The campaign for Labor Party democracy continues

Yesterday afternoon, the ALP National Executive met and imposed new rules onto NSW Labor. These changes come just before the month long intervention into the NSW branch ends.

The key changes to NSW Labor are:
· The scrapping of the Disputes and Credentials committees, and their replacement with an independent committee. The new five member Internal Appeals Tribunal will be selected by a three-quarters vote of the Administrative Committee.
· The Review Tribunal now being an independent five member panel, also selected by a three-quarters vote of the Administrative Committee.
· A new Administrative Committee, with two ballots to be conducted at Conference: one to elect union members, and one to elect an equal number of rank and file members of the Administrative Committee.
· Rules to support zero tolerance of corruption.
· Banning property developers from standing as Labor candidates.

As I have previously stated, while these changes are an improvement, it is not the fundamental change that NSW Labor requires. It fixes some procedural issues but it does not change the balance of power, nor make internal elections more competitive or democratic.

Most importantly, there will be no direct elections to the Administrative Committee. The separation into rank-and-file and trade union does not democratise the election of Administrative Committee. It will still be elected by Conference and rank-and-file is likely to mean staffers, former staffers, MPs or former MPs or other political professionals who do not work for a union.

Unsurprisingly, the Left has vowed to campaign for the direct election of rank-and-file members of the Administrative Committee. Without direct election, a “rank-and-file” component is meaningless.

A call for a plebiscite of all members may be worth pushing as part of a broader campaign on party reform. Tony Sheldon has already called for a plebiscite of members regarding direct election of the leader so why not ask all rank-and-file members about broader party reform? NSW Labor has already invested in online voting systems for the Policy Forum and community preselections which could be used to allow members to express their views on options for party reform.

NSW would not be alone in trying to gauge members’ views through a plebiscite. At today’s ACT Labor Conference, it was announced that party reform would go to a plebiscite of members next year.

Whatever happens, it is clear that the campaign for party democracy in New South Wales is far from over and must continue.

ELSEWHERE: Luke Whitington has a ten point reform plan for the NSW ALP


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