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.