The masks they wear


Madness and illusion in politics vs. the iron rule of democracy.

By David Kehoe

The spectacle of Australian Labor Party’s campaign meltdown during the recent West Australian Senate election only confirmed — if voters needed any confirmation — the effrontery of many politicians of all persuasions.

It was excruciating to watch the number one ALP candidate, Joe Bullock, and number two candidate, Louise Pratt, parading for the cameras the day before the election all smiles and compliments to each other as if they were husband and wife when everyone knew that, politically speaking, they hated each other’s guts.

Yet again it was confirmed that to succeed in politics in any age and in any place that candidates and incumbents, almost inevitably, must be two-faced — or hypokrites, the Ancient Greek term for actors of the time who literally wore masks to portray their dramatic characters and to hide their real selves.

Even supporters of the kind of values for which Senator-elect Bullock stands would have had to admit that his public displays of political unity with Ms Pratt were a sham.

Just as Bullock described the policies and characters of some ALP members as “mad” before the election, so Pratt poured out her bile upon Bullock after the election.


The mutual denunciations were part tragedy, part farce, but especially for Bullock. His accusation of madness — a condition which includes delusion — was Shakespearian in quality.  He and his supporters are surely no less deluded — in this case, about their own position and influence within the ALP — than their political enemies are supposed to be in their policy proposals.

Presumably, as Christian political warriors, the sturdy Bullock and companions believe that they can bring some sanity to Australian society by being members of the ALP and changing its policies in line with natural law philosophy and Christian conviction.

Yet they are blind to the iron rule of any democracy that power is won by those who represent the prevailing social, economic and cultural beliefs of the body politic.

In the case of the ALP, they either do not know, or refuse to see, that the party was born idealogically in the socialist and anti-Christian mould.

Certainly, for the ALP’s first 70 years, the labour movement drew heavily for its support upon both Irish-Australian Catholic and low-church Protestant workers. They could see that their prospects for improved pay and working conditions were better under ALP governments. This objective was one of the more desirable aims of the ALP. Yet, despite the attempts of Sydney’s Cardinal Patrick Moran in the 1890s — at the time of the founding and first growth of the ALP — to secure policies based in Christian and Catholic social teaching, this did not change the fundamentally atheist and socialist inspiration of the ALP and its program.

Even at the height of Irish-Australian Catholic influence in the ALP in the 1940s and early 1950s, there had been no fundamental change in the secularist and socialist nature of the ALP.

In any democracy, power is won by those who represent the prevailing social, economic and cultural beliefs of the body politic.

In fact, the very size and influence of the Catholic faction in the ALP was the trigger for the secular socialist backlash, seconded by Protestant anti-Catholicism, that set the scene for some of the more religiously orthodox members of the Irish-Australian working class to leave the ALP and to start what they believed to be a true working class movement in form of the Democratic Labour Party.

On the other hand, staying in the ALP, as happened in New South Wales, with the Catholic faction controlling that branch’s right wing, was no more successful, in the long term, than the DLP experiment. Eventually, the “stayers” merely became more secularised and thus more acceptable to — and less distinguishable from – their agnostic and atheist Labor comrades.  In all state branches, the historic socialist and secular base of the ALP reasserted itself and moved to expel what to it was a dangerous virus. As the great mass of Australian voters were becoming more agnostic and secularist and non-Christian, then the social, economic, cultural and religious basis for a Christian influence within the ALP was lost.


The shifting of the ALP’s tectonic plates against the Christian influence reached a crisis point in the case of the late and remarkable Senator Brian Harradine, who was turfed out of the ALP in the 1970s for his natural law and Christian principles.  Today, the last refuge of this influence is in the leadership of the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Union. Whether the SDA membership understands what its leadership is really trying to achieve is questionable. It can only be through intelligent and diligent working of ALP and union structures that this remnant keeps its position. It is but a matter of time, however, before the bearers of the authentic Labor worldview finally assert full control over Labor’s identity.

Senator-elect Bullock, an Anglican and a former state secretary of the SDA, is an outstanding example of the precarious position of what’s left of the Christian true believers in the ALP — his snatching the top place on the ALP Senate ticket was achieved only through a backroom, faceless-men deal.  The outrage that poured forth from the rest of the ALP and the trades union movement once the deal was uncovered means that there will be hell to pay within the left-wing United Voice faction which signed off on the arrangement.

Bullock is a worthy man in his social, union and political beliefs, but he is less than wise if he thinks that he and his kind have any future in the ALP.

To cut to the chase, it is inconceivable that the ALP will ever change its present pro-abortion, pro-gay, anti-family policies. How is it possible, then, for a Christian to be a paid-up member of the ALP, especially after abortion-on-demand was made a key plank of the ALP membership platform in 1984.  Each new member of the ALP now signs up to this policy.  And, given that there is no cultural basis, in the wider Australian society, for ending abortion, on what basis does a Christian make the prudential judgement that he (or she) can join the ALP with any realistic hope of changing the policy? 

Bullock’s position is little different from that of Harradine in the 1970s, and it is highly likely that both moderates and leftists in the ALP will now seek to kick Bullock out of the ALP. Calls are already being made publicly for this to happen. This will set the scene for a move to be made from the left to eject the “Shoppies” élite. Like the ALP Catholic right in Victoria in the early 1950s, the SDA leaders have overplayed their hand with Joe Bullock and run the risk of being the last Christian flame to be snuffed out in the ALP and the unions.

In the Bullock-Pratt saga, it is ironical that Ms. Pratt and her supporters are less hypocritical in its strict sense than her bullocky adversaries — the ALP is fundamentally Ms. Pratt’s party and the party of her kind.  It has been so since its inception.  Those Christian and Catholic forces who want to promote natural law policies in Australian politics have to confront the fact that any attempt to bring the ALP to reason will only lead to their eventual ejection or side-lining. Their energies will be better spent in joining a party more amenable to their own natural law beliefs, such as the Liberal or National parties, or the Democratic Labor Party or Family First.

In federal politics particularly, they have more than a chance of holding the balance of power in the Senate as a brake against the anti-human policies of the ALP and the Greens and as a gadfly to encourage the right-wing of the Liberals and Nationals to use government to promote pro-human, natural law policies.

Joe Bullock, history is against you in the ALP; your destiny lies on the crossbenches.



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