1 February 2021: Victorian Labor members received an email from Jenny Macklin and Steve Bracks advising that they have now completed their period as Administrators of Victorian Labor and that last Friday the ALP National Executive received and adopted their proposed new Victorian ALP rules.
The actual rules were sent in another email about half an hour later. They are colour coded to indicate the stages of their implementation
From mid-June 2020 until yesterday, Steve and Jenny had been charged with the task of seeking to expunge branch stacks and stackers from our Victorian Party via an audit conducted by De Loitte, and with reforming its rules to help make the Party more democratic and provide greater oversight and protection from Branch stacking into the future.
As a result of the audit 1800+ members have been removed from the Party.
Appointments to the Interim Governance Committee
Steve and Jenny reported the appointment of the 5 members of the Interim Governance Committee (IGC). Yesterday the IGC took over from Jenny and Steve and will oversee the Party until after the delegates elected by Party members at the next State Conference to be held in May 2022 elect the first post-intervention Administrative Committee.
The members of the IGC are Susie Byers & Linda White (Socialist Left), Michael Donovan & Ben Davis (Labor Unity) and Lloyd Williams (Industrial Left). Decisions of the IGC will be by consensus.
At one stage there were prospects of the IGC including a non-aligned Party member but unfortunately this did not eventuate.
John Thwaites is the Party Monitor
Highly respected former Deputy Premier John Thwaites will be the inaugural Party Monitor – effectively a Party Ombudsman. Among other tasks he will be responsible for is oversight of investigations into branch stacking replacing the Administrative Committee in this task.
When will branches be able to operate formally again?
As I understand it the ban by the Party on formal branch meetings in Victoria remains – this was imposed, both because of the pandemic and also because of the branch stacking revelations in mid-June. Current pandemic restrictions on the number people allowed in an indoor meeting setting, at least at a public venue, still make conducting such meetings difficult but it is vital they recommence.
The new rules and the new branch structure will not be able to start immediately (see explanation below). In my view the most important task for the newly installed Interim Governance Committee, in what is likely to be an election year, is to get current Branches, hopefully purged of stacks, started up again asap.
A summary of key aspects of the new rules (which are not starting immediately)
Implementation: The Interim Governance Committee, in conjunction with the National Executive, will determine when the new rules commence – it won’t be immediately as there remain several building blocks to be put in place such as the installation of a new membership database system.
Joining the Party: Lodging members applications via branches and their Executives will no longer be permitted. Members will be expected to apply online although if they are unable to join online it will be possible to do so via phone or using a hard copy application.
Before being approved centrally, applicants will be required to provide photo id – the means of achieving this is yet to be decided.
Payment of membership fees: Members will be expected to pay the membership fees by direct debit from their personal accounts and will able to pay in monthly, quarterly or annual instalments. Members unable to pay by direct debit will have the option of paying annually by personal cheque. (Members should pay their whole of year 2021 renewals direct to State Office and will have already have received their renewal form in the mail.)
A party member’s branch: The Administrative Committee will assign members to their branch based on the State Seat in which they reside.
In the main it is expected that there will be one branch per State seat other than in State seats of area greater than 1350 sq km where Jenny and Steve have said that existing branches connected to regional towns will be able to continue (in my view this should have been specifically written into the new rules but unfortunately it wasn’t).
For a State seat with more than 300 members the Admin Committee may grant permission for the formation of an additional branch.
Accruing rights to vote in internal elections
To start to accrue voting rights for internal elections, a new member will be required to attend a meeting of their assigned branch, sign the attendance book and present photo ID.
The Branch Secretary is required to forward a photo of the attendance book to State Office within one hour of the close of the meeting.
On central acceptance that the member’s attendance was in accord with the rules, the new member will be assigned the date of that meeting as the start date of their accrual of voting rights.
Provided they maintain financial continuity members will become eligible to vote 24 months from the starting date of accrual. Existing branch members who maintain financial continuity will keep their voting rights.
In contrast to all other voting rights new members will have voting rights within their own branch after central approval of their starting date of voting rights accrual.
The commencement of the new State Electorate based branches
The intent, not explicitly stated in the new rules, is that the new State electorate branches will commence in the first half 2022 (after the State Redistribution in October this year).
The inaugural branch Executive will either be appointed by the IAG or elected by branch members. Once the new branches are set up current Central branch members will be assigned to them and Central Branch discontinued. Former Central members will have to attend their assigned branch before they can start to accrue voting rights which they will achieve after 12 months.
Sub-Branches The new rules allow for applications to the Administrative Committee by 10 or more members in a State electorate to form sub-branches based on community of interest. Other than new members being able to gain eligibility to start accruing voting rights, sub-branches, if approved will operate under the same rules as State electorate branches.
Where to from here for genuine Party members?
Although some members have doubts about some of aspects of the new rules, with so many stacks being removed from the Party, the chance for a real say in Victorian Labor for ordinary branch members hasn’t been as good for decades.
And at the start of 2022 with FEA elections and State Conference delegate elections current members can set the scene for a change to ongoing real member participation in our Party into the future.