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Dec 5, 2011

ALP Left hang tight to reforms as they step up numbers drive

The ALP's Left say they will not give up on key reforms trashed by the Right at national conference and will urgently move to recruit multiple members to force Labor to democratise.

The ALP’s Left faction say they will not give up on key Bracks-Carr-Faulkner reforms trashed by the Right at national conference and will urgently move to recruit multiple members to force Labor to democratise.

A devastating summary of Saturday’s reform debate, obtained by Crikey, illustrates in stark detail the emasculation of the hallowed trio’s considered initiatives. All three elder statesmen spoke during the debate and were livid after the Right welched on delivering anything meaningful.

“The 2011 National Conference rejected in whole, or in part, the vast majority of … recommendations to increase the role, influence and say of the membership in Party affairs,” the Left report reads. “These recommendations if adopted, would have restrained some of the power of those currently in control of the Party.”

The progressive reforms — which included the direct election of national conference delegates and the ability of the party president to vote on national executive — were left stillborn after the Right refused to commit to hard numbers and instead hived off the issue to an implementation committee.

The report reveals just 13 — or 42% — of the 31 BCF reforms were adopted with a majority adopted in only part (30%) or rejected completely (26%).

The appointment of an organising tsar, a membership amnesty, the direct election of state presidents, a ban on dual voting, a strengthened National Appeals Tribunal, a reduction in preselection interventions and the official affiliation of like-minded organisations were all junked.

“Party-building activities and community organising won’t happen effectively in some branches and direct election of National Conference delegates remains unfinished business,” the report reads. It slammed the conference’s “very weak commitment organisationally to properly look at primaries”.

A senior Left source with direct carriage of the faction’s agenda slammed a media report yesterday that the Left had “abandoned” the proposal to directly elect 50% of delegates and had instead put a suggestion that the national executive would “explore options” for rank and file deployment.

“There were no last-minute changes, the Right just jammed through an omnibus of resolutions and it was highly unlikely most delegates knew what they were actually voting for,” they said.

At multiple points during Saturday’s debate Right convener David Feeney’s chief foot soldier Stephen Donnelly held up a sign with an up and down arrow to ensure the sheep in the bleachers baa-ed at the correct moment.

Yesterday morning, right wing AWU national secretary Paul Howes, a former socialist, was seen in close discussion with Faulkner in the conference’s nose-bleed section after his faction had smashed the initiatives’ intent.

The Right’s performance “underscored the extreme reluctance to move away from pre-arranged fixes”, the Left source said.

“On gay marriage, offshore processing and uranium they didn’t want to hear the argument and debate that is a normal part of open and democratic decision-making.”

The Right commanded 218 delegates on conference floor, the vast majority of which are controlled by ruling daleks and business-focused trade unions who consider corporate success as a the key barometer of the national interest. The Left were within spitting distance at 177 delegates but struggled corral the 20 defectors needed to control debate. However, on contested votes on uranium, gay marriage, offshore processing and live cattle exports, the biggest gap was just 12.

Its one clear victory — a change to the party’s platform to allow same-s-x marriage — was carried on the voices to avoid prime ministerial embarrassment.

Australian leader writer and former Kevin Rudd speech-writer Troy Bramston, in a Fabian Society Forum compered by Geoff Gallop just hours before the reform debate kicked off, said it would take another 10 years before Labor would broach the topic again — presumably after another bout of soul searching after defeat at the ballot box in 2013.

But change could come much sooner. The Left will campaign hard to recruit enough delegates to chip away at Right control and seize control of the agenda. Depending on which state they come from, just 500 or 1000 new members would see Right banished to minority status.

“The votes were so close that if we can turn the huge cheers heard during the conference on contentious issues into 500 or 1000 new members we’d see some important changes to the platform,” a source said.

“Reform is really about removing the filters so the rank and file can select people on the basis of their views. The things people care about can become part of the process. At the moment they are not.”

The Left would also abandon any previous inclination to work out fixes with the Right — the conference signalled an attitudinal change and there would now be a supreme hesitancy to compromise.

“This is about whether we mean what we say … do we believe in democratic engagement to make a better world? If we say yes, than there’s no way we would have voted to export uranium to India,” the source said, citing La Trobe MP Laura Smyth’s speech during the debate as the “best at the entire conference”.

Despite the rancour, there was still some factional cross-pollination evident in the conference’s aftermath with Anthony Albanese and Wayne Swan witnessed cheering the weekend’s cautious progress over a pint at Darling Harbour’s picturesque Watershed bar. Whether the cordiality will last is another question.

To catch up on Crook’s weekend coverage check out his posts on The Stump, including:

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51 comments

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51 thoughts on “ALP Left hang tight to reforms as they step up numbers drive

  1. Suzanne Blake

    This leak could have only come from the PM’s office or the Labor National Secretary office. It has been done to de-stabilise Rudd. It is interesting that they did not leak the Gillard aspects of the report. Also interesting that Rudd was given the graveyard shift to speak at the National conference. Also interesting that only 11,000 Labor Members voted for National Secretary, what apathy.

  2. Andrew McIntosh

    I wonder if there’s potential for a split? At the moment it looks like it would just take the right personalities. Maybe a tall call, but still I wonder.

  3. Suzanne Blake

    @ Andrew McIntosh

    With just 35,000 ALP members of which 11,000 voted in the National President, there is not too much to split. The Greens would be the winners in any split.

  4. SBH

    Not to nit pick Andrew but “compared by Geoff Gallop” compared to what?

    praps ‘compered’

  5. GeeWizz

    This is Rudd letting Gillard know what he thinks of her:
    resources1.news.com.au/images/2011/12/05/1226214/045733-20111205rudd.jpg

  6. Steven Warren

    @Andrew: I think it’s what the party needs tbh. The Right isn’t going to push through reform while they are in control because they fear losing control.

    @SB I think a split Left party might actually get new members. Most people I know who vote left don’t want to have anything to do with the party due to either Unions or the Right factions hijacking of the parties values.

    My dad for example won’t ever become a Labor member while it is Union controlled because decades ago he became a Union delegate and actually tried asking his fellow workers what issues they were concerned about and then tried to get something done about the issues they had voiced concern about.

    Shortly after this he had a “talk” and was told in plain language his job wasn’t to tell the Union what their members wanted but to tell their members what the Union wanted.

    He quit on the spot. From the sounds of things, not much has changed.

  7. Suzanne Blake

    @Steven Warren

    “Shortly after this he had a “talk” and was told in plain language his job wasn’t to tell the Union what their members wanted but to tell their members what the Union wanted.”

    Brilliant, thats why they call the Shop Stewards in Australia Li*ars Party….

  8. Edward James

    I spend my time and money encouraging in the minds of the peoples a belief that we do have the power to change the political face of our governments. Yes we can finish dismantling Labor at the Federal Ballot box. Consider what the peoples did in NSW. It has been clear for years Labor Party members themselves wont remove those parasites they know are consuming our taxes while eating their political party away from within. We the voting public should waste no time in finishing the job we started in NSW on March 26 2011. Keep in mind when you vote for change list your targeted dead wood last on any ballot paper. So they do not get to wander over to the opposition bench for expencive taxpayer funded RnR. Exercise your vote well when voting for change, number all the boxes! Edward James
    Edward James says:08:46am | 21/06/11

    Kevin Rudd is an integral part of the rotten culture which is the ALP, While David Penberthy mentions how Peter Beattie would know Rudd from his time as Chief of Staff for Wayne Goss. He David Penberthy fails to throw the Heiner affair hand grenade into the mix. http://www.heineraffair.info/site_pages/beattie.html
    With the two parties not much preferred wanting to see the end of him Rudd for different reasons. I must keep asking why we should not take this time to question Kevin Rudd about his inglorious past as Goss Chief of Staff. Edward James
    Quote from Former Queensland Premier Peter Beattie

    “…It Will Go Down In The Record Of This Parliament As The Petition With The Least Number Of Signatures On It.” And “….There Is No Audience For This Issue. There Have Been More Inquiries Into This Issue Than We Have Had Hot Dinners. The Answer Is: No, No, No, No, No And No. It Is Done. It Is Finished. It Is Over.”

    Former Premier Peter Beattie ridiculing the 84-page Lindeberg Petition on 28 October 1999 [see State Hansard p4502]. The Lindeberg Petition was a symbolic “one-man” petition.
    Marilyn Shepherd says:04:55pm | 21/06/11

    Oh lordy, the Heiner affair again. Do give it a rest. There was no Heiner affair.
    Christian Real says:05:28pm | 21/06/11

    Marilyn Shepherd
    Agreed, the so called Heiner Affair,has been trotted out for far to long by the pathetic Liberal supporters,radio shock jocks and their party.
    I also agree that there was no heiner Affair and the Liberals and radio shock jocks smoking gun is still firing blanks.
    Edward James:
    You say that “David Penberthy fails to throw the Heiner affair hand grenade into the mix”
    Perhaps Edward James,it is because there is no hand grenade to throw into the mix, there never was and there never will be.
    Up date based on happenings identifed best by the site know as the The Heiner Affair. Yet related to happenings in the Queensland Labor government this year where $120,000 dollars of public monies has been given to a Queensland women. The troubling issue is that no member of the public or elected member of parliament are allowed to ask why it was handed over. I am aware the receipent a first Australian Woman who was pack raped as a young gile while in the care of the John Hunter welfare instution, which was in its turn underthe control of the Queensland Government. This woman has identifed the money as shut up money, and she would like to have her time in court. That wont happen while an army of Labor and Liberal National Coalition supporters keep denying the child abuse ever happened. Edward James believes the information at this link is supported by wide ranging checkable elements of truth, much of which is on the public record.

  9. Davies Ben

    GO AND READ YOUR LITTLE RED BOOK SUZANNE AND GET YOUR PAY RISE WITH THE CHINESE COMMUNIST PARTY NEWS UNLIMITED!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I’D RATHER BE A SHOP STEWARD THAN A COMMUNIST!!!!!!!!!

    YOU WILL GET WHAT IS COMING TO YOU!!!!!!!!!

  10. Davies Ben

    OLD WORN OUT SLOGANS IS THAT THE BEST YOU CAN COME UP WITH?

    Page 168:

    Nazi propaganda was simple and repetitive.

    Hitler from My Struggle as quoted by Evans: ‘all effective propaganda must be limited to a very few points and must harp on these in slogans until the last member of the public understands what you want him to understand by your slogan.’

    “And it had to appeal to the emotions rather than to reason….It should never admit a glimmer of doubt in its own claims, or concede the tiniest element of right in the claims of the other side.”

    ME: that is pretty much our contemporary political debates—repetitive simple slogans with the Propaganda Right conceding nothing to Labor

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