Party For Your Right To Fight

Posted: July 8, 2013 in Local Politics, Politics

No doubt you have all heard the talk of reform within the Labor Party, and most of us who are members of the Party welcome reform.

Kevin Rudd has along with Sam Dastyari have put in place what we are told will be a massive overhaul of the controversy plagued NSW Branch, something that is well and truly overdue if the Party wants to remain relevant into the future.

The changes that are receiving most of the attention from the media are the Administrative Committee to be made up of 50% rank and file members, and the zero tolerance approach to corruption and criminal activity.

The zero tolerance approach is most welcomed, it certainly does a Party no good to be have prominent members or powerbrokers found guilty of corrupt practices and constantly paraded before ICAC..

I do however have queries on the rank and file members issue which I will go into shortly.

I am a usually proud member of the Labor Party, and this reforming process I think could be one of the Party’s proudest moments if it is done correctly.

I have spoken to many members over many months about Party reform and the last thing any of us want to see is the job only half done, or the reshuffling of the deck chairs approach.

This post will no doubt anger some, please a few, but I hope it will encourage all to become involved in the discussion on this vital reform.

Sam Dastyari - Man on a mission

Sam Dastyari – Man on a mission

Let’s start at the very beginning, as Julie Andrews once said, “A very good place to start”.

The Labor Party was born of the Union movement, we all know that. The Unions have been, and always will be an important part of the Labor Party. However it is the role that they play that needs to be questioned.

Membership of the Labor Party requires you to be the member of a union if you work in an industry that has a union.

Why? Are we trying to restrict the number of Party members or something?

It is not a requirement of any union that I’m aware of that a member is required to be a member of the Labor Party, a one-way street apparently.

I was under the impression we were on a membership drive, it seems odd to drastically restrict it. I am all for union membership, I’m a union member myself, but I can assure you that there are industries out there with unions I wouldn’t join in a pink fit. For those wondering I am not referring to the HSU in that group. The HSU has improved out of sight with Kathy Jackson’s faction now just a bad memory, in fact I’d encourage people to join…

Whether we like it or not, union membership is on the decline nationally, unless we want our Party membership to decline with it, this is a rule that to me seems a “no-brainer” to change.

My take on union involvement is that they should be involved at an advisory level. We are not a single issue party like others, so the way in which we operate should reflect that. Industrial Relations may be an integral part of our policy structure but so too is equality, environmental concerns, community access to public facilities, and a fair go for all.

3

So, we hear all this talk of “rank and file” members, and how we need to give them a greater say in the Party, and now they will apparently make up 50% of the Administration Committee after the reform.

This raises two questions:

Who makes up the other 50% of the committee?

What is a rank and file member?

I would assume that the other 50% of the admin committee would be made up of union representatives and powerbrokers , so that question is easily answered.

The second question is not so easy.

Given the rule regarding Party membership and union membership it is highly likely that the 50% rank and file will be members of the unions representing the other 50% of the committee. To me this just makes it more likely that the union heavies will continue to dominate the party agenda.

These rank and file members will no doubt be elected in to their positions as admin council members, but when you consider how that election process works it is wide open to corruption and committee stacking.

The election process is so weighted towards to unions and the chosen few that run them that the true rank and file member has no chance. Those representing unions get a block vote, which means their vote counts as what could be thousands of rank and file votes depending on the size of the unions membership.

What this inevitably means is that the 50% rank and file on admin committee will me made up effectively of union mouthpieces, spokespeople for those who elected them there.

Unions voting as blocks must be abolished if we are to ever move forward as a party and end the culture of the so-called “Faceless Men”.

There are several simple and rather obvious reasons for this.

I know of many members of the Greens Party that are union members, I also know several Liberal Party members who are also union members. Should members of other parties really be entitled to representation and a say in how the Labor Party works? That does seem a bit daft…

Voting as a block does not necessarily represent the wishes of union members. It would be a frosty day in hell before thousands of members agreed on everything. The only way to truly see members wishes represented is to allow them an individual vote. However, only those union members who are also Labor Party members should be allowed a vote, that should go without saying, but given the way things are with voting currently, it clearly needs to be said.

To me the idea of a Labor politician in the Senate or upper house in a state government being beholden to the wishes of any organisation including a union, in order to gain and hold onto their post is a huge conflict of interest. Getting to this position without the backing of a powerful union is impossible. This should not be the case, our politicians should be elected based on merit, not on whose puppet they are willing to be.

Eddie Obeid - Master Of Puppets

Eddie Obeid – Master Of Puppets

Putting the power of so many votes into the hands of a few is like sending out an invitation to corruption and putting a big red ribbon on it. This practice has allowed powerbrokers to maintain their hold over the party and ensure that their power is not diluted.

The average rank and file member see’s that he has no say, and the party is being run by a few powerbrokers, and then we act all surprised when we see our member numbers in decline. We clearly need to wake up and smell the coffee…

My gut tells me that Admin committee should be made up of 80% true rank and file, and unions should not be allowed to campaign on behalf of anyone seeking to be elected.

If we can get rid of the block vote system, we will have succeeded in ridding ourselves of most of our problems.

Getting rid of the ridiculous block voting system should be standard for all Party elections for all Party positions including Secretary, for all party decisions, and for any motions put forward at state or national conference.

When I talk about block voting, I am also referring to vote weighting also, where union votes are counted as more than one of everybody else’s.

In a true democracy everyone is allowed a vote, however we would not allow a representative of Woolworths to vote in a federal election on behalf of all Woolworths staff, that would be ridiculous. The same should go for unions, it’s not really rocket science.

Rank and file voting can be done via post, or online, we’ve done it before so there really is no excuse not to do it again.

There should also be changes to the way State Election Committee and Federal Election Committee’s are run.

Both SEC and FEC’s should not be voting for others at conference in the same way unions shouldn’t. People join their branch to have a say, not to have their say interpreted or misrepresented by someone on a committee.

As a party we should be doing all we can to make sure everybody has a say and a vote, not deliberately limiting it.

SEC and FEC’s should not be able to override motions made at branch level in any way shape or form.

This is just another way of someone who is there only to promote their own self interests making sure their power is not undermined. There is no point in anyone having a say if it can just be overridden, otherwise we may as well just do away with branches and leave it up to the committee’s.

The ability of an SEC or FEC to override motions is to me a form of censorship, and we should fight against our members being censored at every turn, not encourage and participate in it.

I am also of the opinion that the executives of both SEC’s and FEC’S should be in place for no longer than two years, this would allow all members an opportunity to sit on one of the committee’s, not just a select few, many of whom are only there because they have stacked their local branches.

That brings me to another contentious issue, branch stacking.

This is not just a problem that plagues our Party, every political Party has major issues in this regards, and any member of any Party that says they don’t have an issue with branch stacking is lying.

This is an issue that we may as well have the guts to tackle while we are in the process of reforming. I have witnessed it myself, and I have heard stories that defy belief.

Is this how we want our Party viewed?

Is this how we want our Party viewed?

There have been many cases of people being signed up as branch members in the lead up to pre-selections and voting for committee’s. These people are seen for the exact number of meetings required to vote, and then never seen or heard from again, abducted by aliens it would seem.

I have heard of cases of people over 80 years old being signed up, their membership paid for, and being told how to vote, often driven in to vote despite these people not speaking English or having any knowledge at all of the Party or the process they are taking part in.

My feeling is that the rules should be amended to make someone eligible to vote in any pre-selection or for any committee election only after having been a financial member for two years. I also believe that they should have attended at least 6 meetings a year, unless they can provide a doctor’s certificate. If someone attends less than half the meetings in a calendar year, than they are clearly not really a dedicated member. The meetings attended also need to be in the branch that the vote is related to, for example someone in Gosford can’t attend 6 meetings there and if they move to Albury expect to vote there straight away. It is ludicrous for people to vote on candidates they have no knowledge of.

Another important point is people should be put into branches where they live, not where someone else wants to install members. For example, someone who lives in Pendle Hill should be enrolled in the branch closest to Pendle Hill in Sydney’s west, not sent to somewhere like the Castle Hill branch in Sydney’s North West.

While we are at it, the ten-year rule that is often used for branch stacking purposes needs to be totally scrapped. This is an essential part of stopping branch stacking.

Branch Stackers and Corrupt Members, Kevin is gunning for you

Branch Stackers and Corrupt Members, Kevin is gunning for you

The pre-selection of candidates should be done earlier, much earlier. We should have candidates out and able to campaign two years out from an election. How else are we supposed to have a candidate sell their story? Particularly in marginal seats or safe Liberal seats, we really need to allow our hopeful candidates more of a chance to become known in their electorate, and more time to work with the local media.

Putting up a few corflutes on poles and trying to get your message out in 3 months in a safe Liberal seat just doesn’t cut it in the real world. Particularly when the candidate is working in their regular job during the campaign, whilst the sitting member is able to campaign in every waking hour. Our candidates should have the best of opportunities to succeed, not extra barriers placed in their way.

It can be done, Susan Templeman in the Blue Mountains is doing an awesome job in her electorate. Susan has been fortunate enough to have had three years of campaigning now for this election and is looking like she should win the seat away from the Coalition. This is what can be done with time on your side.

I also truly believe that we should be directing more funding towards electorates which are safe Coalition seats. It is pointless spending all your money in areas where we are going to win at any rate. Safe Labor seats are also far more capable of success at a local fundraising level, so we should be helping along seats we would like to win, rather than seats we already have in the bag.

As a Party we need to be far better and far smarter in our social media strategy, our presence online seems to be on he decline rather than the incline. We should be actively engaging with left leaning websites, Facebook pages, and encouraging and helping those who are trying help us online.

The last time there was talk of reform and new party rules to be put in place in NSW I attended the Labor Western Sydney Regional Assembly. It was to launch a change in rules aptly entitled “A New Standard”.

John Robertson - Setting the standard

John Robertson – Setting the standard

The room was full of MP’s and Party leaders all there to hear NSW Labor Leader John Robertson’s speech. However after the speech was finished and the media had left so did all the MP’s and the Sussex St staff. Nobody was left to listen to the rank and file members, it was as if nobody cared what we thought.

Personally I found this disgraceful, and I left with a sour taste in my mouth. We are the membership, we are the ones who hang corflutes, stand outside election booths all day, campaign at shopping centres and train and bus stations faithfully every election. You guys couldn’t spare a couple of hours of your time?

We all ventured into Parramatta on a Sunday morning to have a say, however it seems those running the party, despite organising the event, had somewhere better to be so didn’t hang around to listen to us.

I hope you will show a little more respect for your members and listen to us when it comes to reforming OUR party.

Lastly and a little more light-heartedly, we need to stop the functions at 630 pm on a Friday night in the city.

Most members don’t live or work in the city. This makes racing out of work, venturing into town in peak hour traffic, finding a parking spot, all with no time for a change of clothes or freshen up quite an unpleasant prospect.

I’m sure that stretching the start time to 730 won’t put anybody up past their bedtime.

I sincerely hope that this intervention is a genuine one and not something to be used as a campaign tool to woo back NSW voters as is being suggested in many circles.

I would also welcome the involvement of Labor politicians that have made calls for reform before, people like John Faulkner and Nathan Rees.

We are the political party of the “fair go” and at the moment we are not even offering that to our own members. This is why we need to embrace change not fear it, and have the guts to move forward and change our party for the better.

2

For what it’s worth if Mr Dastyari or Mr Rudd are reading this, my hand is up to discuss taking the Party forward with anybody willing to sit down and chat about it. I’m sure members would find it good to know that the reforms are being based on discussions with real rank and file members, not just heads of unions and powerbrokers.

If anybody else has suggestions for reform or feedback, please comment on this post so that others can see it.

I would also suggest that the issues I have mentioned be openly discusses at your local branch, and where the branch feels it is appropriate, motions put forward.

We need to take the opportunity for change now while we have the chance.

Tomorrow may be too late.

Like Wixxyleaks on Facebook here

Like Wixxyleaks on Facebook here

Comments
  1. thebrooks101 says:

    Hire this man now! A well thought out, progressive plan to make the Labor Party relevant again to the masses and to society.

  2. owen1967 says:

    that is brilliant analysis and direction Peter.

    … the only thing that baffles me is why you still think the ALP is not rotten to the core … your tune sounds more like that of like Julian Assange … transparency … accountability … democracy … if you were in my electorate and ran as an independent i would vote for you … but i cannot vote for a corrupt organisation that has interests and investments in most of what is bad for the future of the people of Australia …

    i admire your ideals, motives and your stance … good luck

    • Owen1967, as a former non.
      aligned member of the ASU (as a delegate) I know that the only way to make a change is to make that change from within the party
      Peter may be idealistic, so are many others out here in the real world. We want good people to stand and speak up for the rest of us.
      So your question should be to the candidate/elect in your area, is whether they are prepared to try to get the changes that we, the people, want them to do. That is what the democratic process is all about.

      • owen1967 says:

        change from within the party is an anachronism (or little more than a furphy to fool voters into believing that they have a voice and that it may be heard) … Australian Party Politics is now so compromised there is no chance of a move towards representation of the people … in Australia, we have now a duopoly representing nobody but Big Business (and the USA – which represents Big Business) … my local members (State and Federal) are little more than marionettes, jiggling along to the Star Spangled Banner … pre-selection is about as democratic as a shareholder meeting … proxys controlling the vote … questions ignored … nepotism, cronyism and corruption are the real agenda … laundering taxpayer money to vested interests. it’s a disgrace.

        … out here in the real world, democracy is rasping away like a 40 year 2 pack a day Camel (no filter) smoker … it’s refusing treatment because it knows there is little hope … between stolen half-breaths and tears, democracy manages a wry smile reflecting that we got the government we deserved (locally, nationally and globally).

        instead of becoming an informed and engaged community, our population is encouraged to turn on the television, open the paper, tune in the radio >> the net result … to consume lies, to become more complete bigots, to swallow and regurgitate mis-information and most of all, to be distracted from the level of dysfunction of our political system.

  3. For what its worth Peter, I couldn’t agree with you more. Great ideas, great article.
    I am going to tweet & facebook this article. I have Kevin Rudd in my contacts and I would suggest that he has a lot of your readers also on his twitter feed. So, you just might get that call to put up your hand to make a huge difference for a democratically run ALP.

  4. maree says:

    There are less and less rank & file members available to hang corflutes and assist on election days, I wonder when the party will really get that they need to reform and encourage younger voters on to the team that will suport them most ! I have a 20yr old daugter who has been indoctrinated since birth on ALP values but she is so totally disengaged due to the current bickering, evidence of corruption in the ALP and a lack of policies as she sees it appealing to her. Sad times!

  5. Heather says:

    Lots of good sense here.
    On one point though, I joined the Labor Party last year for the first time. However, when it came to pre-selection of the candidate for the seat of Gellibrand in which I live, I was told that I couldn’t vote as I hadn’t been a member for over 12 months. So, it appears the branch stacking issue is not an issue in some areas. Have others had similar experiences?

  6. Jack Sumner says:

    Agree with you Peter. I joined ALP in 1996 and main frustration in my 14 years of membership was being unable to have the voices of branch members heard at the levels where decisions were made. A prime attraction of Rudd’s leadership was that he seemed not be constrained by factional or union loyalties and likely to initiate the changes which the ALP organisation needed so badly. His replacement as leader in 2010 led to my resignation from the Labor party.

  7. John Shean says:

    As a life long ALP voter i fully support the proposed changes,even though i have grave reservations any substantive policy change will happen. Another area i feel needs to be addressed is the situation whereby an elected leader can be deposed part of the way through his/her tenure at the whim of powerbrokers within the party/caucus.I feel the only time this should happen is either through proveable criminal activity or upon the passing away of the leader.The ALP was badly damaged in the eyes of the electorate with the fiasco of the last few years,time to make sure it can’t happen again.

  8. Marilyn says:

    The party of the fair go is long gone, if it ever existed. The party was started by the unions and it was to protect jobs from foreigners and it supported the White Australia policy to the last gasp.

    I reckon the single parents now sleeping in their cars are really, really believing the ALP is the party of the fair go don’t you?

    I was attracted to the ALP by Jim Cairns stance against the invasion and occupation of Vietnam, I lost all interest after Hawke sold the country to that criminal old codger Murdoch though, then started refugee prisons and are now trading humans to win the votes of the cowards I would not pass the time of day with.

  9. oldfart says:

    I dont see how these logical ideas should offend anyone. The only people who would object would be people pushing their personal barrow and not the party barrow. Would you want those self interested people anyway? I suspect that all the people being investigated by ICAC put self interest before all else.

  10. alfie says:

    “You really know your current stuff… Keep up the good work!”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s