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.

Posted in Misc | 7 Comments

The questionnaire (I’d like to see) for candidates for ALP National President

As mentioned in our previous post, the 5 candidates for National Labor President have answered a survey from Local Labor/Open Labor. The survey did not raise the issue of the relationship between the Party and the Affiliated Unions.
Geoff Hjorth has prepared a follow up questionnaire which we ask the candidates for National President to answer with as much detail as they would like to offer:

In October last year John Faulkner made a major speech about the future of the party.

The full text can be found here.

Below is an extract from the speech (my emphasis for reasons that will become clear).

“Australia is changing, and the Party and unions have to change with it. We need to rebuild Labor from the grassroots – not the top down.

We have to democratise our Party and reach out to union members and involve them directly in the Party’s decision making processes.

This should lead to a deeper relationship with organised labour as a fundamental part of our Labor community.

To achieve this, the Party should encourage members of affiliated unions to join the Party and participate directly in Party decisions and deliberations.

For the purpose of determining union affiliation numbers, unions should only be able to count members who have agreed to their membership being counted towards that affiliation in an opt-in system.

All union delegates to Party Conferences should be elected through a ballot of union members, conducted under the principle of proportional representation, and should not be appointed without election. Unions should be required to amend their own rules, to fulfil this objective.

Our current State Conference structures provide 50% representation to affiliated unions – which represent only a portion of the 17% of working people who belong to a union at all. This must change.

The component of conference delegates directly elected by party members, which I spoke of earlier, should increase over time, while the percentage of both the delegates elected by Electorate Councils, and those elected by unions, should reduce in tandem. I would hope to see a structure with 60% of Delegates elected by the membership, 20% by the Affiliated Unions and 20% elected by Electorate Councils, reached in stages over the next three National Conferences.

Even then, there would still be a positive disparity or “over representation” of union proportionality to unionisation of the workforce. There would also be an incentive for union members to have a direct relationship with the Party as well as participating through their union. Indeed, being active in both Party and union would provide additional opportunities to participate – activism would be rewarded.


The practice of factions, affiliates or interest groups binding parliamentarians in Caucus votes or ballots must be banned. Factional binding is inherently undemocratic. It allows a group with 51% of a subfaction, which then makes up 51% of a faction, which in turn has 51% of the Caucus numbers, to force the entire Caucus to their position. This Russian doll of nested factions is profoundly undemocratic and, as we have seen in NSW, wide open to manipulation.”

Below is a series of statements or propositions drawn directly from the Faulkner speech.
You are invited to agree or disagree and then, if you wish, add further comments.

1. For the purpose of determining union affiliation numbers, unions should only be able to count members who have agreed to their membership being counted towards that affiliation in an opt-in system.

Do you:

  • Agree
  • Disagree

2. All union delegates to Party Conferences should be elected through a ballot of union members, conducted under the principle of proportional representation, and should not be appointed without election. Unions should be required to amend their own rules, to fulfil this objective.

Do you:

  • Agree
  • Disagree

3. I would hope to see a structure with 60% of Delegates elected by the membership, 20% by the Affiliated Unions and 20% elected by Electorate Councils, reached in stages over the next three National Conferences.

Do you:

  • Agree
  • Disagree

4. The practice of factions, affiliates or interest groups binding parliamentarians in Caucus votes or ballots must be banned.

Do you:

  • Agree
  • Disagree
Posted in National Presidency | 4 Comments

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.

Posted in National Conference, National Presidency, NSW ALP State Conference | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

A report from the Rules Committee meeting of 14 Jan

As mentioned in my previous post, the first meeting of the new Rules Committee was last week, the agenda being to identify the remaining changes needed to produce a new version of the rule book, incorporating the changes made at last year’s State Conference.

The meeting was positive, constructive, and collegiate. It was agreed that proper minutes will be kept. Everyone present seemed to be committed to producing a better, clearer, more useful set of rules.

We sat down with the old rules, the new rules and a list of the differences between the two. Everyone shared the issues they’d found in the draft that had been circulated earlier, and the necessary repairs were discussed and agreed.  An updated draft will be circulated, and assuming no major issues emerge, it will be put to next month’s meeting of the Admin Committee to be endorsed as the agreed version of the rules.

There remain issues. Some rules are unclear. Others are contradictory. Except where this was because of a drafting error, there isn’t anything the Rules Committee can do in the short term. To resolve an ambiguity one way or the other, or somehow resolve a contradiction would be to change the rules, and only Conference can change the rules.

What the Committee can do, and has agreed to do, is to prepare a list of issues we have with the rules, and to see if we can agree on how to resolve those issues, a report to be presented to the next State Conference for endorsement.

(It’s not yet clear when the next State Conference will be. For reasons that were not explained, that decision cannot be made until April.  There is no obviously good choice.  On the one hand, to hold Conference at such short notice would mean compromises in its preparation, and possibly impact the preparation of Federal Conference as well. On the other hand, to not hold Conference means that delegates to Federal Conference, except for those directly elected by FECs, would have to be elected via some other mechanism. One possibility is that they will be selected by the Administration Committee. Another possibility, suggested to me by a Heffron SEC member, is that a postal or internet ballot of Conference Delegates could be held.)

Posted in Rules Committee | 5 Comments

The year ahead

Happy New Year. Trust you had a good Christmas. It’s about to get busy.

We should have a new leader of the State Parliamentary Party by this time tomorrow (5/1) . Luke Foley has spoken in favour of Party Reform in the past, so hopefully this will be another step in the right direction. Full credit to him for insisting on a rank and file preselection in Auburn.

The first meeting of the new Rules Committee will be on the 14/1. The agenda is the finalisation of the new rule book, incorporating the changes made at last year’s conference. A first draft has been prepared. The objective is to have it reviewed and updated in time to be approved by the regular Admin Committee meeting in February (6/2).

We have a State Election, of course, on the 28/3. Depending on how that goes, we may have to have another ballot for State Parliamentary Leader, but only if we don’t win and only if someone challenges. So long as we don’t lose too badly, you’d have to expect that there won’t be any challengers so soon after an uncontested change of leadership, meaning that the first opportunity rank and file members will have to vote for the State Parliamentary Leader is probably still some way off.

Because of the State Election, Branch AGMs are to be held some time in April and we encourage you to do all you can to ensure that the people elected are pro-reform.

SEC, FEC and LGC AGMs are to be held some time in May. Remember that this year, each of the 48 FECs in NSW are to elect one delegate to Federal Conference, either directly by the FEC, or by a ballot of all Party members with at least one year’s continuous financial membership (as per Rules G.5 and M.9). Again, we encourage you to do all you can to elect pro-reform candidates. If you do nothing else, please talk to your existing Delegates to Conference and find out how they voted on motions and amendments at last year’s State conference.

The rest of NSW’s delegates to National Conference ought be elected by the 2015 NSW State Conference. To my knowledge, no date for this has been announced. If any Delegates to National Conference are to be elected at State Conference, it will have to happen some time in June, after SEC and FEC AGMs, but prior to National Conference.

National Conference will be in Melbourne this year, from the 24/6 to the 26/6. Amongst other issues, there will be debate on the replacement of the Socialist Objective.

It’s going to be a busy six months.

Posted in National Conference, NSW ALP State Conference | 4 Comments

Unity Conference Minutes

Please find attached draft minutes of the 75th Anniversary Unity Conference, including resolutions on the following topics:

  1. that the Australian Labor Party should be a democracy based on membership control;
  2. that there will be a regular conference of local branches;
  3. there should be judicial oversight over the NSW Labor Party; and
  4. a series of rule and policy changes: reforms to public funding and fundraising, the banning of factional binding, and direct elections for party positions and for union delegates to conference.
Posted in Misc | Tagged | 1 Comment

Agenda for Unity Conference 75th Anniversary Event

Saturday 15 November

Newtown Neighbourhood Centre
1 Bedford St, Newtown NSW 2042

What: Continue reading

Posted in Misc | Tagged | 2 Comments

Reform is on the agenda for Country Conference (but it’s not looking good)

Country Labor Conference is this weekend.

There are a number of pro-democracy motions on the agenda (see pages 38-40):

  • election of Country Labor representatives on the Admin Committee, Country Labor Committee and other Country Labor positions by Country Labor Conference;
  • direct election of Country Organiser;
  • restrictions on factions targeting Young Labor members under 18;
  • equal weight vote of all members when filling vacancies; and
  • disclosure of electoral funding.

All were rejected on the grounds that members ought to be satisfied with the reform that was achieved at the 2014 Annual Conference.

There are two motions in support of Jodi Mckay. Both motions were ‘noted’ (i.e. rejected) with the words “Country Conference would like to thank Jodi McKay for her commitment to the Labor Party”. There is to be no apology, no expression of regret, no admission that Labor was in any way responsible for what happened. There is no commitment to expel or otherwise discipline those responsible.

And there is a motion asking for help with providing posters for polling booths that Labor no longer has enough membership to staff. Response in full: “Note”.

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Urgent need for Labor Unity – Unity Conference – 75th Anniversary Event

From Sean Macken and David Hetherington:

We are writing to invite your Branch to join the Erskineville Branch of the ALP at a conference to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the landmark Unity Urgent Need for Labor UnityConference which was held in our suburb in 1939.
The Unity Conference was a major milestone in the evolution of NSW Labor at which the deep divisions of the Lang era were overcome and a set of rules agreed which still largely govern the Party today.
We are inviting each local Branch in NSW to accredit two delegates to this anniversary event, where a range of ideas for Labor’s future will be debated.  Come along and take part in a debate on party democracy and reform.
The Conference will take place in Newtown on Saturday 15 November and will be followed by a Labor history walk in the afternoon and a celebratory dinner in the evening.
There will be no charge to attend the event.  Please RSVP to erkolabor at gmail dot com
We hope you can join us for this exciting event.
Yours sincerely
Sean Macken, President
David Hetherington, Secretary

Posted in Misc | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

How to make Faulkner’s vision happen.

John Faulkner’s Revesby Speech contains a number of statements that lend themselves to being turned into motions, either rules change or policy changes:

Policy changes:

  • all political parties’ eligibility for public funding to be contingent on that party’s rules and decisions being justiciable
  • the donations disclosure threshold to be reduced from its current level of $12,800 to $1,000 and indexation removed
  • donations from foreign and anonymous donors to be banned
  • donation splitting across branches, divisions or units of parties to be limited
  • disclosure of donations to be fast and regular
  • breaches of electoral law to be an offence attracting significant penalties

Rule changes:

  • the practice of factions, affiliates or interest groups binding parliamentarians in Caucus votes or ballots to be banned
  • upper house candidates to be preselected by a full, statewide ballot of all Party members
  • State and National Conference to include a component of directly elected delegates, moving from the current model to: 60% directly elected, 20% elected by Affiliated Unions and 20% by Electoral Councils, reached in stages over the next three National Conferences
  • Union delegates to Party Conferences to be elected through a ballot of those union members that opt-in, conducted under the principle of proportional representation
  • for the purpose of determining union affiliation numbers, unions should only be able to count members who have agreed to their membership being counted towards that affiliation in an opt-in system
  • a binding code of conduct to be imposed on all candidates, parliamentarians and officials, Nationwide, as per the rules in NSW
  • community preselections with weighted votes from Party members equalling declared supporters to be the rule, rather than the exception

If we want to see John Faulkner’s vision for a reformed Labor Party come into being, we need to pass these motions at our branches, as many branches as possible. But that’s not enough. We need to pass these motions at electoral councils and electoral assemblies.  We need the motions to be sent to State Conference and Federal Conference. But that’s still not enough. We need to send delegates to State and Federal Conferences who will vote for these motions. There have been a lot of good motions that went down at conference because delegates didn’t support motions that their own electoral councils and assemblies and branches had passed. Once we have delegates at conference who are prepared to support these motions, then we’ll see real reform.


Posted in Branch and EC Motions | 8 Comments