Next year the Australian Labor Party will hold its triennial National Conference in Adelaide from Thursday July 26 until Saturday July 28. It will be the first ALP National Conference in Adelaide since 1979.
There will be 400 delegates to ALP National Conference, comprising of:
(i) three delegates being the National President and National Vice-Presidents
elected under clause 18(a);
(ii) four delegates being the Leader and Deputy Leader of the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party (FPLP) and the
Leader and Deputy Leader of the Party in the Senate;
(iii) six delegates elected from and by the FPLP;
(iv) delegations from each state consisting of:
(A) the state Parliamentary Leader,
(B) a base component of 12 persons, and
(C) a supplementary component of a number of persons equal to twice the
number of House of Representatives electorates in that state as at the
previous 31 December;
(v) delegations from each territory consisting of:
(A) the territory Parliamentary Leader,
(B) a base component of 2 persons, and
(C) a supplementary component of a number of persons equal to twice the
number of House of Representatives electorates in that territory as at
the previous 31 December; and
(vi) three delegates from Australian Young Labor
It will be be first ALP National Conference since party rules were amended to mandate the direct election of state and territory delegations to ALP National Conference. Clause 32(b) in the party constitution now states that:
(i) a number of delegates directly elected by the financial members of the state branch that is at least equal to the number of House of Representative electorates in that state as at the previous 31 December; and
(ii) delegates from outside metropolitan areas.
Below is how ALP National Conference delegates will be elected in each state and territory branch, based on available information:
- Each Federal Electorate Council will elect one delegate.
- Party Officers (President, Senior Vice-President, Junior Vice-Presidents, General Secretary and Assistant General Secretaries) will be automatically elected.
- The balance of the National Conference delegation will be elected by Affiliated Union delegates to NSW State Conference.
- Half of National Conferences delegates and proxy delegates shall be elected by and from a single postal ballot of all party members, including Central Branch members, who have been members of the Party for at least 12 months at the close of nominations for this election.
- At least two of the National Conference delegates elected must reside in a non-metropolitan area.
- Half of the National Conference delegates and proxy delegates shall be elected by a ballot of the Affiliated Union delegates at the meeting of State Conference immediately preceding the National Conference.
- Half of National Conference delegates will be elected by Affiliated Union delegates at QLD State Conference.
- Half of National Conference delegates will be elected by branch members elected in separate proportional representation ballots consisting of:
- a Brisbane North zone, consisting of the federal electorates of Brisbane, Lilley, Petrie and Ryan.
- a Brisbane South zone, consisting of the federal electorates of Bonner, Bowman, Griffith, Moreton, Oxley and Rankin.
- a South-East Queensland Zone, consisting of the federal electorates of Blair, Dickson, Fadden, Fairfax, Fisher, Forde, Longman, McPherson, Moncrieff, Wide Bay, Wright.
- a Regional Queensland Zone, consisting of the federal electorates of Capricornia, Dawson, Flynn, Groom, Herbert, Hinkler, Kennedy, Leichhardt, Maranoa.
- The number of delegates in each zone shall be determined by dividing the number of eligible branch members in Queensland at the time of opening nominations, by the number of delegates to be elected in total.
- National Conference delegates are currently elected by the State Executive, however, there may be an attempt to change this at the upcoming WA Conference in August.
- The current party rules only refer to National Conference Rule 6.
- Half of National Conference delegates shall be directly elected by rank and file members (with eligibility requirements).
- Half of National Conference delegates shall be elected by and from State Conference in a single ballot.
- Two delegates will be directly elected by rank and file members.
- Four delegates will be elected by ACT Branch Conference delegates.
- Currently all six elected National Conference delegates are elected by NT Conference, however, there may be an attempt to change this to one delegate from each federal electorate with the remainder elected by Conference.
From this quick analysis, it is clear that each state and territory branch has been allowed to interpret the party rules differently. Some have allocated delegates to electorates or geographic areas while other states will have statewide ballots. It also means that while some states adhere to the 50:50 principle, others such as the ACT and Tasmania will not.
Furthermore, the extent of proportionality will vary significantly. New South Wales will have the least proportionate delegation, again reflecting the malapportionment that exists at a state level (to the advantage of the dominant Centre Unity faction). It is something that needs to be addressed to ensure something closer to One Vote One Value in the largest state branch.
It is also likely that the total number of National Conference delegates will need to be amended (or removed) for the following Conference as the House of Representatives will grow to 151, reducing the South Australian delegation by 2 and increasing the ACT and Victorian delegations by 2 per delegation for a total of 402 delegates to the following Conference if the current formula remains.
UPDATE 01/08/2017: It has been pointed out to me that the direct election clause seems to contradict Clause 15(e) in the party rules as no one is holding a single ballot for all delegates. Clause 15(e) states:
All delegates must be elected by a system of proportional representation in a single ballot with affirmative action in accordance with clause 19.
UPDATE 04/08/2017: I have been informed that Tasmania and the ACT comply with both clauses as their delegations are elected in single (college-type) ballots as opposed to electing each rank and file delegate in separate individual ballots like NSW.
Further, I have been told allowing half of National Conference delegates to be elected by union delegates to state Conferences is not based on anything in the party constitution but reliant on a Conference resolution from the previous 2011 National Conference. It is now included in Clause 22 in Chapter 12: Organisational Policies. The relevant section reads:
(g) Support state branches considering direct election.
To make our Party more active, we need to increase participation amongst rank and file members. One proposal for strengthening rank and file involvement is to provide the option of directly electing National Conference delegates in a ballot of financial members in an electorate. Different models for electing delegates to Party conferences are used in different states and territories. Each of these models reflects the unique political environment in that state. National Conference therefore:
(i) recognises that each state branch will approach the election of National Conference delegates differently;
(ii) supports state branches that are considering direct election;
(iii) recognises that the National Principles of Organisation require that state branch conferences comprise 50 per cent trade union representation, and 50 per cent Party constituency representatives;
(iv) reaffirms that this principle of 50/50 representation must continue;
(v) affirms that the local determination of National Conference delegates should not come at the expense of trade union representation; and
(vi) affirms that some of the National Conference delegation should continue to be elected in such a way as to ensure the principle of 50/50 representation is maintained.