Questions of Reform

Jo Holder, Rodney Cavalier, Margret Ross and I put together the following questions for the Candidates for National President:

  1. Which of the 31 of the 2010 Review recommendations do you support/not support?
  2. Should affiliated unions hold 50% of delegates to Annual Conference? If not, what proportion of delegates to ALP Annual Conference should represent affiliated unions?
  3. If an ALP Caucus decision contradicted the ALP National Party Platform, would you support the Caucus decision or the Party Platform?
  4. Do you believe branch stacking is a problem that the party needs to address? If so, what should be done?
  5. Apart from the above, what other reforms does the party need?
  6. What is the one thing you would most like to achieve whilst in office?

We have received answers from John Lannan, Claire Moore, Jane Garrett, Jenny McAllister and Gai Brodtmann.

John Lannan

1. Which of the 31 of the 2010 Review recommendations do you support/not support?
I support most of the 31 recommendations but collectively they do not go far enough. Section 3 of the Report indicated the disillusion, the feeling that the Party had no interest in them and even the despair that is widespread among our members, but the Report failed to make the recommendations needed to empower and engage members.

Recommendation 11 asked for a component on National Conference to be elected by the rank and file. We need to have at least 75% of all the delegates to National Conference directly elected by the rank and file not just “a component”.

Recommendation 16 seems to maintain the 50% representation of affiliated unions. The Party needs to reconsider its relationship to affiliated unions. 25% representation would now be more appropriate. Affiliation and representation of other organisations should not be at the expense of representation of rank and file ALP members.

Recommendation 25 is vital. Preselections must be by vote of rank and file members only and intervention should only occur in extreme circumstances.

Recommendation 26. I support primary elections only as part of a controlled experiment. Rank and file membership of the ALP should be the basis for participation in pre-selections.

Recommendation 29. I only support affiliation of other organisations where it does not limit the representation of rank and file ALP members.

2. Should affiliated unions hold 50% of delegates to Annual Conference? If not, what proportion of delegates to ALP Annual Conference should represent affiliated unions?

There needs to be at least 75% representation of rank and file members at state, territory and National conferences. This must be on the basis of direct election by ALP members. Union representation should be no more than 25%.

3. If an ALP Caucus decision contradicted the ALP National Party Platform, would you support the Caucus decision or the Party Platform?

If an ALP Caucus decision contradicted the ALP National Platform, ALP MPs should comply with the National Platform.

There could be rare cases where circumstances change and where it might be foolish or inappropriate to comply with a Platform written 3 or so years earlier.

However this certainly does not apply with our Platform provisions on asylum seekers where the Platform should definitely be complied with.

4. Do you believe branch stacking is a problem that the party needs to address? If so, what should be done?

Branch stacking is corrupt practice which robs ordinary ALP members of their rightful say and taints every decision the Party makes. It needs to be stamped out. I have suggested several proposals to deal with branch stacking including an enforceable code of conduct, requirement to pay membership by traceable means and appointment of a commissioner to investigate claims of stacking. Please see http://johnlannan.net/ for details.

5. Apart from the above, what other reforms does the party need?

There are several reforms the Party needs. Details of reforms which I propose are available at http://johnlannan.net/.

There needs to be a shift in the Party towards decision making on the basis of real rank and file democracy and a change of culture towards transparency, encouragement of debate and new ideas and a more ethical approach to politics generally.

Specific reforms need to include direct election of important office bearers (including conferences and executives) by rank and file vote, enforcement of genuine secret ballot, ongoing national policy committees which reflect rank and file views and decision making bodies taking input from members and keeping them informed.

6. What is the one thing you would most like to achieve whilst in office?

The one thing that I would most like to achieve is an ALP run on the basis of real rank and file democracy as I believe that this would improve recruitment and retention and lead to the sorts of things I have mentioned in my response to Question 5.

John Lannan


Claire Moore

1. Which of the 31 of the 2010 Review recommendations do you support/not support?

I don’t think we should dismiss any of the recommendations, but there will need to be ongoing discussions about how to work through them. The Review attracted many members and branches to make comment and attend meetings.. They deserve an active response from us.

  1. the recommendations are being discussed and will be brought to conference, although there are a range of opinions about some of them
  2. survey is a great idea, with a clear understanding that the responses will be public and some action plan
  3. we need to grow
  4. this will need to be debated , but I support the recommendation
  5. this is a passion of mine..we, the ALP must be active in the community, not just at election time.For years , our members have been involved in a range of organisations, support groups and local issues,but we are not identified as ALP .The ‘organising’ model has been standard practice in many unions for over 10 years and can be adapted to the party..members who are well informed and supported are clearly the best people to encourage others to be involved
  6. agreed
  7. I am not sure we need an ‘academy’,but training, skill development and the sharing of experience must be provided in the party
  8. agreed
  9. the details and the amounts need to be discussed, but the plan is supported. I believe that branches need to be supported,and encouraged to be active locally…money well spent
  10. agreed..this is part of the job
  11. I agree with this
  12. agreed
  13. agreed
  14. I am not sure how this works
  15. ministers or their representatives
  16. agreed, though I would like to ensure that groups such as Womens Committee, Young Labor , Lean, Rainbow Labor maintain presence at conferences based on their activity, perhaps linked to the attraction of new members
  17. agreed
  18. agreed
  19. agreed, but would need to be discussed with the affiliated unions
  20. agreed
  21. agreed, this would be a useful plan
  22. agreed
  23. I am not familiar with this branch, but I support the on-line model
  24. agreed
  25. agreed
  26. I support this plan, though I think it will need to be trialled to gain acceptance by the membership. I want the local members to know that their vote is critical in the process
  27. agreed
  28. agreed, works with 27
  29. agreed, links with my views on 16
  30. agreed
  31. agreed

2. Should affiliated unions hold 50% of delegates to Annual Conference? If not, what proportion of delegates to ALP Annual Conference should represent affiliated unions?

I support the ongoing involvement of the union movement in our party… the 50/50 model works.

3. If an ALP Caucus decision contradicted the ALP National Party Platform, would you support the Caucus decision or the Party Platform?

As a member of the caucus, I believe that we should argue strongly within the caucus, and naturally the party platform must be the basic reference in policy discussions. Once, a decision has been made , I will support the caucus.

4. Do you believe branch stacking is a problem that the party needs to address? If so, what should be done?

I know that allegations of branch stacking have been made across the party over the years, and often appear in the media. It should be addressed, as it dishonours the party and our members. There should be clear guidelines for branches, as well as training and support for members and branch officers, as recommended in the Review Recommendations 6and 7. Party officials/organisers must be active in the branches, and should be aware of any practices quickly.

5. Apart from the above, what other reforms does the party need?

If we achieve the 31 identified, we will be doing well… I want our members to feel engaged and respected, with options to have information and interaction with their elected representatives.

6. What is the one thing you would most like to achieve whilst in office?

See my answer to question 5.

Claire Moore


Jane Garrett

1. Which of the 31 of the 2010 Review recommendations do you support/not support?

I am campaigning as a strong supporter for Party reform, and while I am keen to see steps taken to implement most of the National Review recommendations I do not regard this document as constituting the totality of the reform debate.

At National Conference we must do justice to the hard work of the Review Committee and of members and affiliates, but we also need to continue the critical conversation around how we build and maintain a Party structure that is fit for purpose. That is, a model which is dynamic, outward-focussed and genuinely democratic.

On the specific proposals, I support all the recommendations with the exception of recommendation 26 which does not sit easily with my sense of how we elevate the role of membership. We first need to restore confidence in access to genuine rank and file pre-selections (such as the one I contested in the seat of Brunswick) before we seek to implement other models.

Finding innovative ways to engage and involve the broader community in our party is, in my view, best focused in the areas of policy and values.

I also note that Victorian Branch Conference has recently adopted many of the recommendations which relate to State responsibilities – and I look forward to reviewing how these improve the functioning of the Branch.

2. Should affiliated unions hold 50% of delegates to Annual Conference? If not, what proportion of delegates to ALP Annual Conference should represent affiliated unions?

Yes. I believe that we should remain a party directly linked to the union movement.

3. If an ALP Caucus decision contradicted the ALP National Party Platform, would you support the Caucus decision or the Party Platform?

In my view this is not a question which can be meaningfully answered in the abstract. I am campaigning to uphold the integrity of our Party structures, including of course the Platform which should be the foundation for the actions of Labor in Government.

4. Do you believe branch stacking is a problem that the party needs to address? If so, what should be done?

Manipulation of membership has been a problem for the Party. We need to maintain a strong Rules framework against branch stacking while recognising that we must be committed to expanding our membership. The best defence against stacking is a vibrant, democratic Party.

5. Apart from the above, what other reforms does the party need?

We need to generate a culture of debate right across the Party. It is not enough to talk of structural changes, we need to be able to spend more time debating how we can work towards a more just and sustainable society.

6. What is the one thing you would most like to achieve whilst in office?

To have played a role in enabling more ALP members to feel connected to, and engaged with, their Party through giving them a greater say in its direction.

Jane Garrett


Jenny McAllister

Over the next few years, we face an important choice.

We can allow current membership trends to continue, slowly but surely transforming into a party of political professionals with a significant base of donors.

Or we act to renew ourselves, reinventing Labor as a modern, member based party.

I strongly believe our future lies in rebuilding as a member based party, able to influence the communities around us, as well as winning elections to implement reforms in government.

Rebuilding will require leadership at all levels to change the damaging behaviors and attitudes documented by Faulker, Bracks and Carr.

Our goal should be a thriving representative branch membership, sharing custodianship of our relationship with the Australian people with our parliamentary representatives and our affiliates.

We need a strong party on the ground to fight the negative campaigns waged by our conservative opponents, like their current attacks on Labor’s climate policy.

Changes to our structures and rules should be part of this; a necessary but not sufficient step along the path.

To this end, I have publicly supported the Falkner, Bracks and Carr Review, and argued for a serious response to its recommendations.

However I recognize that successful renewal could take many shapes; we should not confuse ends and means.

For example, while I support the recommendation to reform the National Policy Committee, there are a range of alternative models, each of which could successfully engage our members and supporters in policy development.

Equally, while I believe community pre-selections may present opportunities to engage our supporters, trialling community pre-selection in the face of strong opposition from local party members would plainly be counter-productive.

As National President, I’ve convened rank and file meetings around the country to gauge the member response to these recommendations, and reported that response back to the National Executive. I believe this has been the appropriate way to use this position.

The Review does not recommend changes to the balance between affiliate and member representation in the party. I too support the current balance. Our relationship with Australian union members should be a source of pride, not shame. I believe there are many ways that we could work more closely to involve Australian union members in campaigns for progressive reform. Correspondingly, union campaigns potentially provide important opportunities for ALP members to gain political skills and experience.

Our branches should remain a place where like-minded individuals come together to, develop and debate their ideas, and campaign to see them implemented. Both branch-stacking and branch-stripping present significant threats to our party’s health. Many states have now implemented rules to hinder mass-recruitment. Rules which prohibit mass payment of membership fees have been particularly effective.

The key challenge now is to attract legitimate members who want to make progressive political change to meet the ambitious membership growth target sought by the Prime Minister.

Some options include:

  • Revitalizing Labor’s printed and online culture, to place a greater emphasis on developing and debating ideas
  • Allocating resources to support branch development plans – so that branches can map out their goals and activities for the year in a single facilitated session, rather than expecting this task to be done by the Secretary and President alone
  • Bringing international speakers from sister parties to Australia more regularly, to counter our geographic isolation from other social democratic movements and ideas
  • Encouraging and rewarding branches and individuals who play a role in community organisations other than the ALP
  • Training new and existing members so that we are equipped to be politically effective
  • Bringing greater transparency to disputes and administration, so all members feel they are treated equally
  • Improving the National Policy process to involve members in focussed discussion on key principles and values before commencing detailed drafting and amendment

More broadly, Labor has begun to engage our members in campaigns to support progressive reform, like the recent campaign for a clean energy future. These campaigns have the potential to reawaken the community’s interest in Labor as something more than an electoral party.

Australia in 2011 is self-evidently different to Australia in 1891. And Labor has changed too. I am very confident that we are ready to take the next step to ensure we remain the most significant force for progressive reform in Australian politics throughout the 21st century.

Jenny McAllister


Gai Brodtmann

1. Which of the 31 of the 2010 Review recommendations do you support/not support?

I support many of the recommendations, particularly those that encourage greater member participation and engagement with the community, such as 2, 5, 10 and 27.

The National Policy Committee listened and responded to the review, and adopted a consultative and inclusive approach to the draft platform development. As recommended in 21, we also held a series of roundtables with community and other sectors.

2. Should affiliated unions hold 50% of delegates to Annual Conference? If not, what proportion of delegates to ALP Annual Conference should represent affiliated unions?

The party was born of the labour movement. Unions are intertwined with our party’s history, and play an integral role. I have no specific views on the percentage, and would be interested in discussing this further with members.

3. If an ALP Caucus decision contradicted the ALP National Party Platform, would you support the Caucus decision or the Party Platform?

I believe the parliamentary party needs the freedom to respond to the policy realities before it at the time – but always guided by the fundamental beliefs of the party outlined in the platform.

4. Apart from the above, what other reforms does the party need?

  • Greater member participation in decision making
  • Greater member engagement in the policy process
  • An improved quality of experience for members of the party

5. What is the one thing you would most like to achieve whilst in office?

Greater retention of existing members.

Gai Brodtmann

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One Response to Questions of Reform

  1. Kevin Boyd says:

    Well Ben thank you again for providing a really valuable resource for the membership in disseminating information.
    I am encouraged by the overwhelming support of the Bracks Faulkner Carr review and the acknowledgement of the labour movement as a fundamental part of the ALP platform and relevance.
    I would however like to know how and what measures the candidates are going to implement to give a voice to rural and regional Australia.
    Country Labor has for many years been neglected by the party in line with the city centric mentality that by enlarge ignores the bush. Though this countries very existence and lifestyle is dependent on the resources and agricultural bounties generations of farmers have endured in both good and bad times.
    The financial excesses of the city and the corporatisation of the nation forgets the human cost of balance sheet diplomacy over flesh and blood and the relationship with the earth rivers and forests that give us life.
    Country Labor will and can provide the injection of reality that reconnects Labor to the core values of equity and the fair go it was built on by renewing the relationship to the means of production which places the real value on people not product.
    Country Labor has been given nothing but lip service over the past 11 years or so where brand placement and recognition and primary school type newsletters has been offered as trinkets of engagement. There is little if any substantial investment in the bush or its people to support and take on the issues that impact on the lives of rural people, as all decisions come from office blocks, bureaucratic policy announcements from a paternalistic we know best attitudes.
    We want a say in who represents and advocates for rural Australia and a presence that says Labor was born of the bush and we are here to make sure your voice is heard. When is ALP going to seriously make an assault on national seats and deliver representative government to the bush? I live in a seat that has only once seen ALP representation in over 100 years at state and federal elections and the heir to the throne mentality has ensured we remain in the lowest socioeconomic region in the country. This is and should be ALP heartland! This is a blight and shame on the party. We want and need a genuine Labor party and movement in the bush so who is going to support that?
    I am a little perplexed on the back of Mabo Wik and the Apology that constitutional recognition of Aboriginal people is not on the radar of social reform of the party and a priority issue of the National President. I believe that when we get our own overdue acknowledgments sorted then the contemporary issues surrounding immigration will soon follow. There is lots of still water under the bridge that needs to be addressed.
    Though many of the words spoken in these pleas for support are nice and fit into the scripted campaign strategy focus group lexicon; where is the policy, position and heartfelt belief that argues a philosophy or ideology with supporting argument that explains why this view is relevant and why it will succeed. Where is the contentious argument that initiates and compels debate and exchange of ideas?
    If nothing else, over the past 10 years or so the members and the electorate want and have been crying out for unencumbered passionate discussion on ideas and policy. Please show some intestinal fortitude and throw it out there.
    I would like to see some of these potential leaders take the milk crate to Hyde Park and have a go. Get on the metaphorical train and spruik their message from the back carriage to all those who care to listen. Let’s fill the memorial halls of the towns and earn your place on the back of real community engagement. If you can win the diverse passionate informed ranks of the ALP then the electorate will be less cynical and likely to support you as long as you are true to your word and conviction. That is what you learn when you live in the bush very quickly. You are judged by your deeds not by you sugar daddies or debts to insidious corporate benefactors and nice words.
    It is not always about what you think people want to hear, but you say that can inspire imagination, creativity in delivering results that we can aspire to and believe in. We all reap what we sew. Garbage in garbage out. Contempt breeds cynicism which breeds resentment that leads to discontent. Welcome to the modern Labor Party!!!!
    Or not it is your call!!!!
    Good luck everyone.
    Support the bush support the ideals and objectives of Labor and be true to yourself.
    Kevin Boyd
    Secretary Bellinger River.

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