How should Labor select its candidates for parliament?

Ideally, there would be a healthy range of candidates, who offer a wealth of experience and who are known in the local community.

The candidates have the chance to present and debate their ideas in open forums, and engage party members and the community directly to explain their credentials.   The candidate would be chosen democratically, in a free and fair vote.
 
Open Labor called for a local members ballot in the Wills preselection, and it was encouraging to see a ballot of members confirmed in Wills.

In some ways, the Wills preselection contest has been reassuringly robust.  There is a strong and diverse field of candidates.  At the town hall' forum organised by Open Labor and the Wills FEA, more than 250 people turned out to hear candidates speak in an open and transparent forum.

But this good work is in danger of being undone by a factionally-based agreement to support one candidate, delivering blocks of votes to him in both the local ballot and at the Public Office Selection Committee.  The 100 member POSC, which meets on Wednesday, has the final say in the preselection and carries 50 per cent of the vote.
 
The workings of the 'stability pact' between Victorian factions, combined with the endorsement of some trade unions and an apparent agreement to trade support in Wills for reciprocal support in a state seat at a future election, would mean that democracy, and the choices of individual party members, will be over-ridden.
 
This is not the way to select a candidate for federal parliament.  Not only does it narrow the field of talent on which Labor can draw, but it feeds the disillusionment that so many Australians feel with the way that political parties operate.
 
When combined with the unresolved issues of memberships paid for with gift cards, this vote-trading in the interests of a small handful of factional groups makes it harder for Labor to do its real job - making sure that the whole community can benefit from the huge economic and social changes taking place around us.
 
Open Labor calls on the POSC to do the right thing - to select a candidate through a fully democratic process - and on the Victorian Party to properly distance itself from practices that diminish democracy and undermine Labor's reputation.

– Tom Bentley & Kath Cozens

 

For more information on the Wills preselection, see this ABC 7.30 report segment.