How to change Labor Party Policy by next Sunday


You will need:


NSW ALP Annual Conference is next week.

Amongst other things, the ALP Policy Platform will be decided.  The Platform is binding until next Conference.

Before the new Platform is adopted, there will be the opportunity to move amendments to each section.

To make an amendment you need the help of at least two Conference delegates.

Each State Electorate Council (SEC) has sent two delegates to Conference. Each Federal Electorate Council (FEC) has sent three delgates to Conference.  Affiliated Unions have sent different numbers of delegates to Conference, depending on the size of the Union. Non-affiliated Unions have no representation at Conference.

If you are a party member, then your local branch secretary can help you contact your Electoral Council delegates. Electoral Council delegates are technically free to vote as they see fit, though many of them vote as decided by one faction or the other.

If you are a Union member, then you can in theory approach your union. Union delegates mostly vote as instructed, either as instructed by the Union executive, or in some cases, as decided by the Union membership.

One way or another, you need to find two delegates, one to move your motion and one to second your motion. Ideally, you will have an additional two delegates to support your motion, and ideally all of these people will have status and influence in the party.

Once an amendment is moved, it goes to the responsible Committee. Exactly who it goes to depends on which part of the Conference Policy Committee Report you are trying to amend.

If they like your idea, they can accept the amendment, and your proposed change will become part of the Report. When the Conference accepts the Report, which it will, everything in it becomes Party Policy, until next conference.

If the Committee members aren’t comfortable with your idea they will reject it.

A rejected amendment goes to a vote.

Usually, not always, the mover and seconder of an amendment get to address Conference. So do delegates that oppose the amendment. This can be an opportunity for history making debates on the merits of an idea, reforming the high moral ground, challenging the collective thinking on the big intellectual issues of the day. Or it can all turn a bit kindergarten. It depends on the quality of the speaker, and whether they understand the difference between having something to say and having to say something.

Under the strict rules, after the mover and seconder have spoken, speakers are supposed to be alternate between speakers for the motion, and speakers against motion. But many motions only attract a long queue of people who want to speak in favour of the motion, even though they have nothing to say and no-one is opposed to the motion. Some amendments are moved only to give people an excuse to speak, to give them their moment in the spotlight.

It’s rare that an amendment is decided on the quality of argument, but it does happen. More often, amendments are decided on factional lines.

In NSW that traditionally means the Right gets to decide what happens, both because they have had the numbers, and because they have been better at getting their delegates to vote the way they want them to. This has eroded somewhat, but not so much so that they can’t decide things when they want to.

If you can get the support of the General Secretary, your motion will probably pass. It’s important to note however, that agreement is not the same thing as support. It is quite possible that the General Secretary will agree with your amendment, but not so much so that they are prepared to generate support for it.

If so, then if you are lucky, the decision may be delegated to someone else. If they support it, then it may get a fair hearing.

If not, then your amendment will die. If an amendment is not actively supported by someone with the respect of the conference, then the motion will die. It doesn’t matter how good an idea is, or how brilliant a speech is made for it, if it doesn’t have factional backing, it will not pass.

To pass anything more than a motherhood statement, you need support. If that support doesn’t already exist, then you will need to create it. You will need to lobby. You will need to persuade other people to lobby. You will need to work out who is responsible for saying yes or no, and you will need to create reasons for them to say yes.

It’s not easy. Worthwhile things rarely are.

This entry was posted in NSW ALP State Conference. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to How to change Labor Party Policy by next Sunday

  1. Jennifer Jary says:

    The General Secretary has been mentioned here several times. Is everyone aware that there will be a vote for the position of General Secretary at this conference? There will be at least two candidates.

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