Reclaiming our party by reforming the party structure

A paper regarding methods on reclaiming our party by reforming the party structure ‘At the Top’
By John McCutcheon – Kiama Branch


It is my understanding that the NSW party machine is effectually run by a little group fashioned ‘The Administrative Committee’, made up of 25 ALP members plus the State President and three Vice Presidents, plus the General Secretary and two Assistant Secretaries together with the State and Federal Parliamentary Leaders (or their nominees) and a non voting nominee of Young Labor; a total of 35 personal.

This is, in effect, the ‘Board of Directors’, the group who administer all the affairs of the party on behalf of Conference, between Conferences and on behalf of members of the Labor Party and to also maintain the policies laid down by decisions of the majority of delegates voting at Conference.

I find a committee of this size unwieldy in the extreme; who ever heard of a Board of any Public Company this size? Normally a Board sits (within a set quorum) to exercise its allotted powers as laid down by the Company’s AGM.

But who are these people and what is their tenure? I have laboured long and hard to discover (officially) who the members are and when they were elected to office.

I once asked the receptionist in Sussex Street who the members were and she denied any knowledge of the existence of such a committee!

So there we have it, up until the publication of the members of this committee in the 2011 conference booklet – a Faceless Committee, the media turned out to be right this time.

Although it is said that the tenure on this committee is two years does the tenure of each member equal ‘Life’ membership due to the convoluted method of voting and the practice of ‘block voting’ by most delegates dictated by faction leaders? Does one only gain access to this exclusive ‘Club’, mid term between conferences, when a member ‘falls off the twig’ and the fellow members install a ‘mate’ in his/her place? Incumbency works wonders. Maybe members of the committee should only serve for two terms; then sit out a full term before renominating, should they so chose.

How can this committee decide on all things in their favour and massage the rules to fit their desire, on what rule do they excise this power, like the nonsense use of N40 whilst putting off a pre-selection until the very last moment then endorsing a candidate of their choosing (like the case of David Boyle, Steven Jones and Peter Garrett), who gives them the right? How can this committee defy the rank and file and then dispose of the Electricity Industry without resubmitting to Conference and prosecuting their case?

Now the next subject;


The ‘Voting Delegate Block’ to State Conference is made up of 50% Rank and File members voted in as delegates through SEC and FEC meetings and 50% of (party member) people ‘endorsed and anointed’ by affiliated union leaders. The strength of the rank and file delegation is diluted by other persons who are given a ‘franchise’ due to their membership of committees or rank or executive status thus decreasing and diluting the rank and file membership of the voting block.

This is grossly undemocratic.

With 3 delegates for every FEC and 2 delegates for every SEC we have a potential of electing 330 grass root member delegates thus giving the union movement the right to nominate 330 delegates also. Those aforementioned ‘franchised’ members who currently gain ‘an automatic voting right’; should they not, by their very nature, be non-voting delegates?

But why is this so? With unions only attracting, on average, 13-18% of the working population as members, (and that includes non affiliated unions) how can this be fair and representative, more especially as a number of delegates from the grass roots side would also be aligned to, or be, members of the union movement.

This is ‘stacking’ on behalf of the union movement.

Even if we gave the union movement a 5% uplift, in recognition of history, and rounded it out to the nearest 5%, they are still over represented.

A generous democratic formula would see the unions receive no more than 18% + 5% = 23% – round up to 25%.

This would create the voting block as; 330 rank and file + 83 union, a total of 413 voting delegates. As union membership increased as a total of the working population so would the number of union based delegates.

The NSW labour council would conduct the ballot for union delegates (who must be members of the ALP).

One could say that all this is just a ‘pipe dream’ but I offer it as a starting point.

It is not going to be easy to break the nexus; (or by what means). This is the question, when the committee is controlled by the executive, the faction chiefs and the unions; no one wants to give up power, do they?


A more transparent method of selection of the ‘Labor Party Head Office Board’ should be devised. As follows, I propose that an Administrative Committee of 14 people be nominated and elected prior to Conference, to eliminate block voting and overarching faction control to insure a true secret ballot.

1).  Invite each branch to nominate an ALP financial member to each FEC and SEC in NSW; then via a secret ballet of FEC and SEC delegates select one candidate for each EC, either a grass root member or affiliated union member. The names for nomination can be chosen from any NSW Branch or affiliated union and not be restricted to just the delegates regional branch or union.

2). From the members nominated, the 10 nominees with the largest number of nominations, would go forward to another postal (or web) ballot of all financial ALP branch members in NSW, conducted by the NSW Electoral Commission, in order to select 5 members to go onto the Administrative Committee; candidates from regional electorates, as prescribed by ‘Country Labor’, would receive a 20% loading to ensure a regional voice. (Members would only need to vote for 5 candidates; any less on a member’s ballot would be deemed informal and would not count).

3). Another 5 nominees would be elected, in a similar manner, from ALP members of the affiliated union movement.

4). In addition the State President, the leaders of the Federal and NSW Labor Parliamentary Party (or their nominee if the Federal leader is not an elected MP from a NSW electorate) and the State General Secretary, would be added (the General Secretary as an ex-officio non voting member); thus the Administrative Committee would be a total of 13+1 members. Five committee members, or more, plus the General Secretary would constitute a quorum.

5). This election would take place every three years.

This would deliver an Administrative Committee that would be answerable to ALP Members through the FEC’s, SEC’s and the Union Movement.

Like local government, all monthly meetings would be open to all financial rank and file or affiliated union members, without debating or voting rights, only the right to observe without comment. These observers could be asked to exit a meeting on a motion passed by the Committee, if discussion is centred on the fate of an individual member.


In the first instance and then every 5 years the Administrative Committee would nominate 5 senior employees of the ALP Head Office, supported by an extensive CV and individual short report from the Administrative Committee, (supplied to each branch Secretary for distribution to branch members) to stand for election as (a) General Secretary, (b) First and (c) Second Assistant Secretaries; the nominee with the highest vote would be deemed the General Secretary, the next highest First Assistant and third the Second Assistant.

The election of these ‘Executives’ would be undertaken by all financial NSW branch and union members by means of a postal (or web) ballot conducted by the NSW Electoral Commission.

Their tenure would be for 5 years and should any of the 3 retire or be removed from the post, for any reason, the next person in line would move up, then the position of Second Assistant would be filled by a vote of the Administrative Committee, to be ratified by the next Annual State Conference.

The Election of these ‘Executives’ would be undertaken by all financial NSW branch and union members voting by means of a postal (or web) ballot.

The individual members of the Executive could renominate after each 5 year term.

The Head Office Executive is answerable to the Administrative Committee.


A similar method would be employed in the election of the State ALP President, Senior Vice President and Vice President.

Any financial member with a continuous membership of 10 years, or more, can be nominated for these positions, as detailed above.

John McCutcheon
Kiama Branch of the ALP
rd August 2011

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