“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. (We also later added here the final 2020 report.)
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.
David Barda has now written an analysis of changes arising and/or failing from the recommendations over the years. Please check it out.
The reports 1963-2020
- C.S.Wyndham 1964: Australian Labor Party Re-organisation. Recommendations of the General Secretary [21 pages]
- R.J.L.Hawke, W.G.Hayden March 1979: Australian Labor Party National Committee of Inquiry – Report and recommendations to the National Executive [50 pages]
- B.Hogg December 1990: Review and Recommendations on the reform of the Party’s Organisation [60 pages]
- C.Maxwell October 1996: The Process of Policy Development: The Role of Policy Committees and State Conference – Report to Agenda Committee [23 pages]
- M.Dreyfus December 1998: Australian Labor Party Victorian Branch – Panel of Review [46 pages]
- R.J.L.Hawke, N.W.Wran August 2002: National Committee of review Report 2002 [32 pages]
- A.Giles, N.Carroll, S.Zwalf October 2009: Final report of the Special Purpose Membership Review and Audit Committee [29 pages]
- S.Bracks J.Faulkner, B.Carr February 2011: 2010 National Review: Report to the ALP National Executive [33 pages]
- T.Hammond, S.Bowers, D.Smith June 2014: Shaping Labor 2014 and Beyond – Three strong Pillars (WA Labor) [47 pages]
- S.Bracks, J.Macklin August 2020: The Discussion Paper – Victorian Labor, progress and integrity [24 pages]
- J.Macklin & S.Bracks November 2020: Administrators’ Final Report to the National Executive of the Australian Labor Party [56 pages)