Saturday, August 01, 2009

The Theatrics of an ALP Conference

I am not normally given to burst out laughing in public, but I was reading the paper over breakfast in Prahran this morning, and I burst out laughing.

ALP conferences are at times fascinating theatre performances and I thought this Age writer, Katherine Murhpy, captured it very well. The full piece is here, but let me grab some snippets from it.

On cue, the humans arrived, in fluoro lime and orange and hard hats, with their drums, union banners and snarls of outrage. Well-heeled punters at a Darling Harbour luxury boat show looked at the parade with interest.


A bloke with tattoos handed me a sticker that gave a one-fingered salute to the loathed Australian Building and Construction Commission.


Thickset men with bushy beards practised their invective. The union officials in chinos and suit coats roamed the aisles and made nice with one another.


The comrades had one clear message for the pantomime next door: We coughed up $20 million for you in 2007, and you haven’t done enough in return.

The mob booed when a picture of Greg Combet — the bloke who convinced them all to cough up for Kevin — flashed on to a screen.

They booed when Julia Gillard’s name was mentioned.

There was a second’s hesitation when someone mentioned the Prime Minister, then they threw caution to the wind and booed him too. (that was where I laughed)

ACTU president Sharan Burrow played Jerry Springer — or Oprah, or someone — interviewing a group of retrenched workers about what it felt like to be devoured by the running dogs of capitalism.


Dave Noonan from the construction union let fly with fighting words before producing Andrea, a petite woman who lost her husband in a building accident.

Once the widow was produced, you could hear a pin drop. ‘‘I’m begging the ALP,’’ she said, ‘‘to get rid of the ABCC now before it’s too late.’’ The hard hats all swallowed and dabbed their eyes with hankies.

The conference is being held at the imaginatively named Sydney Convention Centre. That would be the building at Darling Harbour that seems to be all carpark and no centre.


  1. Theatrical writing for sure Andrew. You know, I must also look like a mad woman laughing in public at times.
    My best friend from nursing school lost her dad in a building accident 5 years ago. I read that in the paper and it was on the news that night, even before I got to speak to my friend. A sad event. I think some changes were made to safety in the work place after that.. but so much of it comes down to common sense, something some places have not got :(

  2. It was a humorous bit of writing Cazzie, but it does not belie workplace injuries and deaths, especially on building/construction sites. While some think rules in such places are over the top, too may deaths and injuries happen. Ah, people in your profession would very well know about bad backs.

  3. For sure..and my training update day is this coming Wednesday.. "No Lift" is part of it...aswell as fire training and of course CPR.

  4. I loved the photos of the almost empty convention centre when some bigwig was giving speeches...a bit like Paliament ...after the intitial flurry many chose no doubt to have a nice few days hols in Sydney.

  5. Sounds very much like Parliament.