The ALP is so hard up it’s now hitting up its own staff
When one sharp and seasoned Labor adviser received a letter from ALP supremo George Wright recently, he was more than mildly shocked.
The man who will guide Labor’s election fortunes as the party’s national secretary was appealing to senior Ministerial staff, the same folk who regularly plough 70 or 80 hours into a working week, to dip into their own pay packets to help out the ALP. The troubled Australian Labor Party.
Wright, who woke yesterday morning to the best Newspoll figures in six months, has the mother of all challenges as he works the boardrooms of Sydney and Melbourne, appealing for business to bring out their cheque books for Julia Gillard’s re-election. Despite a rise of 5 percentage points in Labor’s primary vote, from 28 to 33 per cent, the Coalition and Tony Abbott remains at remarkably short odds to win the next poll, in a landslide.
Which helps explain why senior Shadow Ministers are being rushed off their feet attending fund-raising dinners and events - and why Wright is taking the unprecedented step of asking Ministerial staff to contribute to an election “fighting fund’”.
“I know that you are all working incredibly hard, but there is one more thing I have to ask of you. Would you donate to the Ministerial Staff Campaign Fighting Fund to help fight the 2013 Election Campaign,” Wright’s letter, obtained by The Punch, says.
It all sounds a tad desperate, although Wright - a personable bloke who worked his magic at the National Australia Bank before taking over as ALP national secretary - insists the Labor piggy bank is far from dry.
Instead, he says the appeal to staff is a prudent measure, aimed at ensuring Labor has sufficient cash to throw at the electorate when the time comes to defend its marginal seats in Queensland and NSW - the ones that will decide the election outcome.
Raising dollars from the corporate sector has become harder for both sides of politics in recent years - a raft of blue chip companies simply refuse to sign up to the fund-raising caper. Sure, Labor will have the benefit of incumbency when it comes to framing the election. Despite vowing it would not follow John Howard’s path - and use the public purse to fund thinly disguised election advertisements - it is a sure bet the Government will be using taxpayer dollars to promote its reform agenda in the poll lead-up.
Every federal government since federation has exploited this - and the Gillard administration will be no different.
As well, Wright - a former ACTU staffer - knows the union movement is preparing to build a multi-million-dollar war-chest to take on the Coalition and its dreaded industrial relations agenda.
But the brutal reality is that the smart money is on Abbott to win, to win handsomely, and this is reflected in the fact that senior Shadow Ministers are being rushed off their feet attending fund-raising events around the country.
George Wright’s appeal to ministerial staff reflects the task facing Labor as federal MPs prepare to return to Canberra next week after the winter recess. Every cent of his campaign fighting fund will be needed - plus some - as the Government tries to claw its way back into some form of competitiveness.
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