The number of rank-and-file members that our Australian political parties have is often a secret. Drawing on NSW Electoral Commission data, the Grattan Institute recently extrapolated a national ALP rank-and-file membership of 48,505.
Based on publicly available information, that appears to be an underestimation by over 10%. It is not surprise given the Greens membership was also undercounted by Grattan and knowing that multi-year memberships do not appear properly in the NSW Electoral Commission data that the extrapolation is based on.
So how many members does Labor have? Well let’s look at the available state and territory level figures.
We know that in mid-2019 Jodi McKay won the NSW Labor leadership in a ballot where 10,822 rank-and-file members voted. The ballot had a turnout of 61.5%, roughly meaning there were at least 17,596 members in NSW.
A range of other state membership figures have been cited in recent media articles:
- In Victoria, there are claims party membership is down by 4,500 from around 16,000 meaning it has about 11,500 members;
- ACT Labor’s membership was 2,300 in July 2019;
- Over 1,200 participated in the recent 2021 Tasmanian Labor leadership ballot; and
- A figure of 7,000 members was cited for Western Australia at the end of 2018.
Assuming membership levels are unchanged for Queensland, the Northern Territory and South Australia, if you combine the previously mentioned figures, the national total for ALP membership is at least 53,100.
It is likely to be higher for a few reasons such as that new members would not be eligible for leadership votes plus there is often a bump in party membership after election defeats such as in 2019.
In lieu of mandated public reporting, the next ballot for ALP National President is likely to be next time that the national membership figures (and possibly state breakdowns) get revealed to a public audience.