Like moths to light, all wise and decent Democrats continue to use Crikey as their preferred distributor of leaks and Hillary Bray is only too willing to oblige.

In an environment like this, the leaks have kept on coming. Literally hundreds of pages of messages have made their way to Crikey during the week.

Let’s start a the beginning of the week, and the diplomatic statement the Western Australian Democrat president Tracy Chaloner made when the national exec met in Adelaide the weekend before last and posted on the ADnet:

In the interests of not having my words misreported or taken out of context, I have decided to post a full transcript of my statement to the NE.

Statement read to the NE meeting on Sunday 11 August 2002:

My name is Tracy Chaloner. I have been a member of the party for 14 months. Four weeks ago I was elected by the WA Divisional Executive as WA Divisional President.

What a time to become President in Western Australia.

This is difficult for me because in that four weeks I have been subjected to harassment, intimidation and bullying by some people on the WA Division Executive.

It seems that my greatest sin has been to question the behaviour of Senator Murray.

I have been warned that as a result of my refusal to be bullied into openly declaring my support for Senator Murray, I will be dumped as President as early as next Wednesday.

In my wildest dreams I never thought that this could happen in the Australian Democrats.

The members are really angry and frustrated at the damage Andrew Murray is causing the party, and the hurt he has caused them.

The report which has been tabled by the WA NE representatives does not have my support. It is misleading.

Some people want you to believe that this issue can only be solved by the WA Division. The fact is that Senator Murray has caused national damage to our national party through the national media by attacking the integrity of our national organisational processes and our Federal Leader.

This issue must be resolved quickly, and it must be solved nationally.

Sincerely,

Tracy Chaloner

WA Division President

Osama gets in on the act

Tracey’s statement was not in vain. On Tuesday, we read of party president Liz Oss-Emer’s sudden discovery that the Dems need some constitutional change after all:

—–Original Message—–

From: Oss-Emer

Sent: Tuesday, 13 August 2002 3:45 PM

To: [email protected]

Subject: [AD] constitutional reform

I’m really interested in getting this going, and am taking note of all the suggestions coming through AD net. I know lots of suggestions have been made via the review, which is great. There has been discussion of bringing all Divisional ones into closer alignment, but of course (understandably) that will be a big bun fight. Your suggestion of including minimum standards in the national one is good.

There’s lots of areas in which our Constitution is inadequate, I think. For example, how we can address the issue of reviewing parliamentarians’ performance more regularly than happens with preselection. How about members getting to review them against set criteria, this info is kept and made available as part of their renomination every time? Other ideas?

Liz

——————-

Thank you, Liz, for asking for ideas.

Leaders’ Job Descriptions

I suggest that the positions of Parliamentary or Senate Leader (and deputy leader) should have job descriptions. One of the powers of the leader should be the ability to require National Compliance Committee (or the party’s disciplinary body, if there should be a new one after the review and possibly-related ballot[s]) to deal with a complaint by the leader about improper behaviour by an MP under his or her leadership.

Perhaps the Democrat Senate partyroom could get the concept of leader and deputy job descriptions going now so that they have some interim descriptions working very soon. I suggest that this would help overcome partyroom disagreement on the direction(s) the Senate team should take, by defining what role the leader should take in such circumstances.

MP’s Code of Conduct

To complement the leaders’ job descriptions, we should have, as others have suggested, a code of conduct for MPs, something which candidates should reaffirm when they stand for parliament and ask for the backing of the party for getting them into parliament.

National Compliance Committee

I don’t think there is much need for change in the structure of the NCC and complaints made to it, except for the ability of the leader to refer MPs to it as I have outlined above. (By the way, I was very disappointed that NE, at its meeting on the weekend, did not ask NMC to investigate the case for NMC to make a complaint to NCC regarding Senator Murray’s alleged serious breaches of the constitution over the last three weeks.)

Yep. There can be absolutely no doubt that job descriptions for MPs and annual appraisals would have prevented the outbreak of strife. Still, it’s a pity no-one suggested that letting MPs be MPs might be a good idea.

Everybody got quite confused over the week if formal moves to expel Andrew Murray had begun. Even the Britney fan club didn’t know what was going on or what the procedures to kick him out were. The answer was available on the ADnet:

Under section 4.10 of the national constitution ten signatures merely initiates proceedings with the National Compliance Committee (NCC).

4.10 A National Compliance Committee shall be established, consisting of the National President and National Deputy Presidents and the first-elected National Executive representative from each division.

On the basis of a formal complaint from the governing body of a member’s Division, ten members of that Division, or the National Management Committee, to which the member concerned has had adequate opportunity to respond, the National Compliance Committee may find that this member has acted against the interests of the Party, either:

* by failing to comply with the requirements of the Constitution or Regulations; or

* by some other conduct.

The National Compliance Committee may, having found that a member has acted against the interests of the Party, in accordance with the gravity of the breach:

* Take no further action;

* Issue a restraining order;

* Issue a reprimand;

* Reduce or cancel the period of grace of a member whose subscription has expired;

* Suspend any or all of the following rights of the member, as a whole or in part, for a specified or indefinite period:

* seeking or holding national, divisional and/or branch office;

* seeking or retaining the endorsement of the Party for public office;

* speaking on behalf of the Party;

* attending or participating in meetings of Party bodies.

* By an absolute majority, exclude the member from membership for a specified or indefinite period.

The National Executive must ratify, by an absolute majority, any decision by the National Compliance Committee to expel a member from membership.

Ten members cannot expel another member they merely initiate bringing a member to NCC’s attention. The ten have no control over how the issue is dealt with by the NCC.

So how did they react to the facts

Learning the facts didn’t stop the bile. Here’s just one nice little snippet from a cuddly Dem:

“Murray goes all Afrikaaner on me and institutes apartheid within the party (he is the master race and we are the ‘others’)”

Yeah, right. We must never forget that Murray’s just some bloke who risked his life to defy racist regimes in Rhodesia and South Africa. What is that compared to Britney’s campaign to give the Australian proletariat the right to fund free university education for private school kids like her?

Passionate sermons in defence of Britney were posted throughout the week, calling for support for action against Murray. Here’s one from somebody who going by the frequency his postings appear on the ADnet really should get out more.

From: Dion Giles

Date: Tue Aug 13, 2002 1:51 pm

Subject: Did Natasha make a mistake?

The view has been put, in the Press and on this list, that Natasha made a fatal mistake in declaring that she could not lead a party room containing Andrew Murray.

That’s how it might look in the milieu of the bought parties and their rituals. News media encourage this so it is no surprise that genuine Democrats are influenced by the image despite the culture of our Party.

The current dispute has gelled into one over the most fundamental tenet of the Party — the membership own and rule it. Or are supposed to. The bought journos and the fifth columnists contemptuously brush this aside and predicate every move, every statement, every alliance, on the notion (never overtly stated — deemed hardly necessary) that the senators run the Party and management — the NatEx and the high officebearers — are there to give symbolic expression to the views of the membership, but to defer in the end to the supremacy of the party room.

So did Natasha make a mistake?

Well in personal terms she made a mistake in agreeing despite great misgivings to the persistent call to run for leader against Meg Lees and save the Party from possible extinction. A mistake, because the Party simply used her while dumping shark after shark into the pool in which she is expected to work, until they had a clear majority there. The personal cost has been appalling. How does the Party repay it? If honesty is too tall a request, where’s the compassion for someone who had the guts to go bat for what is unshaping up to be a limp rabble?

But if accepting the leadership might have been a “mistake” in purely personal terms — the sort of “mistake” made by anyone who would dive into dangerous water to rescue a child — it sure as hell was the right thing to do for the Party.

So was her clear statement to the NatEx — weed out Murray or lose the goose that’s laying the golden eggs. And the NatEx wimped out. The fifth column, and the weak ideology of compromise and calls “natural justice” to the fifth column but no justice to the Party or the person we’ve asked to lead our Senate “team”, combined in a 11/9 vote for no justice.

Natasha’s call was certainly no mistake. It was a call to us to win the decision on whether or not Australia is to have available a political party based on democracy, because none of the others are. Who is to rule — the parliamentary wing or the members? It’s down to us now. Crunch time.

The petitions are at

here and here.

And for West Australians, copies of a letter of complaint to the NCC can be obtained from Collin.

Neither the NCC nor the direct power of the membership is a substitute for the other. It’s not the time to leave _any_ weapon unused. If preserving member-control is too heavy and theoretical, think of the golden eggs. How many could the fifth columnists lay for us?

Dion Giles, Fremantle

C’mon, Dion! Fremantle’s very nice. Come outside! True, it would be interesting to hear Dion explain the difference between a “bought” journalist and a “compromised” one like Glen Milne, or why the donations from Gavin Anderson have been different from those the “bought” parties get let alone the cash from the liquor lobby but the lad deserves more than a one-dimensional life.

It seems, alas, that he is unwilling to pursue it. After the opinion piece by Murray appeared in the Australian, Dion was at it again:

But he has also again violated NC 4.9 which should help with getting more signatures on a letter of complaint to the NCC. Will WA members who are now aware of this article and not prepared to sign the letter of complaint on or before Saturday’s meeting please identify themselves and explain whether they have now accepted that! 4.9 doesn’t apply to the high, mighty, well-connected and antidemocratic, only to the plebs? Likewise anyone in any division who doesn’t wish to sign the petitions at here and here.

(Copies from me if you can’t get into those pages).

4.9 states: “A member shall be permitted to communicate directly or indirectly with the news media concerning the internal affairs of a Branch, a Division or the Party only as formally authorised by the governing body of such Branch or Division or the National Executive, respectively.”

And this is the party that Greg Barns joined to get away from intolerance? The party he joined because it values free speech? Is the idea of a Senator commenting on the direction of his party that strange? Even members of the Tasmanian Liberal Party are given some leeway.

At the time of going to press, Dion hasn’t called for the expulsion of this Western Australian Dem who posted details of the meeting between Murray and the rank and file members of his division on Saturday on the ADnet:

From: “Collin Mullane”

Date: Sat Aug 17, 2002 9:28 pm

Subject: WA Member’s meeting

I write this possibly in contravention of the “in camera” status of today’s meeting in WA. But, to hell with it – the members deserve to know. If there are any consequences I can live with it.

Senator Murray appeared before 55 members (approx 1/4 of the membership) of the WA Division today, made a statement and participated in a question & answer session.

Many members presented statements and opinions as well as posed questions. Some questions Andrew refused to answer, others he answered in a frank and open manner, others he applied political spin.

I will provide a more detailed report later, but for now I just want to highlight the outcomes of the 5 hours that I spent with the other Democrats today.

Firstly, the overwhelming majority of the members that attended were aggrieved, angry, disappointed, confused, frustrated, embarrassed and/or generally pissed off.

I hasten to add that the overwhelming majority of those members did not direct this angst towards Andrew Murray. Most of it was directed at the National Compliance Committee, the national management Committee and the National Executive. And most of that angst was in regard to the handling of the complaint about Meg Lees.

Some members did voice their disappointment in Andrew, and fewer still wanted any action taken against Andrew or any member for that matter. Although one member did suggest that I should be hauled up before the NCC 😉 There were also a considerable number that wanted Meg back.

Norm Kelly spoke as National Deputy President and provided a welcomed description of the process involved in NCC action and the concern about conflict of interest with the Presidential team (Liz, Norm & Rachel) sitting on the NMC, NCC and NE.

Brian Greig also had a chance to present his views of the situation and I commend him for his words as he presented a very clean statement rebutting Andrew on some points and confirming some of his other points. Brian was very honest and forthright and also very careful in what he said and how it was said. He was spot on the money, though.

After all the talk, and after 1/3 of the members had left during the course of the day, the forum was asked to come up with “themes” and “outcomes” of the day.

In a non-binding indicative “straw poll” of the members that had remained any concept of action against Andrew Murray was resoundingly voted down with only 5 or 6 members supporting action. The proposed action included “members lodging an NCC complaint”, “the DE initiating NCC action”, “the DE taking any other action”, and “a ballot of Party members” (specifically the two raised by David H-N & Rod Swift).

The members instead unanimously voted for “a focus on policy” and “encouraging members to have input into the strategic review” as well as, strangely enough, a proposal titled “the phoenix is rising”, which referred to a suggestion that the Australian Democrats have been killed by the media and we need to rise from the ashes as a brand new party with a new identity . I say unanimous, however I abstained from the vote on the Phoenix. The other two were both recorded as 30-0 (perplexing isn’t it?).

Other outcomes from the straw poll, that were agreed to by more than a 2/3 majority were “support for the establishment of 3 more branches in WA”, “support for the NE and the DE to get their house in order”, “Fix quickly – and stop distracting the Senators”, and “Reconciliation of the party”.

I’ll leave it up to members to form your individual opinions on what these outcomes really mean. I will post a more detailed report later and will also provide my personal opinions and observations in a separate posting so as to minimise my bias.

Finally a statement was constructed by the DE after the forum ended and I am hoping that a copy of this will be made available. I recall bits of it, but not the complete or exact wording.

Collin Mullane

WA Democrat-in-disgust

Lastly, a sensible suggestion

And before we go, this is a very sensible suggestion from the ADnet on Thursday that we hope its members will take up:

“Should we send our postings direct to Crikey.com with a Cc to AusDemocrats”

Hillary Bray can be contacted at [email protected]

Peter Fray

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