It is not surprising.
Women still find it much harder than men to win ALP pre-selection for safe seats.
Officials from non-affiliated unions find it even more difficult.
The parliamentary representatives of the ALP are mostly drawn from that half of the union movement that has a formal affiliation with the party.
Affiliation matters because it shapes the composition of the federal caucus, it is about backroom power not on stage talent (so David Feeney)
The ALP doesn't represent unions it represents affiliated unions.
Affiliated unions are mostly blue collar (plus a right wing catholic cabal clled the SDA).
If they weren't so powerful inside the party, they would be a sort of harmless local labour movement version of Brigadoon.
Kearney, a nurse, is much more representive of the modern union movement than many of the apparatchiks in the federal caucus who used the union movement as a stepping stone to parliament.
The typical Australian unionist today is female, university-educated, working in the community services sector.
Kearney also shows some strength and vision.
Last Friday at a bit of a love-in to celebrate the Accord - 30 years after the Hawke Government was elected (see my previous post on this event) she bravely touched on the reality of the Accord (its failings as well as strengths) and the way in which nostalgia for the old corporatist adventure has become weight in the saddle bags of modern unions.
After praising the Accord, and criticising the business community, Kearney moved on to some important reflections.
Here are some key sentences:
But there is today, some mythologising of the Accord. For those of us in the leadership of today’s union movement, it sometimes feels like a heavy cross to bear.
The comparisons that are made with the ACTU of the Accord era are often plainly wrong, and they fail to acknowledge the vastly different economic and political environment of today.
Radical changes which have taken place over the last 30 years in the way governments operate and in the structure of the union movement mean the way the two relate to each other – particularly when Labor is in power – is much more complex than it was 30 years ago.
Unions today have deep reservations about entering into a formal agreement on policy, but it still makes sense for us to manage differences and find common ground where we can.
Neither was there a great appetite from either the government or the union movement for a new Accord when Labor came to power for the first time in a decade in 2007.
From the perspective of the union movement, there was a wariness about what had over time become known as the “failures” of the Accord, as I outlined earlier.
Since the Accord, the way unions achieve reform has changed. We have mobilised into an independent campaigning force, capable of multiple campaigns at the same time.
Times and circumstances have changed, necessitating new demands, new campaigns and new methods.
My thesis strongly reflects these sentiments which I picked up in many interviews.
The key problem is that line about "an independent campaigning force".
How politically independent is the union movement when half of it, the affiliated half, seems to be treated as a career path for ambitious young men (and some women)?