Victorian Labor has demanded the party’s powerful national executive move immediately to implement the reform initiatives of the Bracks-Carr-Faulkner review, as a democratisation of party structures looms as the last hope to avoid an electoral wipeout in September.

Triple reform motions passed at an otherwise anodyne state conference held at Moonee Valley racecourse over the weekend, obtained by Crikey, argue the ALP must modernise and democratise structures if Julia Gillard is to overhaul Tony Abbott.

Amid widespread concern about the treacle-like adoption of the elders’ directives, the party called on its executive to move swiftly to provide for the direct election of national conference delegates and “inform state and territory branches, members and affiliates of the progress in implementing party reform”.

A second motion calling for the direct election of the leader of the state parliamentary Labor Party — in the manner of Ed Miliband in the UK, French President Francois Hollande and Italian centre-left leader Pier Luigi Persani — was also passed. The powerful state administrative committee will now work with the rules revision committee to prepare an options paper, with the real possibility of current leader Daniel Andrews’ successor being chosen by mass ballot.

The major recommendations of the Bracks-Carr-Faulkner review remain stillborn two years after input from the party’s membership was first sought. At the 2011 national conference, just 13 (or 42%) of the trio’s ideas were fully adopted, with most watered down or ignored altogether. They have been hived off to an implementation committee that rarely meets.

A broader motion — “Building a 21st Century Labor Party” — was seconded by Albert Park MP Martin Foley, whose February “vampire document” laid down the wider reform challenge. Foley name-checked Alan Griffin’s review of the 2010 state election campaign via a triple-pronged strategy of engagement with Labor’s membership, a new branch structure based on state electorates and greater engagement with affiliated unions. Admin will report back on progress to the Autumn 2014 state conference.

Amusingly, an unsuccessful attempt to amend some of Foley’s stanzas was pursued by husband and wife Labor Right delegates Garth Head and Rosemary Barker. Head, a former Andre Haermayer adviser (who was mistakenly pronounced dead on Saturday morning when the audiovisual team threw up a list of life members in place of the recently deceased), has acted as an effective bulwark for the Right for years.

Strangely, the reform fireworks were ignored by the mainstream media, which decided to focus instead on an apparent secret plan to keep Julia Gillard out of Andrews’ commercial TV shot.

With coffee lines out of control and trays of bain marie morsels collapsing under the weight of their own cholesterol (although some healthier wraps were available), more enlightened members of the affogato Left decamped to nearby Sydney Road for $17 muffulettas.

Other urgency motions passed by conference included screeds on Gonski, TAFEs, university council representation, white collar offshoring, youth wages, mental health funding, emergency services superannuation, the Northern Health-Austin hospital merger, OH&S, the national disability insurance scheme, wind energy, the Coalition’s public service razor gang and university funding cuts.

The insecure work thesis was restated by ACTU President Ged Kearney in her speech, rated by delegates as second only to Andrews’ address at the boozy Saturday night dinner for true believer gravitas.

Meanwhile, National Union of Workers trailblazer Godfrey Moase ran a fringe event at the adjoining Meeting Place room, where highlights from last year’s Billy Bragg Southern Cross station gig and a “jobs you can count on” animation were screened. Moase said the collaborative space sliced through the brutal factional fights usually associated with state conference. “It occurred, it was successful and the world didn’t end,” the chuffed delegate told Crikey this morning.

Peter Fray

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