Reform is on the agenda for Country Conference (but it’s not looking good)

Country Labor Conference is this weekend.

There are a number of pro-democracy motions on the agenda (see pages 38-40):

  • election of Country Labor representatives on the Admin Committee, Country Labor Committee and other Country Labor positions by Country Labor Conference;
  • direct election of Country Organiser;
  • restrictions on factions targeting Young Labor members under 18;
  • equal weight vote of all members when filling vacancies; and
  • disclosure of electoral funding.

All were rejected on the grounds that members ought to be satisfied with the reform that was achieved at the 2014 Annual Conference.

There are two motions in support of Jodi Mckay. Both motions were ‘noted’ (i.e. rejected) with the words “Country Conference would like to thank Jodi McKay for her commitment to the Labor Party”. There is to be no apology, no expression of regret, no admission that Labor was in any way responsible for what happened. There is no commitment to expel or otherwise discipline those responsible.

And there is a motion asking for help with providing posters for polling booths that Labor no longer has enough membership to staff. Response in full: “Note”.

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Urgent need for Labor Unity – Unity Conference – 75th Anniversary Event

From Sean Macken and David Hetherington:

We are writing to invite your Branch to join the Erskineville Branch of the ALP at a conference to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the landmark Unity Urgent Need for Labor UnityConference which was held in our suburb in 1939.
The Unity Conference was a major milestone in the evolution of NSW Labor at which the deep divisions of the Lang era were overcome and a set of rules agreed which still largely govern the Party today.
We are inviting each local Branch in NSW to accredit two delegates to this anniversary event, where a range of ideas for Labor’s future will be debated.  Come along and take part in a debate on party democracy and reform.
The Conference will take place in Newtown on Saturday 15 November and will be followed by a Labor history walk in the afternoon and a celebratory dinner in the evening.
There will be no charge to attend the event.  Please RSVP to erkolabor at gmail dot com
We hope you can join us for this exciting event.
Yours sincerely
Sean Macken, President
David Hetherington, Secretary

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How to make Faulkner’s vision happen.

John Faulkner’s Revesby Speech contains a number of statements that lend themselves to being turned into motions, either rules change or policy changes:

Policy changes:

  • all political parties’ eligibility for public funding to be contingent on that party’s rules and decisions being justiciable
  • the donations disclosure threshold to be reduced from its current level of $12,800 to $1,000 and indexation removed
  • donations from foreign and anonymous donors to be banned
  • donation splitting across branches, divisions or units of parties to be limited
  • disclosure of donations to be fast and regular
  • breaches of electoral law to be an offence attracting significant penalties

Rule changes:

  • the practice of factions, affiliates or interest groups binding parliamentarians in Caucus votes or ballots to be banned
  • upper house candidates to be preselected by a full, statewide ballot of all Party members
  • State and National Conference to include a component of directly elected delegates, moving from the current model to: 60% directly elected, 20% elected by Affiliated Unions and 20% by Electoral Councils, reached in stages over the next three National Conferences
  • Union delegates to Party Conferences to be elected through a ballot of those union members that opt-in, conducted under the principle of proportional representation
  • for the purpose of determining union affiliation numbers, unions should only be able to count members who have agreed to their membership being counted towards that affiliation in an opt-in system
  • a binding code of conduct to be imposed on all candidates, parliamentarians and officials, Nationwide, as per the rules in NSW
  • community preselections with weighted votes from Party members equalling declared supporters to be the rule, rather than the exception

If we want to see John Faulkner’s vision for a reformed Labor Party come into being, we need to pass these motions at our branches, as many branches as possible. But that’s not enough. We need to pass these motions at electoral councils and electoral assemblies.  We need the motions to be sent to State Conference and Federal Conference. But that’s still not enough. We need to send delegates to State and Federal Conferences who will vote for these motions. There have been a lot of good motions that went down at conference because delegates didn’t support motions that their own electoral councils and assemblies and branches had passed. Once we have delegates at conference who are prepared to support these motions, then we’ll see real reform.

 

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Senator John Faulkner: Public Pessimism, Political Complacency: Restoring Trust, Reforming Labor

The inaugural address of The Light on the Hill Society
- sponsored by Revesby Workers Club

Senator John Faulkner: Public Pessimism, Political Complacency: Restoring Trust, Reforming Labor.

I have always believed that politics is worthwhile.

This is not, nowadays, a popular view.

Important issues are, we are told, ‘above politics’— because politics, by implication and expectation, are the province of the low road. Continue reading

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John Faulkner to speak on Reforming Labor.

John Faulkner will be speaking on reforming Labor.
Tuesday 7 October 2014
Revesby Workers’ Club Auditorium, 2b Brett Street, Revesby
RSVP: Daryl Melham: darylm@rwc.org.au by 3/10/14.
Please pass this on to any supporters of the cause of Labor reform who may wish to attend.

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West Australia 2014 State Conference Report

A report from a humble member to the non-aligned Mt Lawley branch and a branch delegate to the recent WA state conference.

WA State Conference last month was a success, with the leader of the State Parliamentary Labor Party (SPLP) getting his way in terms of substantial reform. It was my impression that the factions capitulated because they were simply so embarrassed at the outcome of the recent re-run of the half senate election where only one voter in five supported Labor.

First, some background.

In WA, all rank and file elections are by direct postal vote – bypassing factional control of branches, etc. Obviously, elections will only occur if more than one candidate nominates.  And each individual member must pay by traceable means.  The position of state president is already directly elected by rank and file via postal vote. Over the years, both left and right candidates have won.

Several months ago the leader of the SPLP, Mark McGowan, indicated that he was in favour of reform. Thereafter the Administrative Committee set up a three person committee to look into the issue and report back. The resulting ‘Shaping Labor’ report, dated 13th June, makes for interesting reading.

A few days after the report was presented to the Administrative Committee, a copy was leaked to the chief political reporter for the West Australian and it became the lead story on page 1 of the paper. The reporter quoted comment from within the meeting, which suggested not only that the factions did not like the report but more importantly, that the leak came from within the Committee. Within 48 hours the State Party Secretary made the reports available to all members.

In the week that followed members were assured by senior party figures that there was no need for branches to put up any reform motions at State Conference, as the above referred to report was being seriously considered by McGowan and the factions and that if all went well, magical things would happen.

State Conference took place on the 5th and 6th July.

The following proposals got up by unanimous vote:

  • Federal electorate councils to be rebranded as ‘continuous campaign committees’ with a greater focus on actually campaigning. The councils are expected to raise at least $1 000 pa;
  • The leader of the SPLP to be elected with rank and file participation along the lines of the Rudd reforms at federal level;
  • In terms of pre-selections, there is to be direct election of MLAs with rank and file to have 50% of the vote and unions the other 50%;
  • In terms of MLCs, the rank and file have a 25% vote;
  • State Admin is to have certain overriding powers in terms of pre-selections;
  • No changes in terms of federal pre-selections, as the State Party is waiting to see what happens at the next Federal Conference;
  • There is no need for rank and file to be members of a union, however it is encouraged;
  • Rank and file no longer need to be members for 12 months in order to vote in party elections;
  • State President to have a casting vote at Administrative Committee;
  • There are to be secret ballots at state executive meetings for both rank and file delegates as well as the unions. There is to be no canvassing of votes and importantly, ballot papers are not to be taken from delegates by faction whips;
  • A move to replace the State Secretary, aligned with the Miscos’, with a non-aligned candidate, failed.
  • Finally, it was resolved that the ‘Shaping Labor’ report be the subject of ongoing consideration and discussion.

On the whole, quite a lot was achieved, which I found surprising in light of the recent Victorian state conference where Shorten’s reforms were rejected. Much of the incentive or impetus for change came, I suspect, from the acute embarrassment suffered by the State Party at the recent half senate election ‘re-run’.  The whole pre-selection debacle, involving a deal between the Misco’s and the Shoppies, reflected very badly on the Party and saw Louise Pratt of the AMWU dumped from the number 1 spot which was taken by Joe Bullock of the Shoppies. Only one in five of the punters bothered to vote for Labor and we only got one candidate up whereas the Libs got three spots.

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NSW ALP 2014 State Conference Report

The NSW ALP 2014 State Conference was a small step forward for reform, both in what was achieved, and in what was almost achieved.

The Conference delivered direct election of the State Parliamentary Leader and a formal requirement for parliamentarians to behave with integrity and honesty.  And it rejected one hundred and twenty four resolutions from eighty three party units calling for more direct democracy. This much has been widely reported. (See, for example, the SMH editorial of July 29)

What has not been reported is that independent rank and file candidates won a place on the Rules Committee in a contested ballot and came within about eight votes of securing a place on the Administrative Committee.

We understand that this is the first time since 1975 that anyone on the NSW Rules Committee was not a member of one of the two major factions.  We believe that this is the closest NSW has ever been to having an independent member of the Administrative Committee.

Saturday

The first day of conference saw the Administrative and Rules Committee Reports debated.

The Left moved a range of amendments which sought to increase direct democracy within the Party.  Left speakers, including John Graham, John Faulkner, Luke Foley, Stephen Jones, Linda Burney and Anthony Albanese, spoke of the need for reform, to engage party members and to prevent any potential recurrence of the corruption that the current system had not only failed to prevent but had, arguably, actively enabled.

The Right used its numbers to defeat the motions. Its speakers, including Jamie Clements, Kaila Murnain, Sam Dastyari and Chris Minns, argued that the amendments would have disenfranchised union members and removed the equal weighting rural electorates currently have with city electorates.

Union leaders from both sides, including Tim Ayers and Bob Nanva, supported reform in principle, calling for an end to a “culture of hyperfactionalism” but not at the cost of ending the relationship with the union movement.

OurALP members Jim Bright and John Glyde moved an amendment  that, if successful, would have asked National Conference to consider enfranchising union members, by having them directly elect their own union delegates. The motion was defeated.

The other significant and under-reported debate was a Right motion to form a committee to draft a replacement for the Socialist Objective:

The Australian Labor Party is a democratic socialist party and has the objective of the democratic socialisation of industry, production, distribution and exchange, to the extent necessary to eliminate exploitation and other antisocial features in these fields.

The motion was bitterly opposed by the Left, but passed. A replacement objective, once drafted, is to be put to next year’s Conference for approval or otherwise.

John Robertson spoke well, mainly on the many contrasts between the Liberal Party and the Labor Party.  He also called for full public funding of elections and the banning of third party lobbyists.

Sunday

The main floor of Conference on Sunday was mostly concerned with matters of policy.  Amongst others, a motion on refugees was defeated. A non-binding motion on equal rights to marry passed, as did motions on Coal Seam Gas and on the Israeli assault on Gaza.

Bill Shorten spoke well, calling for a “party of members, not factions”. It was a good speech, and it offered hope that he will produce further reforms.

Arguably, the most important thing that happened at Conference was not on the main floor, but in the basement, where delegates got to vote on, amongst other things, the membership of the Rules Committee and the Administrative Committee.

The only non-aligned candidates were OurALP members Jim Bright, Ross Smith and Ben Aveling.  In the Rules ballot, we won one position, on Left preferences. In the Admin ballot, both Left and Right preferenced against us and we still came within about eight votes of winning a position.

One position alone is not enough to change the balance of power, but it gives the rank and file a voice and a seat at the table.  Most importantly, it shows it can be done.  With a good campaign and with the support of enough branches and electoral councils, non-aligned members can take seats away from the factions.

OurALP thanks its supporters and its fellow campaigners for reform, including Local Labor and many other passionate pro-reform individuals, both in NSW and interstate.

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