Bill Shorten is seeking to make it easier and cheaper to join the Labor Party.
Bill Shorten is seeking to make it easier and cheaper to join the Labor Party. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Bill Shorten will announce sweeping Labor Party reforms that
empower rank and file members, rein in powerbrokers' say over
candidates and call for fewer factional bosses to be pre-selected for
the Senate.

Mr Shorten was preparing to deliver what was shaping up to
be one of the defining speeches of his leadership last week before the
sudden death of his mother, Ann.

In excerpts of the speech published before he had to
withdraw, Mr Shorten flagged changes to make it easier and cheaper to
join the party and dropping a requirement that party members also
belong to a union.

But the ALP boss was preparing to go much further in the
speech and call for changes that would please advocates of Labor reform
but which would put him offside with at least some of the factional
warlords and union powerbrokers who supported him during last year's
leadership contest with Anthony Albanese.

Mr Shorten plans to deliver the speech, which has not yet been finalised, when he returns from leave.

Drafts of the opposition leader's speech call for local
branches with more than 300 members to be given a 70 per cent say over
pre-selection for the House of Representatives.

State-based head office selection committees would have their influence reduced to a 30 per cent weighting.

Mr Shorten will also call for all pre-selections to move to a
100 per cent rank and file model in the longer term, in line with the
NSW branch.

The NSW branch of the ALP has already adopted a 100 per cent
vote for the rank and file in pre-selection, but states such as
Victoria and South Australia still have a 50-50 weighting between the
rank and file vote and head office.

Most significantly, Mr Shorten planned to call for the party
to broaden the talent pool from which it pre-selects senators. At
present, Labor's ranks in the upper house are dominated by former union
leaders, factional bosses and, particularly in NSW, former party

Queensland Labor has recently adopted rule changes that have
given party members a direct say in the pre-selection of Senate
candidates and some in the party are arguing for a similar rule to be
implemented nationally.

The Labor leader has also called in recent weeks for the
states to adopt, over time, a 50-50 leadership election model that the
federal party adopted under reforms implemented by former prime
minister Kevin Rudd.

A spokesman for Mr Shorten said the leader had set a target
of 100,000 party members - up from about 40,000 at present - and party
modernisation was needed to reach that target.

"The Opposition Leader is attending his mother's funeral
today. Unfortunately he wasn't able to deliver the speech as planned
but hopes to be in a position to do so soon. Bill's ambition is to
ensure the Labor Party is broad-based and democratic – making it easier
for people to join is the first step,'' the spokesman said.

Four shadow ministers have confirmed that Mr Shorten had
rung around to discuss the draft reform proposals with senior members
of the ALP left and right factions in the days leading up to when the
speech was due to be delivered.

It is understood that Stephen Conroy, Anthony Albanese,
David Feeney, Tanya Plibersek, Mark Butler, Penny Wong, Don Farrell,
Kim Carr and Chris Bowen were among the shadow ministers consulted.

The debate over reform to the ALP's internal structures has
been turbo-charged in the wake of the West Australian senate election,
which saw controversial former Shop, Distributive and Allied (SDA)
workers union leader Joe Bullock claim the one senate seat the party
won in that state under a factional deal worked out by the left and
right unions, while experienced senator Louise Pratt looks set to lose
her seat.

The prospect of an intervention in the WA branch by the
ALP's national office is now being openly discussed following the
disastrous result, which saw Labor's vote fall to a paltry 21 per cent,
with one shadow minister saying the intervention could either be
forced or "friendly", as it had been in NSW under Mr Rudd last year.

Another shadow minister, who asked not to be named, said the
election of Mr Bullock "emphasised everything that is wrong with the

"No one thought he was that bad. We actually thought he voted Labor at least,'' the MP said.

A third shadow minister said the scale of the reform
challenge in WA was "vastly different" to other states and that changes
were essential to turn the party around in the west.

Labor elder Senator John Faulkner, national president Jenny
McAllister and Queensland Senator Joe Ludwig have all joined the push
for the party to reform itself in recent days, but the SDA's Joe de
Bruyn and the Transport Workers Union's Tony Sheldon have spoken out
against some of the reform proposals.