As the Australian Labor Party’s National Executive meets in Brisbane today to digest the Bracks-Faulkner-Carr review into the party’s disastrous 2010 election campaign, Crikey can reveal that the report’s sealed sections contain serious personal criticisms of Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
According to senior party sources, a preliminary version of the excoriation presented to the PM last month slams the timing of last August’s poll as a “mistake” and sheets home blame for the two worst decisions of the campaign — the real Julia/fake Julia debacle and the climate change assembly — directly to Gillard herself.
Previously, criticism had been reserved for party strategists and the national office rather than the PM — however the controversial secret second section of the report pulls no punches in fingering who it considers the main culprit.
In an overview of the campaign’s aftermath, the review also attacks the PM’s inner circle, claiming the team, led at the time by former chief of staff Amanda Lampe, were incapable of running the office properly and were obsessed with spin over substance. It goes on to say that without significant personnel excavations the support cast would “be her downfall”. Lampe quit last month and will soon be replaced by the more policy-orientated Ben Hubbard from Victoria.
A further recommendation reportedly says Labor should dump the practice of shunting backbenchers “lines of the day”, concentrating instead on “themes of the day” which MPs can expand and extemporise upon Lindsay Tanner-style in a manner befitting a living and breathing public figure, rather than a robot or dalek.
The first two sections of the report covering the 2010 election and Kevin Rudd’s period in power from 2007 onwards are strictly for internal consumption and only the third section on party reform is expected to be released publicly. Speculation swirled this morning as to when that might happen, with some sources suggesting there would be nothing shunted to the media until tomorrow. Others have flagged a release later this afternoon.
Sources also say the report also contains a warning to the Western Australian branch of the party, declaring the prospect of a Labor revival in the state dead unless it develops its own distinctive brand in the mould of NSW’s “Country Labor”. One possible model would be a wholesale re-engineering in the mould of the United States’ fiscally-conservative Blue Dog Democrats, to enable some dissent on issues such as the mining tax.
On Wednesday, Crikey examined a number of the reform proposals in the third section, including the direct election of national conference delegates and an expansion of the preselection process to include Labor-supporting members of the general public in addition to members.
Later that afternoon, the Victorian Socialist Left announced that they would pen their own parallel options paper into the National Review’s findings to ensure greater levels of party democracy, better community organising, increased integrity in party processes, more meaningful membership forums and a strengthened relationship with affiliated unions.
But Crikey understands that the proposals to water down union influence in preselections will be hotly contested by elements of the Right including the vocal Australian Workers Union, which has in recent days embarked on a class war pantomime to energise its flagging membership.