Hospital or Hail Mary Pass? The DLP Gamble Their Principles on the Prospect of Electoral Success


I am not too familiar with American Football, suffice to say that my NFL team of choice, the Cleveland Browns, are renowned for their lack of success.

I do however know what a ‘Hail Mary Pass’ is. As it is, there have been two times in living memory where the Cleveland Browns have won a game through the miracle of a Hail Mary Pass, such a miraculous high risk and almost impossible to achieve play that it has arguably required divine intervention to succeed.

The people behind the Democratic Labour Party (DLP), usually my favourite minor party, are mostly good Catholics, and would appreciate the origins (Notre Dame University) of the term Hail Mary Pass, although they most likely would be ignorant of the term in common parlance.

But they have now adopted a Hail Mary Pass strategy in the Victorian Election, in the hope that they can capitalise on resentment against Premier Andrews and name recognition of their two renegade star recruits to win seats in the Victorian Upper House.

The two star recruits I speak of are Bernie Finn, recently expelled from the Liberal party (rather belatedly in my opinion if they were to bother) for making more than usually tone deaf anti-abortion comments, and Adem Somyurek, recently expelled from the Labor party for industrial scale branch stacking.

The strategy appears to be that each of these people may be able to tap into the demographics of the seats where they are running, Finn in Western Metropolitan and Somyurek in Northern Metropolitan, and get reelected on the DLP bandwagon.

As there are 5 seats available in each Upper House electorate, and preference flows from the many minor parties to each other can help to get someone over the line with a 17% quota despite very limited primary vote, this is not necessarily an unrealistic prospect.

Western Metropolitan, where Mr Finn has sat as a Liberal representative since 2006, has some highly conservative and Catholic areas, and some areas, such as Melton and Werribee, where the anger towards the Andrews government runs very high. The DLP were in fact able to get an MLC elected from here in 2006 and again in 2014.

Northern Metropolitan, where Mr Somyurek is running, has some areas with a large Turkish population and some more generally Muslim voters. These people usually vote Labor, but it is possible that they, combined with an Anti-Daniel Andrews wave, could turn in sufficient numbers to Somyurek and get him over the line.

This is a high risk strategy, and hence I call it a Hail Mary Pass.

Changes to federal electoral laws, including increasing the number of financial members of a party from 500 to 1500, caused the DLP to be federally deregistered this year and unable to run in the recent federal election. Getting parliamentarians elected on its ticket in Victoria would be a way around those obstacles and lead to a revival in its fortunes.

In its ongoing fight for survival since the double dissolution election of 1974, the DLP would be able to breath a giant existential sigh of relief for the next four years if it were to get one or both of these gentlemen elected. Indeed, if both were elected, this would mean that the DLP were at their most relevant since 1974, when they held 5 seats in the Senate.

The prospect of success and a guarantee of survival is what has tempted the DLP into this strategy.

But the stakes are high and the DLP has wagered its very soul for this prospect of success.

The DLP, formed from two splits in the Australian Labor Party in the 1950s (one where the predominately Irish Catholics controlling the Victoria executive were expelled in 1955, and one shortly after where most of the Queensland Labor government were expelled after refusing to implement an unrealistic policy), has been predominantly an Irish Catholic grassroots party.

It is working class and Irish Catholic in origins, mostly devoutly religious and socially conservative, rabidly anti-Communist, and with social democratic economic policies based on ideas current in the Catholic Church in the 1930s. It is also, if what I read in NewsWeekly applies to the DLP, very pro-coal and nuclear in terms of energy policy.

But it mostly is a party of true believers, people who trust their priests and like-minded political leaders to tell them who and what they should support in Australian politics.

Into this mix, we now put Bernie Finn, who supported the DLP in his long forgotten youth, and now again in his dotage, and Adem Somyurek, a former Labor party machine apparachik who has vowed vengeance on Premier Andrews for. the wreckage of his career.

Both are highly self-serving individuals, and have only joined the DLP so that they can pursue the continued platform of the upper house (with its assorted trappings) in the case of Finn, and the agenda of vengeance against a former friend (in the case of Somyurek).

This does not strike me as without significant risk. Neither has the integrity or idealism which normally represent a DLP candidate (as a contrast, I refer to Phil Semmel, candidate for Eastern Province, a long term DLP stalwart of great decency and idealism), but represent a blatant lack of principles and a proven disregard for ethical behaviour in their public life (Finn in his Good Friday ‘pairing’ stunt and Somyurek in his branch stacking).

If either was to be elected, who is to say that they would not then desert the DLP for another opportunity later down the track? Or even worse, were to remain as DLP MPs whilst repeating their history of reprehensible behaviour.

[For those who are not aware, the DLP lost all 5 of its seats in the Senate in a double dissolution in 1974. The resignation of Vince Gair, a former DLP Senator Leader, to accept the ambassadorship to Ireland from Gough Whitlam, was considered as the main reason for the general wipeout at that election.]

There is a lot of risk for the DLP. The best outcome would be that they win two seats in the Legislative Council (although I would be much happier if those two lost and someone like Phil Semmel were to win elsewhere), and those two newly rebadged MPs then advocate in a principled way for the ideals of the DLP, fostering regrowth and reengagement within its grassroots base.

The more likely outcome is that the DLP do not win any seats, but appear discredited and cynical through the cold and calculated decision to gamble their principles and ideals on two tired old renegades. This could end up costing them support amongst their existing members.

Hence the Hospital Pass, which needs no explanation, is the more likely outcome.

Published by Ernest Zanatta

Narrow minded Italian Catholic Conservative Peasant from Footscray.

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