Democrats conferences are for debate and planning, and do not have any formal decision making authority. There were some quite interesting sessions to our weekend conference, which should give ideas and energy for those present to campaign on these issues in the wider community.
There was good information on the merits of a Bill of Rights, as well as examining the example of Matilda’s campaign for a Human Rights Act. I spoke in a session on the Democrats role in the Senate, which has obviously changed in the last year since the Government gained control of the Senate. Whilst having a balance of power role is preferable, the ability to have an impact through influence should not be underestimated, even where one doesn’t have direct power.
We had a forum and discussion session on climate change and the current push for nuclear options, plus some policy workshops on indigenous affairs, childcare and media ownership – all quite current issues in various ways.
I noticed the Prime Minister has pronounced from Ireland that he intends to lead a debate in Australia on uranium processing and nuclear energy. I think it’s a very good idea for Australia to have a full debate on this issue, although any debate that’s led by the Prime Minister will be a debate full of dishonesty and distortion, which rather defeats the purpose.
Indigenous issues stayed in the news again today too with some more rights in the long-blighted community of Wadeye in the Northern Territory. However, the key message I put in the workshop at the Democrat conference was the need for all of us to give indigenous issues priority all the time, rather than just when it’s in the headlines.
As to the wider issue of the party’s future, a lot will depend on the actions of members in each state. I believe there is still a big need for a political party that focuses on improving democracy rather than just engaging in ideological warfare or myth making, but the electorate will decide that. The party’s and the members’ task is to present the electorate with a credible choice.