1964–2014: “The individual party membership is appalling. Our membership in relation to our vote is less than one per cent!…One reason is that the party does little to encourage people to join. Too many branches meet in shabby, ill-lit and depressing surroundings. Too much time is wasted on routine matters. Too many secretaries are ill-equipped to run meetings. This is not their fault but the fault of the party, in that it has never provided training for them.”
Sound familiar? Did we pull this paragraph from a submission to the current Review of the Victorian ALP? We might have done, but in fact it comes from a review of the national ALP, conducted by its general secretary, Cyril Wyndham, in 1964!
Open Labor has collected eight reviews of the Labor Party, conducted over 50 years. Four are national, three Victorian and one is from Western Australia – and we publish them here. If you have time, and the stomach for it, they make interesting reading. For example, as early as 2002 Bob Hawke and Neville Wran were recommending:
- consolidation of branches;
- establishment of “issues based branches”
- establishment of “online branches”
- establishment of an “associate class” of membership which has fewer voting rights but is easily accessible – over time, associate members would be encouraged to access full membership.
Clearly, these are old debates! We can get depressed about that – or motivated. What’s clear from reading these reports is that a lot of intelligent people have thought for a long time that the ALP must become a much more membership-focussed organisation. And they have linked that goal to the party’s most important objective — electing strong Labor governments.
In 1964, Cyril Wyndham wrote: “The organisational and electoral success of the party depends in the final analysis on the members of those branches.”
It was true then, it’s still true today.
- Wyndham 1964
- Hawke, Hayden 1979
- Maxwell 1996
- Dreyfus 1998
- Hawke Wran 2002
- SPRAC 2009
- Bracks Faulkner Carr 2010
- Hammond (WA Labor) 2014