Open Labor's Tom Bentley spoke to Lateline, expressing our shared concerns about the murky and undemocratic process that led to the most recent Senate preselection. Watch the video here: http://www.abc.net.au/lateline/content/2016/s4564804.htm
14 city, suburban and regional branches have now joined the campaign for ALP rank and file to have a vote in Senate and Upper House elections. See list here.
The Victorian ALP’s brief and furtive selection process for a new candidate to replace retiring Senator Stephen Conroy highlights the urgent need for ordinary party members to have a vote in picking Labor Senate candidates, three ALP reform groups say.
Open Labor, the Independents and Local Labor pointed out that ordinary members played no role in the preselection, they were given no information about the range of candidates, and no chance to discuss and compare candidates’ views on policy or the direction of the party.
The three groups called on delegates to the party’s November State Conference to vote for giving ordinary members a 50 per cent say in selecting Senate candidates via a statewide secret ballot - a vital step toward a more democratic, and open ALP whose candidates are more representative of the party and the community.
On Thursday night the state party’s Public Office Selection Committee, which has 100 per cent of the vote for Senate candidates and which is controlled by the Right and Left factions, chose Kimberley Kitching to replace Senator Conroy in the number one spot on the Victorian Senate ticket.
Open Labor, the Independents and Local Labor are not objecting to the choice of any particular individual but to a process that locks out ordinary members.
“Party members get no say, they’re not even told what is going on, then they are expected to faithfully roll out and campaign wholeheartedly for the successful candidate in their communities,” said Open Labor spokesperson Tom Bentley. “The Labor Party must do better than that if it is to gain and retain the support of ordinary Victorians.”
An open meeting of ALP members last week unanimously called upon ALP reform groups to launch a campaign to ensure a vote for ordinary Labor members in the preselection of Victorian Senate and Upper House Labor candidates. The meeting urged ALP branches to move a motion before State Conference supporting this position.
Independents spokesperson Eric Dearricott said that the Senate should house Labor’s best policy thinkers but the party for years had failed to provide a transparent preselection process that ensured the best people were chosen.
Local Labor spokesperson Gavin Ryan said: “Creating a statewide ballot for Senate preselections will help to revitalise the party by giving ordinary members a chance to vote for candidates whose policies they support.”
For more information about the campaign, or to invite a speaker to your branch, contact Tom Bentley (Open Labor) on 0400 930 525, Gavin Ryan (Local Labor) on 0403 336 829 or Eric Dearricott (Independents) 0419 357 192.
Monday October 10
Three Victorian organisations committed to reform of the Australian Labor Party have launched a joint campaign to give party members 50 per cent of the vote for ALP candidates for the Senate.
The campaign also calls on the Victorian ALP to give ordinary members 50 per cent of the vote for the state Upper House – a right they formally possess but that has been withheld by the party’s Administrative Committee since the creation of multimember Upper House electorates in 2003.
A well-attended meeting of the three organisations – Open Labor, Local Labor and the Independents – voted unanimously to seek support from branches across the state for the campaign.
At present the 100-member Public Office Selection Committee, controlled by the two main right and left factions, chooses the state party’s Senate candidates.
In Queensland, by contrast, rank-and- file members have 50 per cent of the vote, yet when Victorian Labor chooses a replacement for retiring Senator Stephen Conroy this week, party members will have no say, and will not even know who the candidates are.
“The Senate should house some of Labor’s best thinkers on policy and politics, but while the party has some excellent Senators, the preselection process is very murky and the quality of some candidates leaves much to be desired,” said Open Labor spokesperson Tom Bentley.
“Creating a statewide ballot for Senate preselections will help to revitalise the party by giving ordinary members a chance to vote for candidates whose policies they support.”
“It’s a vital step on the road to a more open, democratic party that can appeal to a wide range of groups and individuals across society.”
Independents spokesperson Eric Dearricott said that at the 2015 National Conference non-aligned delegates had worked closely with the factions in a bid to achieve member voting rights in Senate pre-selections across the nation.
“We came close then but couldn’t reach consensus on some of the detail. I’m optimistic that at the November State Conference we can get there in Victoria,”he said.’
Local Labor spokesperson Gavin Ryan said he welcomed the creation of the joint campaign in the lead-up to Victorian Labor’s conference on 12 and 13 November.
“United, we’ve got a real chance of getting this reform up at State Conference but if doesn’t happen there, the campaign will go on.”
Eric Dearricott said the Conference would also debate vital measures to implement the party’s commitment to 50 per cent of candidates and office holders being female by 2025, and to ensure that party rules as much as possible prevented irregular membership applications and stacking of party branches.
For more information and to invite a speaker from the campaign to an ALP branch, contact:
Tom Bentley (Open Labor) 0400.930525
Gavin Ryan (Local Labor) 0403.336829
Eric Dearricott (Independents) 0419.357192
1. Get in touch with any of the reform groups to ensure you are up to date with what is going on.
2. Invite a speaker from one of the reform groups to your branch.
3. Pass a motion at your next branch meeting, prior to the November State Conference, calling upon the Victorian ALP to take action by including a 50% rank and file component in Senate preselections, with the vote held by an optional proportional representation secret ballot. Also call on the party to ensure that the Administrative Committee of the Victorian Branch does not (for the fourth consecutive time) take away members’ rights to vote in the imminent pre-selections of Legislative Council candidates for the next State election. Forward this motion to both State Office and the reform groups for action.
4. Most importantly, contact your State Conference delegates to ensure they support a 50% rank and file component for Senate and Upper House preselections. Make sure they commit to this important reform!
In Victoria the rules provide that members have a direct vote with 50% weighting in the selection of all candidates for public office except the Senators.
The remaining 50% weighting is exercised by the 100 member Public Office Selection Committee (POSC) which is elected by the delegates to the State Conference. The POSC alone determines Labor’s Victorian Senate Candidates with no direct participation from ordinary Party members.
Already Queensland Labor’s rules prescribe 50% weighting in selecting their Senate candidates and in the ACT the ordinary members vote alone determines who their Senate candidates are.
Rules change proposals have been lodged for the November 12/13 Victorian Labor Conference which if passed will make our State branch more democratic and inclusive by giving rank and file members a 50% say in determining their Senate candidates.
About 70 people -- a great crowd given the ferocious weather -- came out to hear Steve Bracks, Maxine McKew and Dave Faulkner talk at Open Labor's event on school education and the federal election at the Celtic Club, Thursday night.
ALP factional feuds usually play out behind closed doors. This week, they were on display at local elections for State Conference delegates and FEA Executives. The contests were tight and the moods tense.
We all know that there remains a problem with ALP democracy in Victoria. Party members and supporters alike are continually disappointed by the rules of the game, how those rules are implemented and the hidden forces behind this.
Last weekend saw more of the same, but also some new signs of hope. A group of our supporters put themselves on the line to ensure an Open Labor presence at the State Conference and local FEA levels.
The Victorian state conference in April is an opportunity to push further the case for genuine democratic reform.
State Conference matters. It not only discusses and determines the direction of party policy, it elects members of the committees that run the party and that preselect candidates.
But we know there is only so much that can be done from the visitors' gallery.
So we’re excited that we’ll have reform-minded people – Joel Kennedy in Melbourne Ports, Mark Karlovic in Ballarat and Michael Leahy in Wills – on the floor as delegates. They will work with other pro-democratic forces in the party to achieve change.
Local FEA Executives are important conduits for local ALP members to support our Federal candidates in their effort to knock off the chaotic Turnbull Government.
We’re particularly excited to see the energetic Kath Cozens, a member of Open Labor’s operating group – get up for the FEA Executive in Goldstein.
Democracy – including ALP democracy – is a participation sport. We congratulate all those who nominated, put themselves out there, engaged their local members and declared themselves ready to play.
Entrenched powers cannot forever ignore the chorus of rank-and-file members, whose voices deserve to be heard.
This is another step forward on the path to change!
Joel Kennedy - State Conference delegate, Melb Ports
Mark Karlovic - State Conference delegate, Ballarat
Michael Leahy - State Conference delegate, Wills
Kath Cozens - FEA Executive, Goldstein