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.