Tasmanian Labor to directly elect its leader

The Tasmanian branch of the Australian Labor Party has become the first state branch to announce that it will directly elect its next parliamentary leader.

Media reports suggest that a three way contest is likely and that current Deputy Leader Bryan Green is being urged to run by the dominant Left faction. Lara Giddings has indicated she would like to stay on as leader and there are suggestions that Brian Wightman may be another contender. All are members of the Labor Left faction.

Unlike the direct election of the federal Labor leader, a three section Electoral College will be used. A third of the vote allocated to the State Parliamentary Labor Party, a third to rank-and-file members and a third to individual members of affiliated unions. Those who join the ALP before April 10 will also be allowed to vote in the ballot.

Tasmanian Labor amended its party rules in 2012 to allow the direct election of party leader. The rules passed at the Tasmanian Labor Conference were that:

17.3   Following every House of Assembly election where the Party forms Government or at other times when in Government, the SPLP shall elect its Leader and Deputy Leader, Parliamentary Office holders, its Chairperson, and Ministers. The Leader shall allocate portfolios.

Subject to an amendment of the National Principles of Organisation Part C 4, the ALP Tasmanian Branch Party Rules shall allow for the direct election of the Leader of the State Parliamentary Labor Party (SPLP) when in Opposition, by Party Members, rank and file Members of Union Affiliates and the Elected Members of the SPLP consistent with the democratic practices of other social democratic, socialist and labour parties around the world. The three constituent components in such an election will be equally weighted at 1/3 of the total ballot.

(a) Upon Rule 17.3 being adopted the ALP Tasmanian Branch shall develop further rules to allow for its implementation.

The further rules agreed to were:

 (a)  The Leader of the SPLP when in Opposition shall be elected by a ballot, with the electorate comprising three constituent components, each to be equally weighted at 1/3 of the total ballot.

(b) The three constituent components of the electorate will comprise;

(i) Every financial member of the Tasmanian branch of the ALP who meets the requirements of Rule 2.11(a),

(ii) Every financial member of an affiliated trade union provided that person has been a member for at least 6 months and,

(iii) The Members of the State Parliamentary Labor Party.

(c) Members who are entitled to vote in more than one of the three constituent components shall be entitled to vote in any or all segments of the ballot for which they are entitled to vote.

(d) A vacancy in the leadership may be declared by:

(i) The incumbent Leader or,

(ii) Following the petition of a simple majority of members of the SPLP for a ballot to the State Returning Officer; and in such case, the State Returning Officer shall open nominations for the position for a period of 48 hours and,

(iii) A vacancy occurring for any other reason.

(e) During any vacancy for the leadership the SPLP shall elect an Acting Leader who is not a candidate for the leadership.

(f) The ballot of eligible members of the Tasmanian Branch of the ALP and affiliated trade unions shall open 30 days after the close of nominations.

(g) The ballot of eligible Members and members of affiliated trade unions shall be conducted by postal ballot using a double envelope system.

(h) The ballot period shall be a minimum of 10 working days to a maximum of 20 working days as determined by the State Returning Officer.

(i) On the final day of the ballot period a special meeting of the Members of the SPLP will be held to conduct that constituent component of the ballot.

(j) The balloting will be conducted under the full compulsory preferential system of voting within each component of the ballot.

(k) A leader will be declared elected after carrying a simple majority of all weighted ballots cast after the distribution of preferences.

(l) The Party may call a special meeting of the membership, affiliated unions and SPLP to announce the Leader of the State Parliamentary Labor Party.

(m) Following the election of the Opposition Leader the SPLP shall elect its Deputy Leader, Parliamentary Office holders, its Chairperson, and Shadow Ministers. The Leader shall allocate portfolios.

The contest will provide the first opportunity to compare and contrast how a 33/33/33 operates against the 50/50 contest held for the federal leader last year. What will be most interesting is how the union component of the ballot operates. The level of turnout by union members, existence of multiple ballots and also the role of union endorsements on the final result will be heavily scrutinised by critics of the 33/33/33 model.

Regardless of who wins, how this Tasmanian Labor leadership election goes will influence arguments for and against each model for direct election of a party leader and is worth keeping an eye on.

UPDATE 2/4/14: There will not be an election for the Tasmanian Labor Party leader as Bryan Green was the only candidate and was elected unanimously.

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