Crikey has received an extraordinary reaction to this clarion call to reform the ALP. Could this be a lightening rod for long overdue change? Our disillusioned former ALP member takes up the story.

Well, the [email protected] inbox is over flowing. Many thanks to all the responses. This is certainly more popular than we thought. Apologies to all those who could be not responded to. It seems that 99% of all responses were in agreement that the ALP needs reforming.

This is everything from policy creation, structure of Admin, pre-selection of candidates, and a reduction in the power and influence of both the unions and the factions that have crippled the ALP for too long now.

Responses were recieved from former MPs, ministerial advisers, CEOs and former life long former supporters of the party. The pensioner who told us after 50 years he had no more reason to belong to the party as it did not listen. The young member who was asked to join a faction before she went to her second branch meeting. The IT Analyst and the small business person who believe in the cause but have nowhere to send their concerns. The former member of Parliament who lost his seat because the faction did a deal for his seat.

The list goes on and on. The Queenslander who only had to mention the name Ludwig in his email to talk about the problems in Queensland. Messages from all states and people from all walks of life. The message is clear: the party has to reform and listen to its people. Where to from here? We have no idea. We don’t want to start a faction but concede that to curtail the monster that has been created, we too may have to create our own. Whatever happens we don’t want to die wondering. We tried Bob and Neville’s post mortem think tank to no avail.

Why reform is needed

Put simply, we live in a different society. In the seventies Eastern European economics probably could work. These days economic rationalism and progression is here to stay. The Keating legacies of bank deregulation, the floating of the dollar, tariff reductions, and privatisation were real economic achievements that the Howard Government enjoys the fruits of today.

It showed that the ALP can be good at economics and can make a real difference and, heaven forbid, win bloody elections! In the seventies we had 50+% of the workforce as union members. Today that number is only 20%. The party must reflect this and accept that most people today are not union members.

Therefore the party must become less reliant on them to dominate the party in both policy and delegates. Granted their financial incentives to the party are good. We know the unions created the great party and we will never forget the legacy of the shearers; but its a very different world today.

The ALP must become many things to many people. In the seventies nobody cared too much where our candidates came from. The locals could pick good people. This is no longer the case as candidates are mostly picked not from ability, but from which faction or which union they come from. The ALP could find very good candidates from the private sector – but they don’t. Very few candidates come from business, Information Technology, or even factory workers.

It is reduced to very little talent indeed. Why is that almost every delegate at State conference belongs to a faction when only a very small proportion of ALP members are members of those same factions? Why is that someone by the name of ‘John Smith’ can appear 30 times on a particular branch’s membership books come pre-selection time? Why is that the unions get 50% delegate representation at state conference when they represent very few workers today? Why is that the one time the factions get it right, someone like David Feeney (former Vic ALP Secretary) can deliver the biggest Labor victory for the Bracks Government one day, and then get sacked due to factional infighting the next day after he upset a few of the older warlord hacks within the party?

Is this the sort of ALP the party wants to have faith in? Is the party that would still like us to hand out the how to vote cards for nothing? Surely the party would still like to hear the views of the rank and file? Does the party not want to build on its reducing membership base? Doesn’t the party want to tap into other true believer’s ideas? Is there not others who can contribute from the outside who do not want to be creatures of the unionised and factional monster that has been created? Does the ALP ever want to consider itself relevant again? The latte set (for want of a better world) are out there in force and wants reasons to vote again for the party or better still re-join.

This push is to totally reform. Many others told us of their concerns for policy and direction change from the ALP. We have our own thoughts on where the ALP should go. Like everyone who replied we have our policy preferences and the sort of candidates the ALP should look to field at elections.

However, this is not a policy think tank straight off – this is to try re-shape the ALP first at the Admin level to allow others to be heard. Its no use having something to say if the others don’t have ears! It no use creating an email if the other person does not have a modem! The first planned meetings will be to determine where to from here. The voting and policy formulation must be changed significantly to satisfy the reformers but again without reform this cannot happen either.

The factional and union hacks must listen to others and except they are not 100% representative of either society nor the ALP today. They must be prepared to accept some change. Honourable mention to Simon Crean, who at least saw the writing on the wall two years ago. We acknowledge small gains but ulitmately think it was nothing more than tokenism. Many of us want to come back to the party. Many of us who are members of the party want change. Its time for the ALP to listen and become more relevant. Its now time to make a stand.

Love to all the true beleivers wanting this change and reform.

The Reformers
[email protected]

This is a just a tiny proportion of some of the hundreds of response we got:

Unions stop me from joining

“I have toyed with the idea of joining the ALP (especially in the last few days) but everything I hear about it indicates that it’s dominated by unions and factions. I’m not by any means anti-union but I don’t see them being the font of all knowledge as to how a society should operate.”

Time to hit the long and hard reform road

“Well done for taking a stand on what should have been done a long time ago. It will be a hard road, with many trying to avoid reform, but the time has come.”

Left and right won’t work together

“You have my support on this issue, I’ve only been a member for a little over half a year, however I’ve already noticed so many sections of the party that factions completely dominate. The amount of times I’ve noticed two members of the ALP not work together because one is from the left, the other the right.”

It will take three years to do it

“Couldn’t agree with you more, although, the thought of more years of Coalition rule while Labor reorganises is too depressing to contemplate. Add me to your list of reformers.”

After five years I’m frustrated and disappointed

“You go for it! Never were truer words spoken! What a magnificently crafted letter, touching at the very core of what is wrong with the party. I’ve been a party member for the past 5 years and I have found it the most frustrating and disappointing experience.”

Time to broaden the base

“The only way to change this is for the ALP to become a broader based movement. When union representation was 50% of the work force this was the case, unions were grass roots representatives. However that is no longer the case”.

I’m on the reform caravan

“So if you are serious about reforming the party, I’ll join in a flash. I live in Canberra, and the only reason I haven’t yet joined the ALP
is their unwillingness to listen to the grassroots. If you want to change that, I’m with you”.

Time for a shake-up

“I never was any good at number crunching or branch stacking, but that was 10 years ago with no financial resources to back me up. The story is quite different now. Let’s see if we can shake things up a bit”.

Talentless stackers destroy party

“It pains me to see the party being destroyed by careerist factional shitkickers with no talent except for number crunching or branch stacking.”

Chris Schacht on the money

“Recently ex-Senator Chris Schacht spoke about the exact same issue, highlighting the decline in membership and blaming it on the
closing in of the party, with little chance of one getting anywhere in the party without joining the left or the right”.

True believer wants reform

“Just keeping it brief, yes I am a true believer and I yearn for a return to relevance for the ALP.”

How about a faction free ALP

“Mate, I’ll join you. Because this country needs a new ALP (not filled with Union Hack, factionists).”

Only unionists or lawyers get ahead

“I agree with your article on crikey, I too have been disappointed by the factionalism. The election policies sucked. I live in SA so I’m unable to be much use to you in Victoria. I used to be a member but quit for similar reasons , you had to be a union rep or a lawyer to get any where in the party.”

Compulsory unionism archaic

“After the election result, my partner and I immediately thought, ‘let’s join the ALP and see what we can do in the next three years’. I am by no means against unions, but compulsory union membership seems an archaic eligibility.”

The bullying warlords

“I am not a member though a long time voter but I agree with your views about the influence of the power brokers and warlords, having known one sitting independent Labor MP be threatened, bullied and intimidated because she occupies a seat that a faction consider rightfully its own. Not sure what assistance I could be but I would like to help in a personal capacity in some way to reinvigorate the party.”