The Bracks-Faulkner-Carr post-poll review into the current state of the Labor Party will recommend radical revamps to its congealed internal structure, including multiple direct election proposals to belatedly re-energise the grassroots.
Crikey understands that the reforms, foreshadowed by insiders from the ALP’s progressive left faction, will focus on breaking down “collegiate systems” — code for branch stacking — that remain stumbling blocks to progress nearly a decade after the party’s last post-election review in 2001.
An expansion of preselection primaries, trialled last year to decide on a candidate for the Victorian seat of Kilsyth, is expected to be included as is a proposal to directly-elect the party’s parliamentary leader. Local policy committees, long-since abandoned by the realities of factional headkicking, could also be gifted fresh influence.
The long-awaited review, containing three main sections and about 100 recommendations, will be handed to the party’s National Executive with a redacted form released to the media at 8:30am on Friday.
ALP membership is at crisis point and the creaking 120-year branch structure is regarded as an embarrassing relic. The view inside Labor is that many of the recommendations first floated in the landmark Hawke-Wran 2002 review are desperately needed to revitalise internal structures and avoid a wipe-out in 2013.
Currently internal democracy is limited to the election of Federal Electoral Council delegates to state conferences, which in turn elect delegates to the national conference. In most states, members’ influence is further neutered by the 50% vote allocated on state conference floor to affiliated unions. However, the left is not expected to support any shift from the current weighting, focussing instead on bringing disaffiliated unions back into the tent.
An op-ed penned today by Labor left faction convener and ex-South Australian LHMU secretary Mark Butler in Fairfax papers referenced the recent 120,000-strong vote of party and union members that saw Ed Miliband shade his brother David for the UK Labour leadership.
However, the ALP is also expected to examine the French model of direct election, which threw up Socialist Party candidate Segolene Royal’s candidacy for president in 2007 and which will be tapped again as part of Royal’s expected bid for President in 2012.
Barack Obama’s enormously successful Organising for America initiative will also be held up as a shining model of activism.
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The report is understood to be divided into three sections, which will cover the period in government between 2007 and 2010, the conduct of the 2010 federal election campaign and a third, more weighty treatise into party reform.
The first section will delve into controversial decisions during the Rudd era, including the backflip on carbon pricing, the maintenance of the Australian Building and Construction Commission and problems with the Building the Education Revolution scheme. The decision to maintain a hard line on gay marriage will also come under scrutiny, with the issue expected to be debated at the party’s national conference in December.
The campaign review will cover the famous flashpoints between Kevin Rudd’s courtiers and the NSW Right during the 2010 poll, Rudd’s conflict with Julia Gillard and the advertising and PR spend, widely deemed to have been a disaster under McCann-Erickson. The 2010 experience is expected to be contrasted unfavourably with the 2007 ‘Kevin07’ triumph piloted by Neil Lawrence.
There is enormous secrecy surrounding the document’s release, with only hard copies currently available. Insiders say a second no-holds-barred “real review”, which is understood to be extremely critical of the party’s structures and governing bodies, will continue to be suppressed.
While elements of the party’s left have enthusiastically embraced the process, the right has been much less keen, claiming that a period of soul searching while Labor remains in minority government is fruitless, counter-productive and destructive.
But for others, the time for change is now. When it was released publicly in August 2002, the Hawke-Wran prescription aimed to make “the Party more participatory and democratic, more attractive to potential members, and more in step with the attitudes and aspirations of the Australian electorate.” In the intervening decade, it appears little has been achieved.