Bill Shorten’s plans to reform the ALP were greeted with unrestrained enthusiasm by Mark Latham, a remarkable event in itself. Others have some reservations or are not so sure.
Laura Tingle pointed out (paywalled) that he actually proposes nothing about senate candidate selection, it’s a matter for the states. He asked the national ALP secretary to work with the National Executive and the WA state secretary “to recommend the best way of giving local party members a meaningful say in the selection of Senate candidates.”
Our work in Western Australia will be used to inform our other State branches in allowing local members to contribute to Senate pre-selection nationally.
Farr said that there would have been discussion within the ALP before Shorten went to press. Shorten is reasonably confident of his reforms getting up, he says. Farr described it as a “well-planned offensive”. Apparently NSW in July are going to consider the union membership link and introduce one-click joining facilities via the internet.
Count me confused. Here in Queensland last year before the election my wife, who is not currently a union member, went on the internet and had no difficulty in joining with one click for the princely sum of five dollars. (She has since made a more substantial donation.)
After the current publicity she rang the Qld office asking if her membership was OK. She had been a union member for years, acted as union rep etc, but is currently not a member. “You’re fine” she was told. Could she vote in a leadership ballot if Shorto gave up? “Certainly.”
Malcolm Farr pointed out on RN Drive that achieving rank and file input to senate selection would be the real prize. At present it can be a sinecure for party and union officials, a privilege they might be expected to relinquish reluctantly.
Shorten is recommending a 70:30 membership/central panel split in selecting candidates. He’s also recommending more primary-style selections, as successfully trialled in Western Sydney.
Shorten wants broader input in a review of Labor’s entire policy platform prior to the 2015 national conference.
He looks forward to a membership of 100,000. I believe it is 40,000 at present.
David Lockwood at New Matilda thinks the union link should remain, indeed should be strengthened and “democratised”.
Union delegates to ALP conferences should be elected by ordinary union members, not appointed by national secretaries. Furthermore, the selection of parliamentary candidates should be in the hands of rank-and-file members of the party and the affiliated unions…
Break the link with unions and the Labor Party
ceases to be an authentic voice for working people, it will lose its core meaning and become nothing more than a pale imitation of the conservative parties.
Lockwood sees Labor as representing working people, not Australians generally. He says there are 1.8 million union members, roughly 18% of the workforce. This has been stable for three years. He sees anti-union laws as an inhibitor of greater membership. This should change, he says.
Shorten said Abbott did not put Labor in Opposition, the Australian people did. It’s hard to see the Australian people handing over the government of the country to an overtly union-based party, however democratised.
Narelle Miragliotta, Senior Lecturer in Politics at Monash University, assembles a catalogue of negativity about the Shorten proposals. The Party is a victim of its own success. Nothing left to fight for, apparently.
Labor has addressed some of the worst excesses of societal disadvantage and inequality when in government. In doing so, it has transformed both the life opportunities but also the political and social expectations of Labor’s former working-class base.
This has left Labor bifurcated and fractured between a progressive and traditional cohort. Increased membership “is unlikely to bridge the policy and cultural divide that separates these voting segments.”
As to a faction-free Labor Party, the bigger it grows the more power aggregates around cliques.
With that sort of negativity we may as well hand over the game to our natural rulers, the Tories.
Most of my working life was spent inside government. I’m not a natural joiner. Now I work as a sole trader providing direct services to capitalists, pensioners, professionals and self-funded retirees. I can’t see a role for a union.
Shorten has a bit of the anti-politician about him. I might go look for that one-click entry portal.