From Alex Hamilton
Kings Cross Branch passed a motion at its last meeting asking the candidates to the Policy Forum and the National President 7 questions. I have been receiving many responses, and I have collated the Policy Forum responses in an excel file so you can assess for yourself. You can also find attached individual responses from 3 of the 6 National President candidates: Claire Moore, Gai Brotdmann and John Lannan.
A note on the excel file: many of the Policy Forum candidates attended an event run by the Sydney FEC, at that meeting, those that attended were asked point blank if they were in a faction or unaligned. As there were more candidates at that event than ones who answered our motion, there are factional info, but no answers for many candidates. Also, I have summarised complex and nuanced answers into an excel file, so please don’t think that is the sum of what the candidate stands for, it is only a guide.
Kings Cross Branch
Excel file has been updated with new and corrected entries for: Alison McLaren , Darcy Byrne , Hugh McDermott , James Brann , Julia Finn & Sarah Shrubb
Thanks for putting the answers up, and for asking them Alex. I might contend that the shortened version of my reply doesn’t do me justice but that will teach me to answer the questions with such long replies! If anyone is interested here are my full answers:
Thanks for asking these questions. While some of them will not be the determined by the Policy Forum, I believe they are legitimate questions to ask of any candidates running in an ALP ballot because they give an insight into the person’s attitudes and beliefs about the ALP and where it is headed.
1. I do not support rule N. 40. I support local control of local branch and electorate affairs. As a delegate to conference and as an activist in the Party I have always fought for more local control and less interference from HO.
2. I’d have to have a copy of the review in front of me to remember all 31 recommedations, but I certainly support the review’s recommendations overall. I don’t think a 20:20:60 split in primaries will work, but I do support community primaries as a way to combat local warlords and faction bosses picking candidates under the current system, and as a way to combat the resultant imposition of candidates by HO when the local factional warlord’s choice is clearly going to lose the ALP the seat, and possibly the election. (Not to say they don’t interfere for other reasons as well.)
3. I support the union connection to the ALP, and as a former trade union organiser I believe that branches and unions should work more closely together, not drift further apart. I believe that a delegate for every 1000 members is a pretty fair representation. Most SECs and FECs do not represent that many working people for their delegates to conference. I do however support reform to the way in which delegates to the conference are appointed by the secretary of the affiliated union. It puts too much power in the hands of too few people, and I believe it should be more democratic. Why shouldn’t union members have a say over who represents them at ALP conference, other than by voting for their union secretary? He or she may be a very competent secretary, but his or her views on, eg., marriage equality may be very different from the union member’s.
4. It’s been a problem for decades, and an equally serious problem is branches collapsing. Stacking should be prevented by strict rules that test real commitment to the Party, not just to a local warlord. I don’t believe the current rules do that. I support rules that reward campaign activity and policy activity as well as simple membership and attendance.
5. The Party needs to embrace cultural change as well as structural and rules changes. The ALP should be a campaigning space, a place to get things done, an exciting and positive experience. We should offer people the chance to become adept at politics, through training and experiences that nourish the enthusiasm that people join with in the first place. That, far more than formal rules about voting rights, or conference delegates, will help us grow into a movement for real change, rather than simply being a 70s style bureaucracy, a bunch of people endlessly speaking to each other in a language no-one in the real world cares about or understands. That is not to say I don’t support changes to the Rules of the Party to formalise member control and internal democracy, but they cannot be the only way we push for internal democracy. Just like democracy in the wider community, democracy rests on economic and cultural foundations as much as formal rules and institutions. The problem in our Party is cultural; and the political economy of our election campaigns; as much as the Rules.
6. Firstly I’d like to see the current policy and platform of the ALP actually implemented, including a Human Rights Act, protection of workers from second hand tobacco smoke and an official target of 325 ppm carbon dioxide (the last two of which I moved and spoke to at previous conferences, had adopted, and were subsequently ignored by our MPs).
In terms of new policy, my ‘free over three’ preschool policy (free public preschools for all kids over three, with nutrition for all and specialist services for kids with disadvantage and disability) is one I would love to see formally adopted by the Party as our official policy and then implemented in government. I believe it would change the lives of women and families and address disadvantage and promote real equality of outcomes.
7. I most certainly can! And I have the runs on the board to show that I can actually do it. As a student activist, a union organiser, as the founder and convenor of the Eastern Sydney YR@W group, as the organiser for the Free Burma/ACDB protest movement, as a Party activist, as a trainer for not-for-profit training organisation Campaign Action, I have successfully learnt, used and taught the ways in which we can revitalise the labour movement and the Labor Party.
Firstly, you need grassroots, one to one organising. That requires training and commitment of resources. It also requires a willingness to do things differently, and to be whole hearted in your approach. Tinkering doesn’t work. Changing a bureaucratic rule or two doesn’t work. Discussing the internal problems of an organisation, it’s factions and it’s hatreds, doesn’t work.
Becoming an ‘organising organisation’ takes time and resources, and requires breaking a few eggshells. You can’t use the structures and mindsets of the 60s and 70s to organise in the 21st century. You can, however, use the policies that we championed back then. Free education. Peace and non-violence. Feminism and women’s rights to childcare and healthcare. Those things are ‘old fashioned’ for some people in our Party. Not me.
Organising equals issues plus activists, so we need policies that we can campaign around, not policies that come out of the neo-liberal textbook, so loved by our recent state treasurers and many of the crop of staffers and political professionals. Their brand of ‘right wing unpopulism’ is the cause of our low standing in the community. When the NSW Right were about being popular but ‘unLabor’, they had an argument about their predominance over our policy. Now their policies are ‘unpopular and unLabor’ that predominance must end.
We need more genuine Labor, left wing policies, to organise around, reinvigorate our supporters and members, and win back the trust and support of the community. In my experience if you offer a vision of workplace fairness, good education for all, local democracy and equality of outcomes in health and economics, people jump at the chance to be involved, they stay loyal and you attract a majority of voters.
We’ve tried the alternative and it has failed. It’s time to change direction.
Thank you for these questions, and for taking the time to read my replies. If my strident tone offends anyone, I apologise, but the issue of Party reform and Party revitalization is too important to be conducted without passion. I could have trotted out what is popular with many members disgruntled about the way the Party is run. I could have said that all our problems would be fixed by scrapping n.40s and changing other Party rules. But that by itself won’t work. We need to change our culture as much as our rules. We need to develop policies that are compelling and attractive- genuine Labor, left wing policies. That’s why I’m running for a position on this Forum. I would appreciate your support.
Luke Francis Whitington
M: 0422 265 775