National Conference, National President, and more

A lot is happening.

We’re electing a National President now, there’s National Conference in July, and NSW State Conference will be in October.

There are 5 candidates for National President, 2 from the Right, 3 from the Left. All are more or less in favour of reform.

From the Right are Henry Pinskier and Tim Hammond. Hammond is being backed by the Right, who have been using the Party’s official membership lists to solicit support for him, whereas Pinskier writes in his candidate statement that he runs “without any endorsement of the factions”.

The Left candidates are Mark Butler, Jane Garrett and Louise Pratt. Butler is seen as having a good track record on Reform, and has the support of most of the Left. He should therefore be a clear favourite, except that the Victorian Left are supporting Garrett. This split probably won’t stop Butler winning, unless the Victorian Left preference Hammond over Butler. While such behaviour might seem irrational and self-defeating, it would be completely consistent with the past behaviour of the Victorian Left, who in the ballot for Federal leader, voted for Shorten (the Right candidate) over Anthony Albanese (the Left candidate), handing Shorten a narrow victory. (Candidate statements are here; candidate responses to a survey by Local Labor and Open Labor are here)

The 2015 National Conference will be from Friday 24th July to Sunday 26th July, in Melbourne. On the agenda is Equal Marriage, the so-called Socialist Objective, voting rights for the National President, and a multitude of large and small changes to the platform. (the current Platform is here; the new draft platform, except for the Constitution, is here)

For the first time in living memory, the the Left are hoping to have a majority of delegates at National Conference.

Several States have swung left. This makes NSW’s selection of delegates particularly important. One of the reforms achieved in NSW was that each NSW FEC gets to elect one delegate to National Conference, either by rank and file ballot or at the FEC’s AGM. The remaining delegates ought to be elected by Conference, but at least this year they are being chosen by the Administrative Committee. FECs should already have held their AGMs. For those that have opted for direct election, voting closes soon.

Equal Marriage is receiving plenty of press coverage, as it deserves to, as a test of the Labor Party’s commitment to “equality in all areas of human endeavour”. But there is another less well reported issue that has far greater implications for the future of the Labor Party.

At the last NSW State Conference it was decided that the “NSW Policy Forum in consultation with the membership” would draft and circulate a proposed replacement for the so called Socialist Objective: “the democratic socialisation of industry, production, distribution and exchange, to the extent necessary to eliminate exploitation and other anti-social features in these fields and the pursuit of social justice and equality in all areas of human endeavour”. So far, nothing much has been seen publicly, and it is not clear that there has much of substance done behind the scenes. But it is certain that there will be something on the agenda that will remove any reference to “democratic socialisation”, and potentially remove all references to socialism in any form, including “democratic-socialism”. One wag has said that the plan is for Chris Bowen to knock something up on the night before the vote.

Another notable event in NSW was the manner of Penny Sharpe’s return to the NSW Legislative Chamber (the NSW Upper House). Sharpe stood down to contest the lower house seat of Newtown, which she lost. In what is possibly a first, Sharpe then filled the Upper House vacancy created by her own resignation. From outside the Party it would have appeared to have been decided by the proverbial handful of factional leaders around a Chinese restaurant table, but it wasn’t. While not as democratic as it should have been, it was a lot more democratic than it appeared to be.

Sharpe was previously elected by the Left at the 2010 State Conference, and by convention, the Left got to decide her replacement. There was a call for nominations, and there were two nominees: Penny Sharpe and David Havyatt. There was a meeting of the Left at which both spoke, and there was a ballot in which every Left delegate to State Conference got one vote. Members of Electoral Councils that returned Left Delegates were able to lobby their delegates, and some Left Unions held meetings of those of their members who were also Party members, where they decided how the Union’s delegates would vote. It was imperfect – voting was opened before candidates had a chance to speak to the meeting, there was no provision made for delegates who could not get to Sydney, and not every Union consulted its members. But it was still an improvement on past practice, and to that extent the Left deserve credit for allowing members an increased role in making the decision.

Ballots papers for National President are due by the 12th of June.

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3 Responses to National Conference, National President, and more

  1. Pingback: The questionnaire (I’d like to see) for candidates for ALP National President | Our ALP

  2. JohnB says:

    Congratulations to Mark Butler on being elected as ALP National President.
    If you fulfill your pre-ballot promises our ALP will go from strength to even more strength.
    Let’s hope this ballot has changed the balance in favour of the progressives at the July 2015 National Conference and we can now get some effective overdue democratising reforms enacted.
    Mark’s pre-ballot statement gives me great hope that real change can be achieved.

    To business-
    We should take a lesson for future generations out of the last few decades of factional contrived domination of Union/ALP governance and the seemingly ever lingering smell of membership stacking and self enriching corruption that has done so much damage to our beloved ALP.

    We must never again allow R&F members to be needlessly/systematically dis-empowered and disenfranchised by executive decision.
    Un-democratically elected or appointed officers should not be allowed to effect ALP policy/rule design/management at peak governance conferences/congress.
    It is worth whatever money it may cost to put in place up to date secure systems/rules to achieve maximum practicable inclusion of both ALP & union R&F membership to ensure effective enfranchisement and fair representation.

    To this end, at the National Conference coming up in late July 2015, I suggest amendment/s should be effected to the ‘ALP National Constitution and Platform’ Chapter 12, Part C, Section 10. That section should be replaced with words similar to that of clause (Ch 12, Pt B, Sec 6) governing appointment of National Conference delegates:-
    (e) All delegates must be elected by a system of proportional representation in a single ballot with affirmative action in accordance with rule 10.
    Amendment:
    Current rule – Chapter 12, Part C, Section 10 Union delegations (Page 252)
    Subject to rule 10(b), it shall be the right of each union to determine the criteria and procedures for selection of its delegates, subject to those delegates being financial members of that union and of the Party
    Replace above with:
    [From ALP Platform Chapter 12, Part B, Section 6 ]
    (e) All delegates must be elected by a system of proportional representation in a single ballot with affirmative action in accordance with rule 10.

    As Ch 12, Section 10 now stands it is completely inadequate to requirement for good governance.
    It is a breach of National ALP governance fiduciary responsibility, inconsistent with almost every other aspect of prescribed ALP social democratic objectives.
    It accommodates (tolerates, if not condones) unfairness in union governance;
    it facilitates manipulative control of ALP governance matters at State conference and encourages/rewards membership enrolment scams.
    It is entirely inconsistent with the proper practice that the ALP National Constitution specifies for delegates to National Conference. Nat Con delegates must be democratically elected, while (affiliated) union delegates to ALP State conference (where unions are assigned 50% of voting numbers) can be appointed without requirement for proper process.

    It makes a mockery of the ALP’s professed objective advancing fair social democratic practice.

    How can the ALP justify demanding others implement proper democratic process, if it doesn’t implement proper democratic process within governance under its own control?
    [ALP Platform Chapter 9, Section 138 (Page 169)
    “Labor is committed to the ongoing process of law reform so that our laws and legal system reflect the traditions, values and aspirations of all Australians, and meet the needs of our modern democratic society.”]

    A search of the ALP Platform (46th National Conference) reveals 56 mentions of the word democratic in many different contexts – and all those occurrences share one aim – the ALP’s determined objective to give dis-empowered people a fair go through adopting/practicing proper democratic process.

    Following are (too many?) examples of ALP’s democratic values and objectives stated in the ALP constitution:

    Current National ALP Constitution and Platform

    Chapter 1: Section 2 (Page 13)
    Labor values are Australian values…… We are a modern social democratic party which has made Australia better off, fairer and more sustainable.

    Section 21 (Page 16)
    Labor is a democratic party. Labor believes that every person has the right to a say, directly or indirectly, in the decisions that affect his or her life…. We are committed to open, democratic and accountable government and to empowering citizens and improving their participation in governance ….</i

    Section 26 (Page 17)
    At the core of Labor’s history, beliefs and aspirations is the need to make sure everybody gets a fair go

    Section 27 (Page 17)
    Labor believes in: …upholding the rights, benefits and duties of citizenship and democratic participation

    Chapter 2, Section 10 (Page 21)
    Labor believes ….. in establishing a framework of rules that enhance stability, fairness and certainty. In line with our social democratic values….

    Chapter 3 Section 16 (Page 39)
    Labor is a social democratic party …..

    Chapter 5, Section 14
    Labor believes that employees have fundamental democratic rights to representation in the workplace,…

    Chapter 9, Section 138 (Page 169)
    Labor is committed to the ongoing process of law reform so that our laws and legal system reflect the traditions, values and aspirations of all Australians, and meet the needs of our modern democratic society.

    Chapter 10,: Section 1 (Page 180)
    Labor wants to strengthen our democracy and give Australians a real say in shaping our future…

    Section 7 (Page 180)
    Labor is committed to democratic and accountable government. This means upholding the highest standards of transparency and probity in the conduct of government and public services.

    Section 8 (Page 181)
    Elections and voting are at the heart of a functioning democracy, and ensuring that the democratic franchise is able to be exercised by all Australians regardless of social class, race or background is an enduring Labor value.

    Section 21 (Page 183)
    Labor is committed to the fair, open and transparent operation of our electoral system and to the essential democratic principle that every person should have the right to full participation in it.

    Chapter 12 Part A Section 2 (Page 231)
    The Australian Labor Party is a democratic socialist party and has the objective of the democratic socialisation of industry, …. to the extent necessary to eliminate exploitation and other anti-social features in these fields.

    Section 4 (Page 233)
    The Australian Labor Party believes that the task of building democratic socialism is a cooperative process that requires: … union action

    Chapter 12, Part B, Section 6 National Conference (Page 236)
    (e) All delegates must be elected by a system of proportional representation in a single ballot with affirmative action in accordance with rule 10.

    ———————————————————————————————————

    Even with all those examples listed above from the Labor National Platform extolling determined commitment to proper democratic objectives, values and practices, they still regard the irresponsible wilful cop-out of Section 10* as acceptable governance.
    They choose to ‘look the other way’ – while being fully aware that some dominant unions blatantly flout proper democratic process.
    *Ch 12, Pt C Sect 10 – Subject to rule 10(b), it shall be the right of each union to determine the criteria and procedures for selection of its delegates, subject to those delegates being financial members of that union and of the Party

    Apparently, democracy applies to all but affiliated union executive appointed delegates; delegates that hold/cast 50% of votes at State Conference/s,
    delegates that elect ALP executive management who select candidates,
    delegates that set ALP platform rules and policy.

  3. JohnB says:

    From above:
    “…They choose to ‘look the other way’ – while being fully aware that some dominant unions blatantly flout proper democratic process….”
    Speaking of rorted Union membership number schemes to get extra delegates to State conference (and the ballot for LOTO), I ran across this damning report from the TURC:

    R&F ALP members are being taken for mugs – democracy? My ass it is!

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