Australian Labor Party

Australian Labor Party
The Party for all Australians

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

John Faulkner urges NSW Labor to end preselection system of 'trading favours'

John Faulkner urges NSW Labor to end preselection system of 'trading favours'

John Faulkner urges NSW Labor to end preselection system of 'trading favours'

Party figure's letter to NSW members is immediately rejected by the branch's general secretary

John Faulkner
Senator John Faulkner said the present system rewarded 'doing deals'. Photograph: Daniel Munoz/AAP

Labor elder statesman John Faulkner is pushing for all Labor
senators and New South Wales upper house members to be preselected by
the party’s rank and file instead of its annual conference, to stamp out
corruption and reduce the influence of factional powerbrokers.

Labor’s NSW general secretary, Jamie Clements, has already publicly
opposed the plan, on the grounds it would “silence the voices of
affiliated trade union members.”

In a letter to Labor party
members in NSW last Thursday, Faulkner said the ALP must take
responsibility for the fact that its own culture made possible the kind
of corruption being exposed by the Independent Commission against
Corruption (Icac).

“The party’s culture made possible their behaviour and a confidence such behaviour would not be held to account,” he wrote.

present system rewards intrigue, trading favours and doing deals. Eddie
Obeid, Ian Macdonald or their ilk would not be able to win preselection
in a genuinely democratic process where all party members cast a vote.
Their success depended on nothing but factional anointment, they
required no support beyond the leadership of a faction,” he said.

wrote that the party’s rules should also be changed “to clarify and
strengthen the party’s ability to discipline and expel those found in
breach of our standards”.

But he said that without “changing the way power is distributed in our party; such commitments will not change anything”.

the rules to include statements about integrity and ethical behaviour
while leaving power within the NSW branch concentrated in the hands of a
tiny number of factional leaders would be nothing but window dressing –
hanging new curtains while behind the curtains the house is burning.”

Clements immediately wrote to party members saying the plan should be
rejected on the grounds it would diminish the power of the unions in the
annual conference decision-making.

“Some commentators and party
members … are calling for senators and members of the NSW upper house,
now elected by our annual conference, to be directly elected by party
members. While I welcome reform debates, I disagree with these
proposals. Labor’s conferences matter precisely because their decisions
are binding and they elect people. Changing that would silence the
voices of affiliated trade union members and severely diminish the role
of our annual conference,” he wrote.

Faulkner’s push comes as
Labor’s leader, Bill Shorten, is suggesting an end to the rule requiring
party members in some branches to join a union, in a bid to reduce
union influence over the party.

Labor’s preselection methods were
again questioned after the ticket in the Western Australia Senate rerun,
led by the controversial rightwing union leader Joe Bullock, garnered a
record low vote for the ALP.

It is understood reform plans such
as the one proposed by Faulkner could be put to a number of state ALP
conferences before next year’s federal conference.

During his
brief return to the prime ministership, Kevin Rudd also announced
reforms to try to stamp out corruption in the NSW branch.

ordered the national executive to take over the branch for 30 days,
saying he had been “appalled” by the allegations aired at Icac. The
executive imposed a ban on property developers ever standing as
political candidates and ensured that 50% of the NSW administrative
committee was made up of rank-and-file members.

The "zero
tolerance of corruption" reforms include establishing independent
judicial oversight of the NSW branch of the Labor party and dissolving
the existing “disputes and credentials committee, which has been too
controlled by factions".

The proposed Faulkner reforms would take those measures further.

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