According to today’s Sydney Morning Herald, a number of branch secretaries, presidents and councillors including Darcy Byrne (who ran the Left’s Labor Renewal campaign) are pushing for the direct selection of the NSW Labor Parliamentary Party leader. They have signed a statement calling on NSW Conference to investigate the benefits of rank-and-file participation in leadership selection.
I’ve yet to see a copy of the statement so will refrain from commenting on the exact proposal but I suspect the inspiration was reading about the 45,000 members who joined the New Democratic Party to vote in their leadership election around the time of the federal leadership spill. It makes the 8,000 new members target adopted at ALP National Conference last year seem measly.
In the long-term, a component of rank-and-file participation in leadership selection is likely. The capping of donations and expenditures will play a large role in promoting change. There are even those on the Labor Right who are inclined to support it, primarily for electoral reasons to eliminate any sense amongst NSW voters that there may be a “revolving door”.
The problem is that NSW Labor cannot implement this without national change. For there to be the direct election of leader at a state or territory level, the ALP Constitution would need to be changed.
Clause 4 of Part C – National Principles of Organisation states:
In all parliaments, the parliamentary leadership, the Ministry and Shadow Ministry shall be elected by the Parliamentary Labor Party.
Once this is amended or removed, NSW Labor would then be able to adopt a direct election model.
While it would be welcome change, the likelihood of any reform to leadership selection is years away. ALP National Conference is triennial and I doubt there is any appetite for a Special Rules Conference any time soon. It is also unlikely that NSW Centre Unity would agree to these changes until after an election loss in 2015.
Still, it is good to see that the idea of direct selection of party leader is being taken seriously and that people are campaigning for it.
UPDATE 8/7/13: Kevin Rudd has announced a 50/50 model for the direct election of leader. My guess is he plans to change the Parliamentary Labor Party rules to accept direct election of leader to avoid the need to change the National Constitution. This was done to allow the leader to appoint the Ministry instead of caucus.