Contributed by John Lannan.
I am married with one child and two grandchildren. I live in Mount Martha, a beachside area on the Mornington Peninsula south of Melbourne.
For most of my career I was a secondary school teacher teaching (mainly) English and Social Education in public secondary schools. I resigned from the Victorian Education Department in about 1993 and for most of the time since have worked in administrative positions in universities. Currently I am a student services officer at Monash University Peninsula campus (Frankston).
I joined the ALP in 1975 and for much of the time since I have been an active ALP member serving in a range of roles including branch president and secretary, federal electorate president, state conference delegate, policy committee secretary, local campaign director and candidate. Over the years like other ALP rank and file members. I have spent many hours and days letterboxing, distributing how to vote cards, handing out leaflets in shopping centres, organizing fundraisers, and attending meetings.
I am a member of the Victorian Independent (or Non-aligned) group and have never been a member of one of the major factions. The Independent Group has for several years now worked for reform of the Victorian ALP and the elimination of branch stacking.
As an active unionist, I was for some years a member of the Council of the Victorian Secondary Teachers Association (one of the precursors to the current Australian Education Union) and I was a vice president of the Deakin University branch of the National Tertiary Education Union. I strongly support trade unions and I am dismayed at the decline in union membership.
Reasons for Nominating
I wish to stand in the election for ALP National President to draw the attention of ALP members and ALP leaders, MPs and office holders to the need for reform of the ALP.
The role of the Part president is largely a figurehead position, the main role is to chair meetings of national conference and national president. Under the ALP Constitution, the Party President does not even seem to have a vote as a member of National Executive. However the position has symbolic importance as it is the only National ALP position where all the members actually get a direct vote. To be elected as National President, a candidate needs the support of rank and file ALP members. This means that the occupant of the position could be a major voice for Party democracy and an influence for Party reform.
Note that there are actually three positions to be elected. Each of those elected rotates through the positions of National President and Vice Presidents over a 3 year period.
If elected I will to try to ensure that Party reform and democracy is on the Party agenda.
By nominating I will ensure that there is fact an election for National Conference. In 2008 the Party establishment ensured that there would only be three candidates for National President and Vice Presidents who were all duly elected. Those elected have failed to speak out on behalf of ALP members and for reform of the Party
Anyone who read section 3 of the National Review undertaken by Messrs Bracks, Faulkner and Carr would be in no doubt that the ALP is a sick organization. ALP members talk of their lack of say on pre-selections, ALP rules being ignored, decline of branches and so on. Morale is low, members feel powerless and disregarded by the Party leaders.
There is more that could be said, much of the Party seems to be in the hands of self seeking power seekers, who use corrupt practices such as branch stacking to achieve their ambitions.
While most (but not all) of the National Review recommendations should be supported, they did not really go far enough. To take one example, the Review calls for “increased participation of rank and file members through the direct election of a component of National Conference” This is tokenism. What is needed is a National Conference where the overwhelming majority are rank and file ALP members, elected by their fellow ALP members and not picked by factional and union leaders.
While I don’t argue that democratisation of the ALP is all that is necessary to rebuild the ALP and bring members back, it is definitely a precondition. The Party must become a genuinely democratic organisation based on membership participation. Failure to give members a meaningful role in the Party has been very destructive not just to the organisation itself, but also to the quality of ALP parliamentary representation, and the capacity to develop effective, soundly based policies which can attract public support.
Party decision making, including policy processes must be designed to maximise membership democracy and participation.
Reform of the Party also needs to be directed towards ensuring that all members, officers and MPs operate within a climate of integrity. Branch stacking and the practices which sustain it must end. While the link with unions should be maintained the role of unions in the Party must be re-assessed and there must be an end to the capacity of union leaders to control large blocks of votes at Conferences.
Measures must be introduced to de-institutionalise the factions and reduce their power so that people who join the ALP are not compelled to kowtow to factional leaders in order to contribute to the Party’s decision making processes or to obtain pre-selection. Links with communities and community organisations with which we have a commonality of values or interests must be re-constructed. We must build a stronger, ethically based organisation in which ALP members and the public can have trust.
I don’t know whether ALP members will elect as National President a candidate who stands firmly for ALP reform. At this stage I don’t even know whether I will be able to get the required 10 nominees from each of 5 states and territories. However with your help I will give it a try because I believe reform and democratisation of the ALP is very important.