At the 2015 Labor National Conference the Left voted for refugee boat turnbacks, and against party reform.
Let me repeat that.
The Left voted for refugee boat turnbacks, and against party reform.
On April 27, 2014, Bill Shorten called for reform:
“we need to change our Senate pre-selection process. … we need a method that provides a local voice … [a] way of giving local party members a meaningful say in the selection of Senate candidates.
“Our goal should be for future Labor Conferences to be a mix of people directly elected from and by Labor members, and those elected by state conferences”
“I have instructed our National Secretary to work with his State and Territory counterparts to increase the weight given to the local members’ vote by 20 per cent in every House of Representatives seat with more than 300 party members”
“from now on, intervention by the national executive should be the exception, not the rule.”
With Shorten’s words in mind, the Victorian Independents and the unaligned delegates put the following four reform motions on the Agenda:
“At least 50% of National Conference delegates must be elected from and by local branch members and include delegates from outside metropolitan areas. The other delegates will be elected by State Conference.”
There was a Local Labor motion with more or less the same text. The Left voted against the motion and nearly sent it down. One vote less and it would have gone down.
“For Senate pre-selections, if as of July 24, 2015, members who live in the State have less than 50% of the total votes, then the state branch must increase the proportion of votes for those members to at least 50%.”
The Left and Right both voted against this.
“For House of Representative preselections, if as of July 24, 2015, members who live in the electorate have less than 70% of the total votes, then for electorates with more than 150 members, the state branch must increase the proportion of votes for those members by at least 20%”
The Right had agreed to support this, but the Left opposed it, and spoke against it at length. It was eventually deferred. By the time people returned to it, it was too late for it to be voted on – too many people had already left for it to get up.
”National Executive intervention in pre-selections will be restricted to genuinely urgent and/or exceptional circumstances.”
The Left and Right both opposed this.
This isn’t to say that every member of the Left opposed every pro-rank and file reform. A very few people did vote against their faction’s instructions. There were people who argued for reform when the Left caucus met. But the numbers in the Left Caucus were against them, and as loyal members of the faction, they were required to vote against reform and with very exceptions, that’s what they did.
Individual states will have to decide how to allocate National Conference delegates to rank and file members. What NSW already does is elect one delegate per Federal Electorate. Other states might prefer ‘1 vote, 1 value’, with some mechanism to ensure a percentage of “delegates from outside metropolitan areas”.
It’s possible that 70:30 will be passed by National Executive.
If not, it can be passed by State Conferences, as can any of these motions, so long as the numbers are there.
In the lead up to this Conference, when NSW was electing its conference delegates, some people were saying that “it doesn’t matter if you vote for an independent or a faction member so long as they are pro-reform.” As it turns out, it can matter a great deal. If you vote for someone who is pro-reform but is a member of a faction that is anti-reform, you have wasted your vote. And as was demonstrated last weekend, one vote can make the all difference in the world.