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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5 Responses to NSW ALP 2014 State Conference Report

  1. David says:

    Isn’t Ben Aveling now by his own definition a faceless man….

  2. Pingback: The year ahead | Our ALP

  3. JohnB says:

    Have had another look at Bill Shorten’s address to the 2014 NSW ALP Annual Conference

    At the opening of the conference he said:-
    “….Today I announce the start of a major campaign to rebuild the Australian Labor Party and renew our sense of purpose.
    A campaign driven by my mandate as the first member-elected Leader of the Labor Party.
    A campaign to create a Labor party that’s stronger because we have more members and those members have more of a say.
    A campaign to create a big party, a nation-embracing party, a party that represents and reflects the Australian people.
    A membership-based party. A Labor party with 100,000 members.
    For Labor to rebuild, we have to involve more people in the work of rebuilding.
    More than 4 million people voted Labor at the last election.
    Almost 300,000 have signed up for our emailing list. These are Labor’s people…..

    …These are our supporters, our people. Labor people. I want them to be our members.
    Today I wrote to George Wright, the National Secretary of the Labor Party, outlining my priorities for rebuilding our party – and the immediate actions I want us to take.
    Firstly, we need to make it easier for people to join our party….”

    Fine intentions, fine words …but what has happened since?
    From an Our ALP report on the 2014 NSW Conference above:-

    “…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. ….
    …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 [Bill Shorten] Right used its numbers to defeat the motions….”

    “…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….” [by Bill Shorten’s right.]
    “…The other significant and under-reported debate was a Right motion to form a committee to draft a replacement for the Socialist Objective:
    …..The motion was bitterly opposed by the Left, but passed.[by Bill Shorten’s right] A replacement objective, once drafted, is to be put to next year’s Conference for approval or otherwise…”

    2014 NSW Annual Conference blocked almost all resolutions aimed at making the ALP a more democratic and inclusive party.

    And further to this statement :-
    “…Almost 300,000 have signed up for our emailing list. These are Labor’s people…..
    …These are our supporters, our people. Labor people. I want them to be our members…”

    It is now almost 12 months later, and what has eventuated from that grand statement?
    Absolutely nothing that I can discern – the ALP R&F numbers are still around 40,000.
    Those 300,000 on the email list that Bill referred to may or may not be still on the ALP email list; they have been offered nothing that might induce them to become ALP members.
    I am on that list, and the only interaction i have seen offered is an opportunity to sign a few worthless petitions to be lodged with Abbott’s government – even Getup do better than that.

    There have been no reason or actions that I have seen that would cause anyone on that email list to become ALP members.
    – yet Bill Shorten said ….”they are our people..labor’s people…I want them to be our members..”

    What will Bill Shorten say in opening this years NSW Annual Conference?
    Why would anyone on the ALP left bother to listen to what he says after last years hollow rhetoric?

    What good are words not backed by actions?

    • JohnB says:

      My apologies,
      The Bill Shorten quotes I posted above are from his speech on party reform delivered in Melbourne on Tuesday, April 27, not from the opening of the NSW 2014 ALP conference.
      http://www.alp.org.au/rebuild_labor

      The error however, does not detract from the point I make in the rest of the comment – fine sounding words, but no effective action.

      • JohnB says:

        This is the passage I intended to open with:
        http://billshorten.com.au/new-south-wales-labor-conference
        Labor has to be as modern, confident, democratic and outward looking as we want Australia to be.
        No person, no group, is immune from self-interest – everyone on every side has to give some ground.
        If we want to change the country, we have to change.
        And if we want to change the Government, we have to change.
        In so many ways, New South Wales is showing the way.
        I congratulate you on the lead you have taken on rebuilding Labor.
        You’ve made enormous progress over the past two years, and you’ve made important progress over the past two days.
        That’s good – because this is urgent.
        We all know what has to be done and we don’t have forever to do it….
        …But I am here to state a very clear direction.
        Labor has to rebuild as a party of members, not factions.
        A bigger, bolder, broader party – 100,000 strong.
        A party where your membership card entitles you to genuine participation in our party: in the choice of our leaders, our candidates, our policies and our dreams of Australia.
        A party where more people, are more involved, more often.

        That’s the direction this branch has set – but we now have to complete the schematic – to make it obvious to everyone what Labor stands for and how we conduct ourselves.

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