News

More Victorian branches sign up to Senate reform

Ahead of this weekend's State Conference, the groundswell to democratise Senate preselections is growing stronger.  Many of Victoria's strongest and most active branches have signed up, and the message couldn't be clearer: rank and file members need a greater voice in choosing the Senate candidates who represent us.
Albert Park
Bacchus Marsh
Ballarat West
Bass
Bentleigh
Brighton
Castlemaine
Clayton South
Elsternwick
Fitzroy/Collingwood
Frankston North
Glenroy
Kilmore
Kyneton
Newport
Pascoe Vale
Reservoir
Seymour
Strathmore
Westernport
Williamstown
Wonthaggi
Woodend

21 branches and rising call for Senate preselection reform

Branches across the state are joining together to call for a fairer and more transparent process to preselect Senate candidates.  Note the spread across rural and metropolitan branches: rank and file members agree that democratic processes need to be strengthened to give ordinary members more voice in choosing who represents us.
Albert Park
Bacchus Marsh
Ballarat West
Bass
Bentleigh
Brighton
Castlemaine
Clayton South
Elsternwick
Fitzroy/Collingwood
Frankston North
Glenroy
Kilmore
Kyneton
Newport
Pascoe Vale
Seymour
Strathmore
Williamstown
Wonthaggi
Woodend
If your branch would like to sign up to support our motion, or if you would like someone from Open Labor, the Independents or Local Labor to come and speak to your branch, please email us.

ABC Lateline reports on undemocratic Senate preselections

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

Twelve branches (and rising) sign up to ALP grassroots campaign for Senate vote

Open Labor, Local Labor and the Independents are calling on the Victorian ALP to give ordinary party members 50 per cent of the vote in preselections for the Senate and the State Upper House. The three groups are signing up party branches to support the campaign for greater party democracy.
 
Last week the Albert Park branch unanimously passed two motions supporting the campaign. A star-studded meeting was attended by former Minister and Federal Opposition Leader Simon Crean, senior state minister Martin Foley and former Victorian Education and Planning Minister Mary Delahunty. Twelve branches are now supporting the campaign. They are: 
 
Albert Park
Bacchus Marsh
Bentleigh
Clayton South
Elsternwick
Glenroy
Kilmore
Kyneton
Newport
Pascoe Vale
Strathmore
Woodend

October 14 preselection of new Labor Senator

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.

Victorian State Conference statement

Statement from three ALP reform groups

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

I want to make sure ordinary ALP members have a say in Senate and Upper House preselections. What can I do to make sure this happens?

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!

What is the background to this issue?

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.

Another step forward with State Conference delegates and FEA Executives

 

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_headshot.jpg Joel Kennedy - State Conference delegate, Melb Ports

Mark_Karlovic_headshot.gif Mark Karlovic - State Conference delegate, Ballarat

Michael_Leahy_headshot.jpg Michael Leahy - State Conference delegate, Wills

Kath_Cozens_headshot.jpg Kath Cozens - FEA Executive, Goldstein

 

Statement and Apology - use of Open Labor logo in FEA elections

Open Labor’s statement on the use of our logo during FEA elections has
generated strong arguments and various interpretations since it was
posted on Tuesday morning.
 
A large number of people made a clear connection between Open Labor’s
logo and positioning and sets of preferences that were aligned to
specific factions. But there are also a range of different
interpretations and interests here, and an atmosphere heightened by the
current FEA elections and by the highly charged atmosphere generated by
the Wills Preselection.
 
The statement has been used heavily in Batman to promote competing,
factionally-aligned candidates.
 
One of the people we named has been in touch to offer an alternative explanation 
of what happened last Sunday at the Batman polling station and to complain 
that he is not being treated fairly.
 
Rhys Dale says that he was not intentionally standing in front of the
Open Labor banner while handing out, and did not intend to create any
specific impression about political alignment and independence by
encouraging an association with Open Labor.
 
Open Labor accepts Rhys’s explanation at face value and therefore
corrects the post which suggested, based on photos and feedback supplied
by a range of people, that this impression was being intentionally
created.
 
We’re sorry that Rhys appears to have been caught up in accusations and
counter-accusations for which he was not responsible, and that he was
named as part of an Open Labor post in a way that was not accurate.
 
More broadly, by naming the three individuals quickly without giving
them a chance to explain where they were coming from, Open Labor went
too fast and too hard.
 
The issues we are raising are current and live – and we believe that
pointing out conflicts between principle and practice is necessary - but
targeting individuals, especially younger people trying to participate
in the Labor Party, is not the best way to do it.
 
So we apologise to those three people and we have removed the statement
from our website.
 
Rather than dragging out an argument that would never be resolved about
who stood where and who should have contacted whom, we choose to
acknowledge our error and point to the issues, not the individuals.
 
It is worth noting that this argument is being played out – again -
through the prism of the contest for numbers between left and right
factional groups – and that Open Labor’s earlier statement is being used
in that contest.
 
Engaging in politics means sometimes making the wrong call – and in this
case we own our mistake.
 
But Open Labor exists because there is a much greater community interest
in the issues and causes that Labor can advance than there is in the
contest – internal and overt – between the factions. There are many more
people – inside and outside the party – who are turned off by some forms
of factional behaviour, when they see that contest being elevated above
the values or reform goals that virtually all Labor supporters would
espouse.
 
We will keep working to be honest, transparent and democratic about that
agenda.