Labor because of its heinous and appalling attitude and treatment of people (yes humans like you and me) seeking asylum.
    Labor has raced the Liberals to the bottom. It is indistinguishable from them. Heinous, morally empty and doesn’t listen to a word its members say.
    I’ve been a member, been to many local branch meetings and it was a waste of years. We were valued when elections came. “Can you do this?” “Can you do that?” And like a fool I thought I was a small part of an important democratic institution. I was nothing more than a worker to be exploited, by Labor! When it was all over I didn’t matter a drop nor did what I thought or said on any issues whatsoever.
    Nothing I said, nothing I believed, nothing I shared amounted to anything. It was always what was going on behind the scenes, the chats after others went, the deals, the haggling for votes, the union ticket that mattered. None of that was ever discussed of course.
    Don’t delude yourself. Labor is a club just like the Libs. A hateful, vicious, morally empty club of poll followers, happy to allow people to languish on Manus Island, on Nauru indefinitely, going insane simply because they cannot remain in their home country without the fear of death or persecution. Happy to turn a blind eye to corruption at top levels, just like the Libs.
    Don’t give me that bullshit about Labor caring. They’re just good at pretending, but if it looks like it will win favour they’ll stab who ever it takes in the back to get it. Go back and look at what Rudd said about asylum seekers when Australians thought he could re-inject some humanity back into the nation. Then move forward three years to the PNG Solution. What a betrayal of values.
    Sorry. You were better off as an independent.

  11. Kevin Rennie says

    Hi Jennifer. Welcome! Great to have you with us.

    I wrote a couple of posts, Why I am in the Labor Party and Why I am in the Labor Party (2) in the two weeks before Julia Gillard was removed as PM. The last seven months have just reinforced those beliefs.

  12. http://t.co/6fzTUdKpbR the comments at the bottom are also interesting

  13. Why @jenpodesta joined the Labor party http://t.co/TNQG2Fcf5s #inditalk #auspol (Welcome, Jen!)

  14. An independent candidate joins the ALP — http://t.co/TNQG2Fcf5s – a reminder, tweets – Alpine branch meets next Wednesday!