It is now eight weeks since we were appointed as Administrators of the Victorian Branch of the Australian Labor Party.
In the middle of a once in a lifetime public health disaster, we have hit the ground running using the contemporary tools available to us. While we would have obviously preferred face-to-face contact, we will continue to use the digital avenues available to us to keep you engaged with, and informed on, our work.
Real change won’t happen without the real engagement and commitment of Party members.
We wrote to all Party members at the end of June, encouraging you to provide your initial views on Party reform. In doing so, we posed four key questions:
- As a matter of principle, what should be the reform priority for the Administrators?
- What are the critical rule changes that you think are needed to guarantee integrity and probity in our Party’s operations?
- What are the key operational and cultural changes required to support these rule changes?
- How should the Victorian Branch of the Party operate while Administrators are in place?
We were very pleased with the strength and volume of the response; over 450 members and groups took the opportunity to provide feedback.
It was clear that members believe that the problems within the Party are significant, that they want lasting change, and are broadly supportive of the decision to appoint the Administrators, as well as the decision to scrutinise memberships (both past and present).
There were, understandably, some who were aggrieved by the loss of their voting rights. These voices were outweighed by those who are angry about what has happened and want to ensure that it will not happen again.
As we have previously communicated, Deloitte were appointed to undertake the audit of the Party’s membership and provide advice for future arrangements.
This independence is critical to ensure our members are genuine, consenting, and self-funding.
Deloitte will also provide advice to the Administrators relating to future membership and assurance systems, to ensure future membership arrangements are effective, and in order to guarantee the probity and integrity in the membership of our Party.
As part of this process, the Party’s legal advisers have contacted branch secretaries requesting their assistance in reviewing branch records. We appreciate the co-operation of branch secretaries in this busy and challenging time.
A core aspect of our appointment as Administrators is that we act in the stead of the Administrative Committee.
Most significantly, this has included the appointment of Chris Ford as Acting State Secretary while Clare Burns is on parental leave.
We welcome Chris and thank him for his commitment to the Party. We also wish Clare all of the best for the exciting times ahead, and thank her for her significant contribution and dedication to the Party over recent years.
Our work as Administrators has also included ensuring that Party operations are appropriate in the Covid-19 environment, that Party systems and standards are prepared for the challenges ahead, and we have also made a range of decisions that the Administrative Committee would otherwise have made.
In making these decisions, we will continue to balance the broad preference of Party members, while noting the current shortcomings in the Party’s arrangements we have been tasked to address.
Our recent decisions relating to local government and the National Policy Forum are examples of these decisions.
On 31 July 2020, we submitted our Scoping Report to the National Executive of the ALP as required in the Resolution appointing us in mid-June.
We proposed two specific amendments to the existing Victorian Branch rules that the National Executive has resolved to support.
The first is to amend the existing branch rules to prohibit cash and cash-like payments for memberships and membership renewals.
We believe this is a critical first step in reforming the Branch’s membership arrangements, but it will be the first of many.
The second change is to create processes in the short-term to ensure the Branch membership comprises genuine, consenting, and self-funding members, and that members actions are in line with the values of the Party.
To put it another way, we need to be able to act on the findings of the membership audit and deal with members who fail to meet a bona fide test; that is, that they are genuine, consenting, and self-funding. We also need to deal with those who have led and co-ordinated the recruitment of non-genuine, non-consenting, and externally-funded members.
The technical implementation of these changes will be undertaken in the coming weeks.
Finally, the National Executive agreed to reactivate a number of Party Committees that had been suspended as part of the initial Resolution. These committees had little-to-no relationship with the behaviours that led to the Branch being placed into administration and are important when it comes to ensuring that the Party continues to develop policy that it can take to the next Federal and Victorian elections.
Reactivation of Committees
On our advice, the National Executive has reactivated the following Party Committees:
- Finance, Risk, Audit Committee;
- Campaign Committee;
- Redistribution Committee;
- Disputes Tribunal;
- Fundraising Sub-committee;
- Gender Equality Working Group;
- Disability Action Plan Committee; and
- Reconciliation Action Plan Committee.
That National Executive has also reactivated all Policy Committees, as follows:
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Policy Committee;
- Commonwealth Affairs & Federal Relations Policy Committee;
- Conservation, Environment & Resources Policy Committee;
- Culture, Sport & Tourism Policy Committee;
- Economics, Innovation, Employment & Industry Development Policy Committee;
- Education & Youth Affairs Policy Committee;
- Health, Community Services & Senior Victorians Policy Committee;
- Industrial Affairs Policy Committee;
- Justice & Democracy Policy Committee;
- LGBTI Affairs Policy Committee;
- Multicultural Affairs & Population Policy Committee;
- Transport Policy Committee;
- Urban Affairs, Housing, Local Government & Infrastructure Policy Committee; and
- Women’s Affairs Policy Committee.
We thank all Committee members for their patience and engagement during this process, and wish them well for their ongoing important work.
Our next stage of engagement
In the coming weeks, we will commence our substantive engagement process with Party members on changes to the Party’s rules, as well as necessary changes to Party operations and structures.
This engagement will be based upon the release of a detailed discussion paper, structured on a range of relevant topics. Members will be invited to respond to a number of questions that relate to each topic.
We intend to provide seven weeks for members, branches, and other groups to consider the issues raised, and develop responses to the questions put.
It will be your opportunity for discussion and reflection. We encourage branches to hold events, for people to debate and discuss ideas and possible changes, and to ensure that all members have their say in Party reform.
On the basis of this feedback, we will develop and finalise our final report to the National Executive which is due on 1 November 2020.
There is much to do, and please accept our thanks in advance for your interest and commitment to this important process.
Hon Jenny Macklin Hon Steve Bracks AC
ALP Victorian Branch ALP Victorian Branch