The plethora of ALP reform groups continues to grow. First there was OurALP, then there was Labor Renewal, then came Local Labor and now there’s a group calling itself “Open Labor” that is about to launch on Monday.
From what I have seen, the core individuals linked to this project seem to be Victorians with links to the Per Capita thinktank such as James Button, Josh Borstein, Nick Reece, Tom Bentley and Dennis Glover.
Compared to these other groups that are explicitly groups of party members, Open Labor seems to be positioning itself as a loose network of thinkers that exists beyond the confines of ALP, including non-members.
As part of their launch, Open Labor will have a public statement that they will be asking people to sign onto. The statement is below:
A PUBLIC STATEMENT LAUNCHING OPEN LABOR
We are a group of people who seek renewal of the Australian Labor Party and a more open, optimistic and decent politics in Australia.
The 2013 election campaign showed that political debate, on the right and left, is exhausted. We need new, brave thinking about the state of our nation, and how to meet people’s needs and aspirations in a time of slowing economic growth, rising inequality, accelerating climate change and dwindling trust in our political institutions.
For more than a century the ALP has represented the hopes of millions of people for a better life. Many good people within it have fought for the big changes that have made Australia a better society.
Yet the Labor Party, for all that it has achieved, has in recent years struggled to find the ideas and ideals needed to inspire Australians. The party’s structures and rules too often serve the interests of those who hold power within them, not the wider communities they purport to represent.
The disengagement of so many Australians from politics is a major problem. Yet simply retreating from the field, abandoning politics to other interests, is not an option. Without a vigorous contest of ideas and strong voice for fairness, Australia will go backwards.
Labor remains the only party that can increase social and economic opportunity, embrace diversity and manage change for the benefit of all. But the ALP needs to confront and overcome its problems if it is rediscover its purpose, regain trust and properly serve the interests of Australians.
It must open up – to new people, ideas and methods.
It must become more democratic – in how it organises itself, how it develops policies, and how it connects with its members, supporters and the public.
We seek an open Labor Party: open to change, while building on its best values and traditions.
We want to work with people who believe that a more open and democratic ALP is vital to a better Australia, and who want to have a hand in shaping it. Some of those people are inside the Labor Party, but many are not.
The greatest source of energy, ideas and renewal will come from people whose values and principles make them sympathetic to Labor’s aims, but who find themselves alienated by the party’s culture.
We do not accept that the practice of politics must inevitably be self-serving, cynical or tedious. A modern political movement must provide its members with both the prospect of a better future and a sense of excitement and fulfilment now.
As a group, we will not operate as part of the ALP, though many of our members are active within it. Instead, in partnership with people who join us, we will focus on building an open network of ideas, people and activities dedicated to supporting the renewal of the ALP and reconnecting Australia’s political culture with the people it is meant to serve.
Some of us will work on ideas and policy, some on party reform, some on community engagement. We do not have all the answers. Rather, we expect good ideas to emerge from a politics based on honesty and idealism, and an open conversation conducted with humility and respect.
We have no illusions about the size of the task. Inertia and entrenched self-interest are powerful forces inside the party, and disengagement and cynicism outside it.
But the excitement that has accompanied the recent election of Labor’s federal leader shows that there is a readiness — a hunger — for change.
In the widespread despair with our politics is an opportunity. We want to work with other people of goodwill to seize it.
If you support these aims, want to hear more, or would like to connect with others who share similar views please XXX
I understand that Per Capita will be launching an e-book on social democracy next year and have a feeling this initiative might tie into it. If there is a link between “Open Labor” and the plans for an e-book (and further publications), it may be similar to the Open Left project that British thinktank Demos ran a few years ago.
At this early stage, it is unclear what will be the outcome of “Open Labor”. It could disappear quickly after its launch or have little lasting impact. Still, it is worth keeping an eye on if it does promote a more pluralistic approach and challenging thinking on the centre-left.
UPDATE: Open Labor has now launched its website and there’s a few articles floating around about it. At this stage, it appears to be more of a traditional pro-reform pressure group (albeit inclusive of non-members and with higher profile participants).