19 June 2021: 153 Labor members and friends, joined on line with Open Labor, the Independents and members of the Melbourne FEA to protest the complete lack of internal democracy in the ALP, as revealed once again in the current round of federal preselections. We all said: ‘Give ALP members their rightful vote!‘
Background to the meeting
Since 1993 the ALP has held 140 preselections for safe or winnable seats in Victoria. No more than TEN have gone to a ballot by members.
The current flashpoint is the federal seat of Melbourne. Under the secret Stability Pact between the Right and Left factions and their many sub-factions, Melbourne is allocated to the Left, and therefore the Left will choose the party’s candidate through a process that is hidden to ordinary members.
Melbourne has a large ALP membership of over 700 people; it is not highly factionalised and not stacked. Our members in Melbourne, like elsewhere, are smart, independently-minded people. It is an outrage that they have no say in who represents them.
This pattern is repeated time and again across Victoria. It is not confined to the ALP: anti-democratic and often toxic cultures and preselection processes have been exposed in the Liberal Party and the Greens.
We call on Labor to lead the reform of Australian political culture. Just as society seeks to prevent motives of personal gain from intruding into public life – by trying to outlaw corruption, for example so we need to regulate political organisations where personal ambition takes over. Institutionalising fairness is a great Labor project.
Former Deputy Prime Minister Brian Howe, a lifelong member of the Left, moved the following motion at a recent Carlton North branch meeting to send to the National Executive. The motion, which was supported by all twenty members present, was also passed by the North Melbourne Branch with one abstention. It reads:
‘Democracy is the foundation of the ALP. As a branch, we strongly protest against the undemocratic process of preselection. We insist that it becomes a transparent and democratic process again and ask the National Executive to take urgent action to address this matter.’
It is not too late for our party to hold a vote of members for Melbourne and for other seats. This is the very least the party can do, if the claim of our leaders to support party democracy is to have any meaning.
The party must then publish the Stability Pact and start to get honest about the way we pick our public representatives, so that we can start to build our membership by inviting a broader range of people to join our party and feel they have a role to play. We urge the party to give ALP members our rightful vote.
The preselection issue is directly relevant to party reforms introduced late last year following revelations of widespread branch-stacking in Victoria. One change that came from the intervention of the ALP National Executive was the suspension of the preselection voting rights of members until 2023. National Executive members alone would choose candidates for the next State and Federal elections.
This is undemocratic and unfair. Since the membership rolls are now cleansed as a result of the reform process, there is no good reason why party members should not be allowed to vote in the remaining Federal preselections and all State preselections. And since there is no good reason for continuing such a ban, it invites speculation about ulterior purposes, such as to protect minority factional interests.
Chair: James Button
Introductory remarks: Eric Dearricott and Janet McCalman
Final comments: Jamie Gardiner
The meeting will commence with a tribute to the late Andrew Herington.
We seek to gather broad support for a grassroots campaign to require the ALP National Executive to immediately restore the preselection rights of the Victorian membership and give ALP members our rightful vote.
Janet McCalman – North Melbourne Branch
Jamie Gardiner – Colllingwood-Fitzroy Branch
(both State Conference Delegates for the Independents)
James Button – Open Labor
Eric Dearricott – Convenor of the independents