West Australia 2014 State Conference Report

A report from a humble member to the non-aligned Mt Lawley branch and a branch delegate to the recent WA state conference.

WA State Conference last month was a success, with the leader of the State Parliamentary Labor Party (SPLP) getting his way in terms of substantial reform. It was my impression that the factions capitulated because they were simply so embarrassed at the outcome of the recent re-run of the half senate election where only one voter in five supported Labor.

First, some background.

In WA, all rank and file elections are by direct postal vote – bypassing factional control of branches, etc. Obviously, elections will only occur if more than one candidate nominates.  And each individual member must pay by traceable means.  The position of state president is already directly elected by rank and file via postal vote. Over the years, both left and right candidates have won.

Several months ago the leader of the SPLP, Mark McGowan, indicated that he was in favour of reform. Thereafter the Administrative Committee set up a three person committee to look into the issue and report back. The resulting ‘Shaping Labor’ report, dated 13th June, makes for interesting reading.

A few days after the report was presented to the Administrative Committee, a copy was leaked to the chief political reporter for the West Australian and it became the lead story on page 1 of the paper. The reporter quoted comment from within the meeting, which suggested not only that the factions did not like the report but more importantly, that the leak came from within the Committee. Within 48 hours the State Party Secretary made the reports available to all members.

In the week that followed members were assured by senior party figures that there was no need for branches to put up any reform motions at State Conference, as the above referred to report was being seriously considered by McGowan and the factions and that if all went well, magical things would happen.

State Conference took place on the 5th and 6th July.

The following proposals got up by unanimous vote:

  • Federal electorate councils to be rebranded as ‘continuous campaign committees’ with a greater focus on actually campaigning. The councils are expected to raise at least $1 000 pa;
  • The leader of the SPLP to be elected with rank and file participation along the lines of the Rudd reforms at federal level;
  • In terms of pre-selections, there is to be direct election of MLAs with rank and file to have 50% of the vote and unions the other 50%;
  • In terms of MLCs, the rank and file have a 25% vote;
  • State Admin is to have certain overriding powers in terms of pre-selections;
  • No changes in terms of federal pre-selections, as the State Party is waiting to see what happens at the next Federal Conference;
  • There is no need for rank and file to be members of a union, however it is encouraged;
  • Rank and file no longer need to be members for 12 months in order to vote in party elections;
  • State President to have a casting vote at Administrative Committee;
  • There are to be secret ballots at state executive meetings for both rank and file delegates as well as the unions. There is to be no canvassing of votes and importantly, ballot papers are not to be taken from delegates by faction whips;
  • A move to replace the State Secretary, aligned with the Miscos’, with a non-aligned candidate, failed.
  • Finally, it was resolved that the ‘Shaping Labor’ report be the subject of ongoing consideration and discussion.

On the whole, quite a lot was achieved, which I found surprising in light of the recent Victorian state conference where Shorten’s reforms were rejected. Much of the incentive or impetus for change came, I suspect, from the acute embarrassment suffered by the State Party at the recent half senate election ‘re-run’.  The whole pre-selection debacle, involving a deal between the Misco’s and the Shoppies, reflected very badly on the Party and saw Louise Pratt of the AMWU dumped from the number 1 spot which was taken by Joe Bullock of the Shoppies. Only one in five of the punters bothered to vote for Labor and we only got one candidate up whereas the Libs got three spots.

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