The following email advice was circulated by Eric Dearricott and the Independents. It is a useful and detailed prompt to use when considering your own position. Eric writes:
Lodge your submission. Deadline Wednesday October 14. The Administrators preferred process is to go to their website and respond to the questions on the webform.
The webform questions are those on the discussion paper. You are asked to limit you number of words per question to 500 (there are 22 questions). You can answer some or all of the questions. If you have trouble submitting by the website, email to email@example.com
It is best to prepare your responses offline and paste them in when you are ready to submit.
Not all questions are covered below. If you want background or information on a question or topic you visit that section below.
Topic 1: What it means to be a party member
Q. 1.2 Should there be other, or new, requirements on those who want to join Victorian Labor? Should there be a specific requirement for being able to vote in internal elections, such as regular Party activity or Branch attendance? Should existing requirements be amended?
There are problems with applicants having to attend a single branch meeting to join and qualify as a voting member in the Vic ALP for life without doing anything else provided their renewal is paid. Too much depends on that branch and its meeting records.
Some members want to return to the decades old 3 meetings per year attendance requirements to qualify to vote in internal elections which was widely rorted then and would be again. Further the burden of keeping checks and accurate records year after year, for Branch Secretaries and State Office and the relative ease of falsifying records is not an appropriate approach to establishing internal voting rights.
Nevertheless the massive stacking that has taken place warrants more than a fleeting single “attendance” at a branch meeting and the provision of scant information with no requirement for verification of identity and address.
Such additional activity and other requirements to qualify for internal election voting eligibility, in my view should be in the first year of membership when genuine applicants will be keen to engage.
Initial requirements to join a local branch
That the applicant be required to produce proof of identity and address and that the requirement of two nominators for the application be replaced with two witnesses who would be vouching the presence, identity and address of the applicant. The applicant should be at the meeting where the application is lodged and witnessed. Central transferees into a local branch should be required to go through the same process.
Qualifying to vote at branch level (and other internal elections?)
A second verified attendance at the branch where the application was lodged could be required before final processing is done at State Office for a member to be eligible to vote within the branch (and also other internal elections.?)
Possible requirement to qualify to vote in other internal elections?
Attendance at a Welcome to the Party/induction event conducted by State Office in conjunction with the Labor Academy.
Q 1.3 How adequately does the Party fulfil the expectations of members? What is required to close the gap between expectation and delivery
Currently State Office doesn’t even try. Some branches and other Party “Policy” groups do it well with negligible or no State Office support.
Q 1.4 What are the preconditions to attract and retain members of the Party?
- Establish a recruitment strategy and conduct training sessions for Party members in how to recruit new members
- Have a decent website which will engage potential members and which contains contact details and meeting time an places of all branches on the Party website
- Clearly well run, transparent and inclusive branches and Party.
- Encourage and assist branches to communicate regularly with members and to conduct a variety of branch activities
- Send Branch Execs lists of their members in danger of not renewing so they can encourage them to rejoin
- Train Branch executives so that they know how to conduct engaging branch meetings and activities.
Topic 2: The fundamentals of joining (measures to prevent the entry of stacks)
Whilst the Administrators have already had the rules changed so that only applications and renewals using personal traceable means payments will be accepted this change should be endorsed in submissions. There are however many other actions and rules changes that would assist
Q 2.1 How do we best ensure high standards of integrity when new members join?
- Personal traceable means payments must be the only acceptable form of membership and renewals fee payment.
- Applicants and central branch transferees must be present at the branch meeting when their fully completed application form is be processed
- That at the meeting where they apply for membership applicants be required to present proof of identity and address
- Designated State Office staff member to make personal contact with each applicant as part of welcome to the Party but also a soft vetting
- Admin members must be entitled to inspect original application forms and online payments
- Provision of personal phone number and email address on application form should be compulsory
- Expelling or prohibiting from being on branch executives member complicit in branch-stacking prior to now and into the future
- Applications for local Branch membership must be thoroughly checked at State Office staff for accuracy and authenticity including AEC roll match check and applications recommended by membership staff for acceptance or rejection be reported to the Membership Administration Committee whose member will be charged with ensuring the accuracy of membership staffs’ findings
- That an integrated computerised database be established so that memberships staff (and Admin Committee members conducting oversight checks) vetting applications can easily sort and have flagged indicators of potential stacking.
Topic 3: Key structures of membership (should the current branch structure be changed)
It seems that both the Right and the Left want to have state electorate branches with one branch per state electorate – you will have to be a member of the sole branch of the State electorate in which you live. The Administrators are seriously considering the idea.
They argue this would reduce stacking because both factions would have members in every branch who would be able to keep an eye on each other and therefore prevent the branch stacking that occurs in some one faction only branches.
Rationalisations include: that having big branches with a mixture of members will ensure interesting meetings worth attending where vigorous debate about alternative views occur. Smaller branches can be taken over and stacked. That smaller branches are boring and don’t welcome new members.
Not addressed about a single branch per state electorate is the exclusion of many members and potential members for whom the timing of branch meetings makes it impossible to attend or join, or who have no other choice if the nature of the branch doesn’t suit, that some branches would be huge (500+), for almost all country electorates and some metro ones travel distance for members would be too great, the loss of connection with and recruitment and participation in local communities is ignored as is accommodating existing ethnic branches and the disruption of the impending State redistribution.
A single branch per State electorate with no choice of branch for members is bound to significantly shrink the Party – the very antithesis of the aim to grow the party with genuine members so that the hold of the stackers is reduced.
Q 3.1 Is the current branch structure fit for purpose in 2020 and beyond? Are there viable alternatives?
- The current system where members have to join one of several branches in the FEA in which they live is preferable to a single branch in their state electorate which is their only option for joining.
- Traditional branches with its base and connections in the localised community are important to build the local vote and Party membership, participation in and connection with local community and must be retained.
- Consideration should be given to a greater variety of branches through which people can join the Party is needed to attract new members and younger members modelled on Rainbow Labor, LEAN, Labor For Housing. University based branches should be considered.
- A State redistributions are imminent so if we change to State electorate based branches in the very near future we will have to disrupt those branches and force members to move almost immediately after they have been set up.
- Tying branch membership to the “arbitrary” changing boundaries of State or Federal electorates severely disrupts the effectiveness of branches and their connection to their community. Members shouldn’t have to change their branch when they haven’t changed residence.
- Establishing community branches whose members link and work in their community (town or suburb) on an ongoing basis whose members don’t have to change with every boundary change would be a better system to build local membership and the local vote. If geographical requirments were needed they could be living in the same Federal Electorate, State electorate or Municipality (their boundaries rarely change) as your branch.
- Whatever the basis for branches unless State Office is forced to end their neglect of branches, growth and an infusion of new and younger members will be challenging
- Traditional branches should be given far more flexibility in conducting what are branch “meetings” so that meetings can be a variety of activities to allow branches to cater for a range of member preferences.
- Attendance using Zoom should be permitted.
Topic 4: Ensuring ongoing membership integrity
Currently renewal notices are mailed out to all members during December each year. Technically those memberships are due by Dec 31, but, absurdly members are given a payment deadline of noon on the last working day in May to pay. Not surprisingly most members leave it until close to the end of May to pay their membership fees. Many are unaware that if they miss the payment deadline they lose their voting rights for a year.
Q 4.1 Should we abolish the 31 May deadline by changing renewals and create a new process? For instance, members renew on the anniversary of the date they originally joined, or all prospective (or existing) members pay their membership via ongoing direct debit arrangement, charged monthly
A significant proportion of renewals of stacks has been carried out by people, often electorate officers, not branch officials, day after day during May taking in forms and payment in cash for up to 10 (the maximum allowed) members of a branch.
Stacking merely starts with a membership application but is continued with members being paid for by others year after year yet little, if any, State Office checks have been carried out on the bone fides of membership renewals.
- Renewals should be on the anniversary of originally joining as with many other memberships and accounts, eg RACV , car rego, etc. It would make life much more difficult for stackers with renewals spread across the year and would even out the workload for State Office Staff.
- A full range of traceable means membership application and renewal payment options should be available for renewing membership.
- Renewals must be subject to integrated computerised database vetting applications by membership staff as applications. – a database that can easily sort and have flagged indicators of potential stacking. Data would include address, Federal electorate, State Electorate, municipality, number of payment card, email address from which payment was made, IP address from which payment was made, date and time of payment.
Q 4.2 Do we need a disincentive to prohibit renewals being done by others? Eg stopping branch-based renewals, and/or payments for family members?
- Branch based renewals, Electorate Office based renewals and union based renewals where another party lodges membership renewals in bulk at State Office for others either in person or by mail, should be prohibited.
- Payments for family members in same household only permitted for partners paying for one another or parents/guardians paying for their children if less than 18 years.
Topic 5: Oversight and governance standards
The discussion paper asks us to make a leap of faith and accept that a Victorian ALP run by a much smaller Admin Committee which will behave more like the board of a corporation and allow the State Secretary, Assistant Secretaries even more liberty to run the show, will treat its members better.
This is a big ask. At least at the moment with 30 elected Admin Committee members there is the likelihood that some will have some connection and feel for the Party members out in the branches and go to bat for them having some inclusion and consideration in the Party and for advocating those members and branches are properly serviced by what has for years been a very neglectful State Office.
It has only been through a very small number of Admin Committee members that some oversight and exposure of branch stacking has occurred. State Office Officials have ignored it and most Admin Committee members didn’t want to know.
Can we believe that after decades where the faction who had control of the Administrative Committee, also controlled the senior Party Official position(s) at State Office and in general have operated in their own interests not those of the Party as a whole will suddenly change?
Can we believe that a small Admin Committee likely to be composed of a handful of factional leaders with few or any members with strong branch connections or involvement and who have allowed branch stacking to go unchecked for years will do a better job for members?
Can we believe that State Office officials who have done first rate work in elections but have been lousy at servicing and including the membership will suddenly change when there is less representation of ordinary members on the Admin Committee?
The starting point to reform and better oversight should be establishing rules, structures and processes that ensure that Party Officials properly inform and report to the Administrative Committee and are not active faction members and that Admin sub-committees are established to ensure that key operations, policy and activities are reported to and addressed by Admin Committee on an ongoing and systematic basis.
Q 5.1 Should we introduce a renewed Administrative Committee that provides the governance oversight? Should the Committee and related sub-committees be reduced in size to reflect contemporary governance practice?
- Maintain current Admin Committee size to ensure proportionally similar representation as there is at State Conference.
- Establish more sub-committees of the Admin Committee such as Membership Growth Committee, Membership Development, Communications Committee so that both Admin Members and State Office Officials address key operational issues and maintain oversight of these areas.
- Require the State Secretary to send detailed agenda Papers to Admin Committee members at least 3 days before meetings.
- State Office Officials must be appointed on merit and prohibited from engaging in factional activities in worktime.
Q 5.2 What are the critical governance changes that would directly address the activity of branch stacking?
- The Ombudsman not Admin Committee to be responsible initiating and conducting investigations into branch-stacking.
- Memberships Section to be given the staff and resources to vet membership applications and renewals and report suspicious memberships to the Membership Administration Committee (MAC) and the Ombudsman. MAC and Admin members to have oversight role and the right to inspect original submitted materials including online membership payments.
Topic 6: System design to prevent branch stacking
Party elections and pre-selections, matters that are partially dealt with in Topic 6 System design to prevent branch stacking but mainly from a branch stacking perspective. I have been assured that the administrators will welcome submissions addressing democracy in elections and pre-selections and that if such responses do not easily fit into Questions 6.1 or 6.2 they can be made in 10.2.
Because of massive branch stacking, genuine party members have only a minuscule say in influencing party policy and in determining those elected to key party decision making bodies and they have no say in electing candidates in most seats.
- Candidate selection – give members a real say by reducing the 50% weighting of the POSC in pre-selections or abolishing the POSC
In the Stability Pact the Left and Right factions have agreed that most winnable seats “belong” either to the Left or the Right. Under the Pact, if the Right “owns” a seat, at the Public Office Selection Committee (POSC), whose 100 members are elected by State Conference delegates, not only do the Right’s POSC members vote for the Right’s nominated candidate so too do the Left’s and vice-versa.
As 98% of POSC members are currently bound by the Stability Pact, the 50% local /50% POSC weighting locks out candidates from outside the Pact and leaves local Party members with no say whatsoever in the selection of the candidate and any local vote is a sham. With stacks cleared out genuine members must be given a real say in selecting candidates.
- Options include eliminating the POSC altogether with local members determining the candidate
- An 80% local/20% POSC weighting which would still allow require 62% local vote to overcome the Stability pact
- If a candidate achieves more than 60% 2 party preferred in the local ballot they should be declared elected and the POSC doesn’t sit.
2. Make Admin Committee removal of members pre-selection voting rights much more difficult.
The Admin Committee often strips local members of their voting rights and hands them to the National Executive, as was recently done for Southern Metropolitan Region vacancy. This must be made much more difficult under our rules.
The rules should be amended to require the opening of nominations for unanticipated vacancies, such as by-elections, as soon as the vacancy is known.
If time is tight the rules already allow for a compacted schedule to select a by-election candidate in which local members gather at the same time as the POSC to conduct the pre-selection using the normal 50/50 weighting. Zoom and electronic voting makes this eminently feasible and must be the manner in which pre-selections are conducted where time is short.
3. Give party members a direct vote in the pre-selection of Senate candidates
Currently Victoria’s Senate candidates are elected by the POSC alone. These are very important candidates who will represent the whole state and yet ordinary members get no direct say in their pre-selections.
The rules should be changed so that party members have at least 50% weighting in the selection of Senate candidates.
Election of State Conference delegates
- Require all candidates with factional allegiances to declare them
A significant proportion of State Conference delegate candidates do not disclose to voters the faction, if any, of which they are a members. Consequently voters have no knowledge of how the candidate’s factional connection will impact on their voting pattern at State Conference in relation to policy and voting for positions. Candidates for election to party positions must be required to disclose the faction, if any, to which they are aligned.
2. Direct election by members of key party positions and committee members
Many of those elected to key positions have neither been responsive to of representative of the Party’s members at large. Therefore the rules should be changed to extend party members directly electing rights (perhaps using supervised and secure electronic voting) to:
- The 3 Party Officers (President and 2 VPs)
- The Administrative Committee
- The Rules Revision Committee
- Give much earlier access to membership lists and/or early draft voters rolls for FEA elections and for pre-selections
Currently candidates are eligible to receive voters rolls for elections and pre-selections they are contesting at the close of nominations. In practice candidates connected to factions can get a membership list from their faction at any time. Those without good factional connections are significantly disadvantaged by having to wait until close to the ballot to gain access to the list from which the voters roll will be made.
Candidates who have formally advised the Party of their intent to nominate for election to a Party position should be given access to the appropriate membership list at least 3 months before the ballot.
Q 6.1 There are potentially system-based disincentives that would undermine branch stacking beyond membership and process settings. Is there a change to rules or structures that you believe would be compelling and why
1. Cap the number of conference delegates per FEA to reduce the incentive to stack
Of the State Conference delegate positions the 12 most heavily stacked FEAs take 180 of the 300 Party member Conference delegate positions, an average of 15 delegates per FEA (Fraser, stacksville central, has 20 delegates). The other 26 FEAs share the remaining 120 delegate positions – an average of 4.6 delegates each.
Given that State Conference delegates elect both POSC and Admin Committee members the current delegate allocation system gives the stackers not only power in local seats but also extra POSC numbers and significant representation on the Admin Committee to stymie any efforts to curb their exploits. Hopefully the audit will purge most stacks from the Party, nevertheless a maximum, and a minimum, must be placed on the number of delegates per FEA to reduce the incentive and potential gains of stacking
2. Enforce our secret ballot rule
Victorian Labor does have a secret ballot requirement in its rules but especially at the peak levels of the Party it is openly ignored. All faction and sub-faction members at both State Conference and the Public Office Selection Committee (POSC) hand over their ballot papers to factional operatives to be filled in and lodged for them. The returning officers allow blatant flouting and non-compliance with the rule.
Enforcement by returning officers of the secret ballot especially at the highest levels of our party is essential. Otherwise our representatives will continue to be hostages to intimidation and bullying and we will have no claim to being a democratic party.
3. External supervision of internal party elections
Given the inability of the Party to properly supervise its own elections, at least in the short term an external agency such as the AEC or VEC, should be contracted to run the party’s major internal elections and pre-selections.
4. Problems with postal ballots
In postal ballots, in particular, for election of national conference delegates, Public Office Selection Committee members and Upper House pre-selections, ballot papers have been collected, completed and lodged for voters. In some cases almost complete re-issue of ballots to members of some branches to enable the opportunity for bulk completion of others ballot papers. Conducting what were previously postal ballots using a secure online system could alleviate postal ballot manipulation by stackers.
Topic 7: Effective disputes and oversight mechanisms
Jenny and Steve’s already implemented changes to the composition of the Disputes Tribunal to replace factional appointments with independent retired lawyers or judges have met concerns about the previous composition of the Disputes Tribunal and their apparent embracing of an independent ombudsman to investigate branch stacking instead of Admin Committee appointed “investigators is also in accord with our original proposal.
Q 7.1 Are the current disputes arrangements adequate? How can they be improved? Are new arrangements required for appointment to the Disputes Tribunal, such as a 75% conference vote?
- That the rules be changed to ensure that into the future Disputes Tribunal members must be practicing lawyers or retired lawyers or judges and are not active members of factions.
- That Disputes Tribunal members be chosen by a 75% vote of Admin Committee (wish I could come up with something better).
Q. 7.2 To mitigate the return of stacking would an “independent’ set of eyes be impactful, such as a Party Ombudsman or annual review or audit of membership? What appointment mechanisms should be put in place for such an Ombudsman role, such as Conference threshold to appoint or replace?
- Introduce an independent ombudsman in response to carry out investigations of potential serious rules infringements (at own initiate or in response to requests) including but not restricted to branch stacking with full access to data stored at State Office
- Ombudsman would take warranted charges to Disputes Tribunal and would also present reports to Admin Committee and State Conference.
- Ombudsman appointed by at least 75% State Conference vote but first one appointed by Jenny Macklin & Steve Bracks,
Measures as well as an ombudsman should including an annual review or audit of membership.
Topic 8: A growing party
That respondents spell out what is currently lacking and what should change in the current party’s attitude to its members and branches in relation to this section is very important. Some suggestions are:
Q 8.1 “What are the key elements of successful recruitment of genuine members? What are the important opportunities (eg policies or campaigns) that should be created or promoted to recruit these members?”
- The party includes its members, communicates openly with them and tells them what is going on and explains why.
- State Office pro-actively supports its branches and provides them with the information and materials essential for their operation.
- Members and branches are given a real say and are consulted about how the party runs and in its policies.
- Members are given a real say in the pre-selection of candidates.
- State Office utilises members’ expertise rather than treating them as nuisances.
- State Office conducts, in association with party practitioners such as Labor Academy, training of members in all aspects of party operations.
- Branch members are trained in recruitment of new members.
- A website upgrade which includes meeting times locations and contact details for all branches.
- The party treats members and branches with respect.
- Exemplar branches are used to show new branch executives how to conduct branch meetings and activities.
- There are interactions with new members the moment their application is received.
- Functions and inductions for new members conducted.
Q. 8.2 What are the key organisational or rules changes required to ensure the arrangement to recruit these genuine members are in place? Should the ALP set an objective for membership growth?
In my 20 years on the Administrative Committee Party Officials have never reported to the committee statistics of how many members the branch has, how many joined in the previous year, how many lapsed, how many resigned, the age distribution, the gender distribution, the ethnic mix. Nor has the Admin Committee sought this information or debated these matters.
The Admin Committee has never been informed about the operations of the Community Action Network. Ever since State Office created the Community Action Network it has been a deliberate policy to prevent CAN volunteers from joining local branches – no wonder the Party is ageing.
Of course the party should set a growth objective, develop strategies to achieve it and include branches in developing and undertaking those strategies.
Topic 9: Party capacity
Q 9.2 Should the party increase membership fees, or create an extra levy in specific activities? Could membership tiers be merged or threshold levels changed?”
Even based on the table provided in the discussion paper, some current members are paying more in real terms than they did in 1999 eg according to the table the current day indexed fee for members earning $40,000–$70,0000 should be $80 but we are charging $95 and the indexed fee for those earning $70,000–$80,000 should be $125 yet we are charging $225.
Adding one or more tiers would be potentially more equitable than merging tiers.
- An extra tier and some adjustment to the fee levels is needed to ensure a more equitable gradation between the current levels 2, 3 and 4.
- The $225 fee cuts in too early and potentially onerous for members near the cut in point of $70,000.
- A large proportion of those who don’t pay concession pay the $50 claiming they earn under $40,000 per year.
Topic 10: Party impact and change
Q 10.2 Are there any other matters relating to Party integrity, membership and rules to be brought to the attention of the Administrators?
The unions their members and the party
It is strange that the unions are not mentioned in the Discussion Paper when the affiliated unions comprise 50% of the State Conference and of Victoria’s National Conference delegates and they are by no means aside from stacking-like activities in that:
– The Union Executive nominates the Union’s State Conference delegates and they are all obliged to vote as directed.
– Unions takeovers have been undertaken to increase a faction’s vote within the Party not to improve workers conditions.
– Unions make a substantial financial contribution to the Party but is it democratic that affiliated unions which comprise less than 10% of the workforce have 50% of the vote in the Party?
Individual affiliated union members should elect their union’s State Conference delegates
Currently union delegates to State Conference (who must be party members but can have been a member for as little as a day) are appointed by the union’s executive. Just as with FEAs the party members within an affiliated union should democratically elect that union’s delegates to State Conference using the Victorian party’s proportional representation rules.