Reform
and rejuvenation is everywhere in the ALP – well, maybe not in some seats in Victoria, but almost everywhere.

Last week
Kim Beazley said he would listen to any constructive ideas to tackle factional
problems, but added he remained supportive of the system which ensured party
democracy. “I think that the fact that ordinary Labor members have the
protection of a ballot in caucus to the frontbench means that people do not
have to be the hacks of dictatorial leaders,” he claimed.

If it is
good enough for those “ordinary” backbenchers, surely it should be good enough
for “ordinary” rank and file to vote in preselections without the over-riding
power of a hilariously Soviet-sounding Central Committee.

Bob
McMullan isn’t just a former frontbencher. He’s former Western Australian state
secretary and served as national secretary of the ALP for three successful
elections in 1983, ’84 and ’87. He circulated a very interesting proposal for
Labor reform to branch members in his ACT seat of Fraser that so far seems to have slipped
under the radar. McMullan writes:

The key to reform of the Labor Party is to spread
the power. At the moment it is able to be concentrated in too few hands. The
process which I call “reductionism” channels power into fewer and fewer hands
as it passes through the complex hierarchy of representative structures.

At each level, those most tightly organised and
those most narrowly focused are those most likely to be successful in gaining
election to the next higher stage in the structure. Yet almost by definition
these are absolutely the wrong people to be rewarded. This situation needs to
be reversed. The only solution is to drive power directly to the members.

The recent initiative of direct election of the
national president was a useful symbolic step in the right direction but that
is all it was – symbolic. The only position the factional organisers would
allow to be in the hands of the members was one without a vote…

McMullan
has a very simple model:

Key elements of a
suggested reform plan

1. Direct election of the national President rather
than the current triumvirate approach.

2. Direct rank and file election of the National
Executive.

3. 100% rank and file pre-selections.

4. Extension of this principle to Senate and
Legislative Council preselections.

5. Leader to appoint front bench rather than caucus
election.

But don’t hold your breath.

Peter Fray

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