The Left voted for boat turnbacks and against rank and file reform.

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.

What next?

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.

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7 Responses to The Left voted for boat turnbacks and against rank and file reform.

  1. Bighead1883 says:

    Thanks Ben and our group are looking into what you`ve informed us of here
    There`s much to dissect and weigh up for the time being

  2. adrian tourle says:

    missed opportunity, vested interests win again

    anything to protect their fiefdoms

    • Ben Aveling says:

      I’ve heard people say that this Conference was a defeat for the rank and file. I see it as a small win that could have been bigger, and can be next time – if people want it badly enough.

  3. Sue Kealy says:

    Our FEC sent a delegate IMHO a vast improvement on previous years. But I’m wondering what her obligations were? All branches in our FEC voted against turnbacks. Was it our delegate’s responsibility to vote as our branches had or was she able to according to her views? I haven’t seen her since so I don’t know how she voted.

    • Ben Aveling says:

      Hi Sue, Under the rules, your delegate has no responsibility to vote as directed. She has some moral responsibility to do so – how much so depends on what was and wasn’t said in the lead up to her election. Faction members also have a responsibility to vote as directed by their own faction. Assuming she is a faction member (and I’m sure she is) you shouldn’t think of her as your delegate.

  4. JohnB says:

    What Ben has described occurring at Nat Con gives an indication of just how far out of the control are the ALP faction supremo’s.
    Party leader directions are ignored; delegates are directed how to vote (and monitored to ensure they do as directed) – individual delegates factional leanings/ or backing support base are over-ridden by corridor deals between factional overlords.

    A display of blatant contempt for proper democratic process – and disregard of R&F demands for reform to ensure continued survival of the ALP as a party of the people.

    The fact that only one hour was allocated to Chapter 12 reform is also a disgrace.
    Butler was elected as National President on a platform promising democratic reform;
    Shorten called for reform in April 2014 (per Ben’s link above) – his and Butler’s call has been ignored.
    Given Shorten’s Apr 2014 call for reform measures was made known over 12 months ago, it should have been abundantly clear that the necessary rule/s and organisational changes could not happen during 1 hour of consideration at 2015 NatCon.
    At least 12 months before National Conference a sub-committee should have been formed to take and examine submissions on the reforms Shorten called for. – the subcommittee could/should have developed a set of well developed alternate reform proposals for NatCon to consider and validate.

    The same modus operandi was effective at 2014 NSW Annual Conference – Shorten said:
    “…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….”

    But that never happened either -effective reform was ruthlessly voted down regardless of Bill’s words.

    The self evident truth is that there was never an intention to implement any such democratising reforms by those now in control of the ALP.

    The rules are the problem – and the right factions control the rules; we assiduously follow the rules and we always get circumvented/beaten – I see a pattern.
    Only action external to ALP rules has any hope of succeeding.- action to correct the unfair and anti-democratic provisions of the rules that now ensure the continued reign of colluding factional apparatchiks.

    • Bighead1883 says:

      That`s the continual lip play of any neo conservative
      What I mean by that JB is that because the say it-repeat it-write it does not mean they`re ever going to do it
      I don`t care which Western nation you go to you`ll hear this same neo-con speak
      Democracy-open government-people have their say are mouthed so often it`s hard printed in columns with a fill in the blank spaces for name/time/place/action changes

      Us who heard Shorten almost echo Faulkner had hope and we found out the truth @ NatCon2015-reform was just a dirty word and put away
      I mean to say where`s the hypocrisy in spruiking Labor will get 100,000 R&F when 60% of the 30 odd thou who voted otherwise are ignored
      That`s if we`re to believe that the F&F vote WAS 60% Albo and 40% Shorten because how much can be trusted as we see one of Shorty`s numbers men being expelled from Labor this week for branch stacking.
      The winds of change blow,and they blow through grey hair and wise eyes,Labor will do well to listen very hard in future

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