National Secretary, Australian Labor Party
Via email National.email@example.com
7 December, 2020
We write as genuine community members of the Australian Labor Party (Victorian branch) to express our dismay that the Interim Governance Committee, recommended by the Administrators’ Report to the National Executive of the Australian Labor Party, will comprise only members of factions.
Public commentary by the Victorian Premier the Hon Daniel Andrews MP, party administrators the Hon Steve Bracks AC and the Hon Jenny Macklin, as well as the Administrators’ report itself, assured all Victorian party members that reform would strengthen transparency and member engagement, as well as increase confidence in the integrity of the party’s internal processes.
It was explicitly acknowledged in the report that these processes had failed spectacularly, and that the Party was in need of “real and enduring change in the culture and operations of the Victorian branch” and that reform “will introduce standards of governance and assurance of the highest calibre”. “Our members deserve nothing less,” the report says.
Many of the recommendations adopted by the National Executive are indeed significant. One of these is the establishment of the Interim Governance Committee to oversee the implementation of the report’s recommendations and perform the functions of the Administrative Committee until the next state conference.
A significant proportion of Victorian Labor Party members do not belong to a faction (a percentage that has likely grown since the recent removal of stacked members). In order for these members to have confidence in the transparency and governance of the reform process, they must see themselves represented.
That is why we were concerned to hear reports that the Interim Governance Committee will not include a non-factional member. The report itself makes no recommendation as to the factional make-up of the committee, so we do not understand why only the factions are represented on it.
1. Will the Interim Governance Committee comprise only members of factions?
2. If so, was any discussion or consideration given to including a non-factional member in the membership of the Interim Governance Committee? If not, why not?
To be clear, we make no complaint about the integrity of any person under consideration for the Interim Governance Committee. But, like any organisation undergoing cultural and operational change, not only must the work be done with integrity it must be seen to be done with integrity. This is a founding principle of good governance everywhere.
The party members we have spoken with have expressed their alarm and anger that a significant body such as the Interim Governance Committee might be so unrepresentative of party membership. Any decision to include only faction members risks triggering a loss of faith in the change process among those ordinary members who are aware of the implications of such a decision – a shame at such an early stage of our party’s reform.
There are several highly qualified non-factional members who would serve with distinction on the committee. Without a non-factional member, genuine community members can have little confidence in the committee, which in turn undermines its social licence to operate.
To protect the committee’s credibility and reduce the likelihood that members judge it to be lacking in democratic authority, we propose that the Interim Governance Committee increase to five or six people to allow for the inclusion of a non-factional member. This will reassure ordinary members, who comprise a larger portion of the party than any one faction or sub-faction, of the rigour, integrity and transparency of the reform process.
If the National Executive decides that the Interim Governance Committee must remain at five or below, we propose that a factional member be removed and replaced with a non-factional member, or that a non-factional member be appointed as the Executive Officer to assist the committee with implementation of the recommendations.
We make these proposals in good faith and in the spirit in which all of us, no matter our affiliation, first joined the party – to work together to make Victoria and Australia a fairer place.
We intend to distribute this letter among our networks. We look forward to your timely reply and answers to our specific questions and proposals, which we will also distribute.
Yours in solidarity,
Open Labor Executive Committee members:
23 Dec 2020 – the original letter to Paul Erikson letter was resent with 100 additional names of party members who support this call (names withheld for publication).