Report on NSW Open Labor state conference fringe activities
The combination of our banner and T-shirts, prominently displaying the Open Labor logo, meant that we were certainly noticed as we distributed flyers advertising our fringe event to delegates as they arrived at the Town Hall. We had decided to conduct our event at a pub about a block away from the Town Hall with the venue hire off-set against bar takings exceeding $250 which we managed to achieve.
There were four other events at the same time as ours (5-7 pm) including one on Labor and Innovation and the one for the Chifley Institute; furthermore the conference itself was not scheduled to finish until 6.30, so we were a little anxious as to whether we would draw a reasonable crowd. In the event around 70 attended so we have a fair number with which to start our local mailing list.
Our speaker was the Social Researcher, Rebecca Huntley, on the topic “Why should Labor Party reform matter to voters”. After a brief address on the topic she was then engaged in conversation by David Hetherington, Executive Director of the Per Capita think tank before a number of questions from the floor. We engaged a cameraman to film the whole event and will be able to provide a record of proceedings.
The following notes by one of those present capture just a little of the content that was covered:
- Rebecca’s research indicates that public interest in politics and standing for office is very low.
- The Party treatment of the Bracks et al review after the last election reflects the more general negative view of the Party and its processes. The nature and location of most Branch meetings present a fundamental barrier to women, migrants and younger voters becoming engaged. In essence the Party presents as dominated by white, older males with boring meetings which are very un-family-friendly.
- Research shows that people want leaders who are values-driven and consistent in what they stand for rather than ‘flip-flopping’, a la Rudd on the ETS and Abbot on multiple promises.
- Public cynicism about politicians being poll-driven is exacerbated by the fact that those who do the interpreting of poll findings are drawn from such a narrow perspective of society and appear to be so short term in their focus.
- Policies need to be integrated and coherently linked to a narrative which shows a broad strategic approach to what the Party stands for.
One question from the floor involved the observation that we spend too much time navel-gazing about democratic pre-election processes when the real need is for coherent and attractive policies. Rebecca’s response to the ‘question’ went to the need for appropriate selection processes to ensure we obtain the most competent people in policy-making. The public perception is that Labor perpetuates the selection of people based on factional support rather than policy competence.
Open Labor NSW will continue to promote rigorous conversations on important topics such as these.
This brief paper outlines a strategy for Bill to gain the upper hand on the Liberals by taking the debate away from the personalities and the media images of the leaders of each party and focusing it on the substance of what both parties envision as Australian Society (not just the economy) in the near and distant future.