At an ALP Branch
If a score or more of people are prepared to gather under the banner of the Australian Labor Party – battered in the polls and election results – I’m happy to turn up. So it was at Randwick-Coogee Branch, meeting at the Randwick Labor Club last night with nearby Kensington-Beaconsfield Branch joining in.
I spoke about the review into the last Federal election undertaken by Steven Bracks, John Faulkner and me. I said the proposals for rules changes and different party practices were not as important as other things, like correcting the abuses that have grown up in Labor Party ethos that were on display in the last four years in NSW.
“Whenever I heard certain people described as ‘powerbrokers’ in the caucus – and I read this on a weekly basis – I was almost ready to organise a petition to have them ritually clubbed to death in Martin Place” I told the branch. ” The electorate found it repellent. It must never be revived. It took a lot of skill and energy to drive Labor support in NSW down to the level it reached in the last election.”
I said the review had supported rules changes like a limited experiment with primaries and more direct elections for party officers. The reason was to give people more reason to turn up at branch meetings and work for the party at elections, more reason to value party membership. But they weren’t the main thing.
Put this down to the fact that I’m an old Whitlamite, but I think that the key to revival is always going to be advocacy by the parliamentary leadership, the leader and his or her front bench. The party apparatus – conference, executive and branches – is one thing. But it’s the leader and his or her office, and the front bench who are selling the party from the first news bulletin at 5:30 each day. As a party we’ve got to rediscover our capacity and zest for advocacy.
The branch was generous enough to present me with John R. Hales’ Lords of the Sea: The Epic Story of the Athenian Navy and the Birth of Democracy. Some time, not too soon, you will read a review on this screen.