National Conference candidates 2018

Three members of Open Labor, James Button, Kath Cozens and Joel Kennedy, are running for delegate positions at the ALP National Conference in July. If you’re a member of the party in Victoria, please consider giving them your vote.

The times present a great opportunity for Labor. More and more people long for a more equal society, less divided by wealth and privilege and able to give all its members a chance to thrive. 

But as senior federal MP Mark Butler said in a speech in January, and as party leader Bill Shorten said in a speech in 2014, Labor cannot make the most of its opportunities unless it becomes a bigger party, with a much broader base among the population.

A bigger party must be a more democratic one. While factions will always have a place in the ALP, a party that is secretive, closed to outsiders and dominated by factional intrigue will never appeal to a wider public. Ordinary Australians have to see that joining the ALP will give them a real say in its decision-making.

If you are an ALP member, for the first time you have the chance to vote in statewide ballots to elect National Conference delegates. Victoria will provide 86 of the 400 delegates, with half elected by ordinary members and half by affiliated unions. Ballot papers go out at the end of this week.

Briefly, our three candidates are:

James Button: I am a member of the Northcote branch and have been a member of the party since 2011. I was a journalist at The Age for 20 years, then for a year worked as a speechwriter for Kevin Rudd when he was Prime Minister, an experience I describe in my book, Speechless: A Year in my Father’s Business.  I was one of the founders of Open Labor in 2013, and am keen to work with anyone, inside and outside factions and the party, who is committed to ALP reform.

Kath Cozens: I am a high school English teacher at a terrific government school.   I have been a member of the party since 2010, and I joined because I realised that sitting on the sidelines, drinking coffee and complaining about everything wasn't a morally sustainable position. I have never been part of a faction but have been very active supporting Open Labor and other non-aligned movements, and I am hoping that I can represent the interests of ordinary members like me in this important forum.

Joel Kennedy: I am a current state conference delegate, and have actively pursued party reform at two conferences. Giving ordinary members a say in electing the leader in 2013 inspired me to join the party, as this was a sign that it was moving toward democracy, rather than opaque factional control. Reform stalled at the 2015 national conference, so it's crucial to send as many non-factional delegates to Adelaide as possible. I am a Chartered Accountant working in the energy industry, and belong to the Albert Park branch.


If elected, Open Labor delegates will work to:

∙      Give ordinary members in each state and territory at least 50 per cent of the vote in the election of Labor Senate and state Upper House candidates. This is a vital reform to increase the accountability and calibre of our representatives in the Houses that play a big role in determining policy.

∙      Increase the vote of ordinary members in elections for party leaders, MPs, office holders and delegates.

∙      Involve registered ALP supporters, as well as members, in party decisions and policy development.

∙      Give members of trade unions affiliated to the party a chance to join the party as individuals, for a nominal sum, and vote in party elections.

∙      Introduce secret ballots for all internal party elections.

∙      Make party decision-making more transparent by requiring it to publicise its structures and decisions, and the reasons for those decisions, so that ordinary members and the public can understand how the ALP works.

∙      Give the directly elected National President and Vice Presidents voting rights on the National Executive.


We will also support policies to fight climate change, create fairer tax, wage and welfare systems, increase educational opportunity, fight discrimination based on gender and sexual preference, and implement the Uluru Statement from the Heart to ensure Indigenous people are represented through a proper consultative body.

This list is not comprehensive or final: if elected we will hold a public meeting before National Conference to gauge the views of supporters on policy and party reform. We will also report back to supporters, both through a detailed report on conference, and through a second public meeting if there is demand for it.

The Independents are also running four candidates: Eric Dearricott, Linda CondonJamie Gardiner and Pauline Brown. We will work closely with these non-aligned candidates, and we urge you to also give them your support.

The time to open and strengthen our party to meet the challenges and exciting opportunities ahead is now. Please give Open Labor and other independent candidates your support.