News

Taking democratic reform to National Conference

 

Dear friend,

These are heady times for the ALP, with Saturday's amazing result in Victoria, a Federal election by May, and the 2018 National Conference kicking off in less than three weeks. As a delegate I plan to write a regular newsletter about the event, and what it says about the party, the potential for reform,  and current issues in politics and policy. While I’m a member of Open Labor, these opinions are my own. 

I’m excited to be going to Conference (first timer!) but I know that six or seven independent delegates, among about 400, can’t do much to effect change unless we hold the balance of power, which at this stage seems unlikely.  I hope this dispatch is one way I can add value. 

Also, Open Labor is holding a pre-Conference forum with Independents Eric Dearricott and Linda Condon (a delegate and proxy delegate respectively) on Saturday 8 December, 1.30-3.30pm, at the Unitarian Church, 110 Grey Street East Melbourne. Come and hear what is likely to happen at Conference, and have your say.

In this letter I'll discuss two options for party reform: one practical that should happen now, another more speculative that might help to break the impasse we have on party reform. I'll discuss policy issues in later emails -- once I've had a chance to read the platform!

A say for members in selecting Senators: it’s time to do it

A proposal to give party members in all states at least 50 per cent of the vote for Senate and Upper House candidates failed at the last National Conference, in 2015. It should be put to Conference again. In Victoria, NSW, South Australia and Western Australia, party members get no direct say in the selection of their Senators. In Victoria, for example, Senators are appointed by the Public Office Selection Committee, which is elected by state conference and tightly controlled by factions. While members get a vote in in other states and territories – 100 per cent in the ACT, for example – their overall lack of a say in these preselections bears out the comment by shadow minister Mark Butler in his speech on party reform last year: the ALP “gives ordinary members fewer rights than any other Labor or Social Democratic Party I can think of.”

Why is reform to Senate voting vital? Because the Senate is vital. It should be home to many of our best policy minds, people who have a bit more time to think than lower house members, who have to deal with the heavy demands of their electorates. Giving ordinary members a vote would both enable and force Senate preselection candidates to speak directly to the party and the public: to explain what they stand for, and which policies they would pursue. It gives members a greater stake in their own party, a reason to go out year after year and campaign. It would almost certainly ensure a higher calibre of Senate candidate than the party has produced lately, and it would help us to build a bigger party.

But while this would be a significant change, it would still be piecemeal. Is there a more structured, systematic way we can think about how to grow and strengthen the party?

A national council for party growth and democracy

There’s a big paradox about party reform. Nearly everyone says they want it. Bill Shorten and Mark Butler have given signature speeches about it. Party elders from John Faulkner to Steve Bracks to Neville Wran to Bob Hawke have held inquiries and written reports about it. Yet so much is said, and so little is done. Why?

The simple answer is that people with power don’t easily give it up. But there’s no point reformers simply complaining about that. It’s a fact of life. It’s also true that since the failure of most of the 2010 Bracks-Carr-Faulkner proposals to be adopted, reformers have not come up with a coherent strategy to reform and democratise the party in a way that brought in new people and new ideas.

Instead, we’re stuck at an impasse. The ordinary members don’t trust the leadership to reform, and most leaders -- whatever they say in public -- don’t trust the members with reform. I’m generalising of course, but a lot of senior figures, especially on the Right, see the bulk of members as too activist, too inner city, too left wing – and, above all too few -- to be trusted with a greater say in running the party. Give them too much power, they think, and we’ll be unelectable within a week. No doubt the face of Jeremy Corbyn stalks them in their sleep. (From the little I know of him, Corbyn worries me, too.)

So the power brokers have a few valid reasons to feel nervous. Not to use trickery to strangle sensible reform proposals like a rank and file vote for the Senate and Upper House, as factional leaders in various states have done. Not to use stability pacts and other deals done in the dark to divide up seats and other spoils of power. But they’re right that the membership of political parties is especially prone to the polarising forces at work in society today, when the strongest place from which to be elected and to govern remains somewhere near the centre.

The problem with this position is that it’s not just MPs and leaders who get a party elected. It’s the ordinary members who do the door knocking and leafleting, walking, talking and persuading. A former Howard Government minister I once interviewed gave me his version of the paradox of party reform: every MP claims to want it, none of them actually do, yet it matters. A healthy number of party members in an electorate, the ex-minister said, could make the difference between a seat being marginal and being safe.

So what’s it going to take to make natural Labor supporters show up? In his 2014 speech at the Wheeler Centre, made six months after he became leader, Bill Shorten said that his hope of seeing a party of 100,000 members could only be achieved if the ALP became more democratic and open to a wider range of Australians. He said, “If we don’t change, we are putting our very future at risk.”

In his 2018 speech, Mark Butler also gave pragmatic as well as principled reasons for reform, also linked a larger, stronger party to a more democratic party. He said the party needed to be honest that – unlike the unions or Get Up or the marriage equality campaign – it was no longer capable of organising a substantial on-the-ground campaign, beyond elections. “Our membership base is simply too small to play much more than a support role in any grassroots effort.”

These are non-trivial problems. They are masked at the moment, with the party on the verge of power in Canberra, but at some point they will return. Is there a way to tackle them that creates dialogue and trust between the leadership and the membership, that makes both sides feel that while each has to give, both stand to gain?

Here’s an idea. The party should establish a Council for Growth and Democracy, either elected half from party MPs, half from the members, or a third from MPs, a third from members, a third from affiliated unions – especially if the unionists are rank and file members, not merely factional drop-ins. The party’s National Policy Forum, which prepares the draft national policy platform, is constituted under this threeway structure. The council would work alongside the National Policy Forum by examining and proposing ideas to grow the party while making it more open and democratic. It would explore different models for preselections, for election of all party leaders, for running preselections that involved registered supporters as well as members.

It could also look at ways to reform the party-union relationship – maybe on the lines that Greg Combet and John Faulkner have proposed: encouraging more ordinary union members to join the party and vote in preselections in exchange for ending bloc votes for union secretaries at conferences, and so on. The council could thrash out ideas in a thoughtful, honest way, and present them to the wider party, to inform debate.

Above all, it could open a larger discussion about how a political party can embed and embody democratic principles, in these times when democracy itself might be under threat. The lesson of perhaps the most significant internal reform over the past 20 years – implementing affirmative action for preselections and other party positions – is that big reform takes time, and needs structures and people that will fight for it. This council could be such a structure.

The idea is hardly very developed, and no doubt there are many objections: the factions would game it, we shouldn’t debate our internal structures in public, it’s a distraction from the main issues, and so on. Wayne Swan, when running for national president against Mark Butler this year, made it clear he had no time for party reform, or “tinkering with internal processes.” It was the party’s ideas and “showing we mean business about creating a better, more democratic and more equal society” that would bring new voters and members.

Swan is dead right about ideas mattering most. But people don’t want to just be given ideas from on high; they want to contribute them, too. And democracy is an idea, one of the best there is. How we reinvent it is one of the great challenges of our time.

In Europe many social democratic parties – Greek, German, French, Dutch – have been nearly destroyed. Labour in Britain could soon take power -- or it might split in two. The Democrats in the US are under huge pressure, despite their good result in the midterms. Populism, among many other things, is a demand to give people more voice, and a protest that they haven’t had it for a long time. It would be silly to think these trends won’t show up here one day. We need to think about them now.

I’m also interested in debates about climate change, immigration, asylum seekers, education, the economy and jobs, and ensuring that a Labor Government moves quickly to create an Indigenous voice to Parliament that is recognised in the Constitution. More on all that later. If you’ve read this far, thank you, and I’ll try to be shorter next time. Here’s to a Conference that helps to elect a federal Labor Government, and makes it stronger. 

 

James Button

Open Labor candidates for National Conference 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 Condon, Jamie 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.

 

National Conference 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 Condon, Jamie 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.

 

Mark Butler calls for urgent ALP rules reform

This week at the joint Fabians/Open Labor/Independents meeting, it was heartening to hear outgoing ALP President Mark Butler acknowledge the Party's recent failures to make the ALP more inclusive and democratic.   

You can read more about his speech on The Guardian and The Sydney Morning Herald, and you can read the transcript of his speech here.   

Stay tuned this week for his next speech, where he will outline some of the practical steps the ALP and union movement need to take to ensure our mutual survival, and to regain our collective appeal to Australians.

Party news: another failed opportunity for reform, but the fight goes on

Joel Kennedy, Open Labor state conference delegate

I was one of two non-factional delegates (the other was Linda Condon) representing Melbourne Ports at the 2017 Victorian Labor State Conference last month. This report focuses on party reform. Sadly, once again no material positive rule changes were achieved. 

The big issue was whether the state party would finally make good on federal leader Bill Shorten's 2014 pledge to introduce a vote for ordinary members in Senate preselections, among other democratic reforms. A motion from the Left faction to give ordinary members 50 per cent of the vote, with the other 50 per cent going to union delegates, gained about half the vote on the conference floor, but the vote was never counted because it fell well short of a statutory majority (a majority of all delegates eligible to vote at the conference, regardless of numbers on the floor). 

The Right and the National Union of Workers opposed the motion. Non-factional delegates, including Open Labor, supported the motion, because while we believe that it would be more democratic if the other 50 per cent of the vote was exercised by the Public Office Selection Committee, which is elected by State Conference, we see the Left motion as an important step forward for ordinary members and party democracy, and for electing a higher calibre of Senate candidate.

The only conclusion that can be reached from this non-event is that many delegates, from both factional groupings, were not present to vote. I strongly encourage pro-reform rank and file members to ask their delegates whether they attended and how they voted on this key issue for party reform. 

I moved a rules change (seconded by Linda) on mandating traceable means for payment of party membership. Despite having been debated many times, this rule change was inexplicably referred for further consideration.

 The whole rules debate was conducted with very little energy or enthusiasm, without even speakers in opposition to the Senate reform. Grassroots supporters of the ALP need to get more vocal, and demand the party continue the process began by Bill Shorten in 2014, but one that he has sadly walked away from. With the national conference just a year away, we must prepare to put party reform front and centre of the 2018 agenda. Lest we forget, here is what Bill Shorten said about Senate preselections in his party reform speech in 2014:

"Giving our members more of a say in pre-selections doesn’t end with the House of Representatives. Friends, we need to change our Senate pre-selection process.

Labor has always been well served by our Senators- and we have a motivated Senate team. But the rancour over the recent Western Australian process shows that in the future we need a method that provides a local voice – in addition to a central component – so that we can select the best possible candidates.

There a range of views on the best way forward, but there is no dancing around the truth. Local Labor voices need to be heard in Senate selection across Australia – and the first steps must be taken now."

 

 

We're fighting for the right to vote for our Senators: join us!

We came so very close at the last Victorian State Conference to seeing much-needed reform of Senate preselection voting rules.  Ultimately, meaningful debate on the floor was thwarted by a cynical misuse of formal procedure.   But all is not lost: the next Victorian State Conference is coming up in only a few months, and we want to make it impossible for the guardians of the status quo to justify ignoring members' calls for democratic reform.

Since 2003, Victorian members have not been allowed to exercise their right to vote for their state Upper House candidates.   Too often, preselections are worked out behind closed doors, and unworthy candidates are chosen for politically expedient reasons.  

Open Labor, the Independents, Local Labor and 32 branches across Victoria called on delegates to allow 50% of the vote in preselection contests to be given to ALP members.  Given voters' growing disillusionment with politics and politicians, both here and abroad, our leaders would be wise to learn from Brexit and Trump, and make it easier for loyal, committed ALP members to participate meaningfully in our party's processes.

32 branches signed up in the weeks leading up to last year's conference.  This time, we hope that you and your branch will add your voices to call for this much-needed change.

Below is the motion that we are sending out to branches.  We hope that you will take this motion to your branch, and join us in this fight.  If you would like someone from Open Labor to come and speak to your branch, please email info@openlabor.net.au

 


 

Motion for Victorian ALP branches

That this branch of the ALP writes to:

1. the ALP’s State Secretary requesting him to advise the State Conference of the Victorian ALP and also

2. to the elected conference representatives from this FEA expressing our support for a rule change regarding the method of preselection for Upper House seats.

That the rule change be to provide a 50% rank and file member’s component to take place in Senate preselections for this state, with the vote held by optional proportional representation and a secret ballot.

This branch also requests that the party ensures that the Administrative Committee of the Victorian Branch does not take away members’ existing rights to vote in the imminent pre-selections of Legislative Council candidates for the next State election, as has occurred in the four previous elections.

That this branch also writes to Open Labor to advise of its support for their position on preselection voting.

 

Moved: ………………………………

Seconded: ………………………………

 


 

Here are the branches that have already signed up to support members' voices in Senate preselections:

Albert Park
Bacchus Marsh
Ballarat West
Bass
Bentleigh
Brighton
Canterbury
Castlemaine
Clayton South
Diamond Valley
Elsternwick
Fitzroy/Collingwood
Frankston North
Glenhuntly
Glenroy
Ivanhoe
Kilmore
Kyneton
Manningham
Newport
Pascoe Vale
Reservoir
Seymour
Stawell
Strathmore
Thornbury-Croxton
Wangaratta
Westernport

As you can see, the support for democratic reform comes from all quarters, from the city to the bush.  We hope that you join us, and that our leaders will respond with action, not platitudes.

Victorian ALP conference votes down party reform...again

Yesterday the Victorian ALP conference voted down a motion to give ordinary members of the party 50 per cent of the vote for Senate preselections, a change that Open Labor has campaigned for in partnership with the Independents and Local Labor. The party’s internal alignments and votes are always shifting and opaque but in essence the Left and independent delegates backed the change, the Right opposed it. Expected support for the Left position from the right-wing Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association did not materialise, and the Right won the day.

No doubt, the result is a blow for party democracy. An hour or two after Bill Shorten made a speech attacking the trickle-down economic policies of the Turnbull Government, his faction took a trickle-down approach to party reform. As the world shudders and shifts on its axis, threatening social democratic parties everywhere and demanding they take brave steps to reinvent themselves, the Victorian ALP settled for business as usual: deals done behind closed doors, prime positions in parliament doled out as factional favours, one more tick for mediocrity.

The conference also removed the right of central branch members to vote in parliamentary preselections and state conference delegate elections in their electorates – unless they join a local branch. The Left proposed this motion on the ground that it would stop recent and widespread stacking of electorates through central branch. This is a good aim, but the change also disenfranchises the many legitimate members of central branch, and will slow down the growth in party membership, which everyone claims they want to see. About a third of the Victorian party’s 14,000 members belong to central branch; it is the fastest growing membership category.

The conference wasn’t a complete disaster for reform. It reaffirmed the National Conference’s decision ensuring that women make up 50 per cent of public office and internal positions by 2025. It further opened election of National Conference delegates to ordinary members, and it ruled that the party must start preselections for the state Upper House at least 17 months before an election, a change that increases the chance that ordinary members will get 50 per cent of the vote in these preselections (a right they already hold but that has not been granted to them since 2003).

But the reform to Senate voting is vital because, perhaps more than any other on the table at present, it reduces central and factional control. As democracy tends to do, it introduces an unpredictable element, the wishes and views of the voters. It would enable and force Senate preselection candidates to speak directly to the members: to explain what they stand for, and which policies they would pursue. It empowers the members and gives them a greater stake in their own party, a reason to go out year after year and campaign. It would almost certainly ensure a higher calibre of candidate than the party is producing today for the House that should be the home for our best policy minds.

What were the arguments put against the rank and file having a voice? Rosemary Barker and Garth Head, who led the Right’s case against the motion, said that a postal vote of members would be cumbersome and expensive. Barker, who on Saturday energetically moved procedural motions that seemed designed to shut down debate on this issue, said that a statewide vote would favour candidates with money. In the internet age it is hard to see how that argument holds. Last year the party held an election for national president. Candidates made their main pitches to members via email and online; all answered a Local Labor and Open Labor questionnaire on their commitments to democratic reform. Moneywise, this was hardly Clinton versus Trump. A more plausible reason for Right opposition is that on recent history, the faction tends to lose local ballots. Setting loose 50 per cent of the Senate vote may surrender up more power than the faction can bear.

Bill Shorten’s failure to push for democratic reform is puzzling and disappointing. Of course, the national leader has bigger concerns than a vote for democratic reform in one state. But as Open Labor delegate Joel Kennedy pointed out in yesterday’s debate, it was Shorten himself who, in a landmark speech in 2014, not only embraced reform but explicitly called for rank and file members to gain 50 per cent of the vote for the Senate. Shorten based his case on the need to get more good people into the party and into parliament. But when this reform was fiercely debated at National Conference last year, Shorten took no part, walking back onto the conference floor minutes after the debate was done and the motion lost. A year later Shorten has not only maintained his silence on reform, he actively intervened last month to ensure the victory of a Right factional ally, Kimberley Kitching, in one of the murkier Senate preselections of recent memory. Where are all those fine words on democracy and building a party of 100,000 members now?

Reformers should not lose heart. The next State Conference, just six months away, may vote again on Senate preselection reform. In the past few weeks alone, Open Labor, the Independents and Local Labor have signed up 28 city, suburban and country branches (see list on the Open Labor website) to support the reform. The three groups will keep that campaign going – by May we want to have at least 100 branches, and more pro-reform delegates on the conference floor. How long can the wall against party democracy stand?

***

Voting has begun for Victoria’s four rank and file delegates for Labor’s National Policy Forum. Independent Eric Dearricott has posted the following message: “I have already been contacted by several members seeking advice about the candidates. Tom Cameron, Jamie Gardiner and Michael Wheatland are independent/non-aligned candidates. I know both Tom Cameron and Jamie Gardiner personally. They have outstanding policy development qualifications and experience, are good party members and well and truly worthy of support.”

Report written by James Button, Open Labor operating group member

November newsletter

In dark times, some good news beckons at tomorrow’s ALP state conference in Victoria. (It’s at Moonee Valley racecourse from 9am – all ALP members can attend.) The conference seems poised to give ordinary party members 50 per cent of the vote to preselect Labor’s Senate candidates.  

This is a vital reform that will strengthen party democracy and the quality of Labor Senate candidates. It will give rank-and-file members a chance to assess the policies and personalities of the people we work for and who work for us. Over the past few months Open Labor has worked hard for this change in partnership with Local Labor and the Independents. Twenty-six branches have voted for the reform since the three groups held a well-attended public meeting on the issue last month. The branches are inner city, suburban and country (see list below) – the demand for change spans the party.  So if you can, come to the conference tomorrow and support it.

While you’re there, the Chifley Research Centre – Labor’s think tank – is running an event on Inclusive Prosperity: why inequality matters and what to do about it. Michael Cooney, Linda White and Godfrey Moase will speak about why our economy is becoming unequal, why that threatens future growth, and how the political system and Labor should respond. The event takes place at 2pm at the State Conference at Moonee Valley.

If thinking about the present is too troubling, then you can look to the future of inner-city education in Melbourne.  Education Minister James Merlino and a diverse panel of parents, academics and community leaders will discuss plans for three new inner city schools in an open forum.  This will be held in the Community Hub, 107 Victoria Harbour Promenade in the Docklands on Monday 21st November at 6:15.

Here are the branches who are calling to increase the rank and file vote in Senate preselections:

Albert Park
Bacchus Marsh
Ballarat West
Bass
Bentleigh
Brighton
Canterbury
Castlemaine
Clayton South
Elsternwick
Fitzroy/Collingwood
Frankston North
Glenroy
Ivanhoe
Kilmore
Kyneton
Manningham
Newport
Pascoe Vale
Reservoir
Seymour
Strathmore
Williamstown
Wonthaggi
Woodend
Upper Yarra