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Not Dead: The State ALP

July 11, 2011

The NSW State ALP Conference met over the weekend in its traditional setting, Sydney Town Hall and visiting it on Saturday to address two fringe meetings I reached this view:

The Party is nowhere as dead as some of its most mournful members insist on telling us.

I met a sizeable turnout of ALP members and delegates who want to work on environmental policy at a meeting of the Labor Environment Action Network. I told them that the first carbon trading scheme in the entire world – yes the first, not one of the first – was the NSW Greenhouse Gas Reduction Scheme introduced in January 2003. It could have provided a fallback option for Prime Minister Rudd in December 2009 when the Senate blocked his legislation to establish the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. GGAS applies to the output of the electricity sector and it has stopped the emission of over 90 million tonnes of greenhouse gases since it commenced trading.

I told the gathering that Luke Foley, the Shadow Minister for Environment and Climate Change in NSW was the State Opposition’s most active shadow minister.

He addressed the meeting along with Tim Ayres, Assistant Secretary of the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union and Justin McKee of the Blue Mountains Conservation Society.

With Adam Searle MLC and Senator John Faulkner

I also spoke to a meeting on rebuilding the ALP as a mass political party. I outlined the reforms recommended by the Bracks/Faulkner/Carr review. I expressed my reservations about a primary system but spoke about its value as an experiment. I said that the direct election of party officials was fine in principle but the party needed to avoid any challenge to the authority and status of the parliamentary leader. There is a danger that a party president elected by the rank and file would make too many public comments and distract attention from the work of parliamentary party.

The parliamentary leadership is the key to revival.

At these two meetings and in the foyer I met loads of young people who are committed to reviving the ALP; large numbers of stalwarts who keep going back year after year, never losing their enthusiasm; serious representatives of the trade union movement who also take a long-term view of the party and its future.

There’s a long way to go, but maybe its time for people to start talking about what’s right with the party rather than what’s wrong.

  1. emily's nephew permalink
    July 11, 2011 12:23 pm

    Good to see an upbeat view of the meetings, Bob. But can you give us an overview on the discussions and decision about same-sex marriage?

    • Bob Carr permalink
      July 11, 2011 1:20 pm

      From what I saw on ABC TV a sympathetic debate which would appear to point to a majority vote for marriage equality at the national conference. New York probably counts . In the meantime my government’s Property Relationships Act of 1999 has helped, in that it eliminated the financial disadvantage suffered by same sex couples during inheritance. Told that in some situations it has saved a survivor thousands of dollars.

      • emily's nephew permalink
        July 11, 2011 2:14 pm

        Thanks Bob. I saw the ABC report too. If it’s the case the branch refused to make a recommendation either way to National Conference – unlike many other of the state conferences, do you think that refelects in any way on the party in NSW?

  2. July 11, 2011 4:05 pm

    Great piece Mr. Carr, may I ask what did you think of John Robertson’s speech? from where i was sitting in the top gallery facing the stage, it was received with much enthusiasm, indeed standing ovations even, how well do you think it went down with the rank & file at ground level.

    • Jenny Aitchison permalink
      July 11, 2011 9:42 pm

      Peter, I loved it, it restored the faith of many of us in issues of honesty. I particularly liked “we cannot promise things in opposition that we can’t deliver in government.”

  3. July 11, 2011 8:52 pm

    guess I won’t mention the gender balance then, which from this photo at least doesn’t appear too healthy…:)

    • Bob Carr permalink
      July 11, 2011 9:08 pm

      It’s getting better…and it’s better than the other side.

      • Jenny Aitchison permalink
        July 11, 2011 9:45 pm

        Absolutely…and if you heard women MPs like Linda Burney, Sophie Cotsis and Penny Sharpe, like our new National President: Jenny McAlister, and others speak you would hear how strong and confident and great our leading women are…(and the ones coming through the ranks are pretty good too!

  4. Jenny Aitchison permalink
    July 11, 2011 9:41 pm

    I agree with your statements about representation of women. I read in a paper the other day that political equality of women has been achieved without quotas which completely ignores affirmative action and quota policies at all levels of the ALP over the years which have forced the conservatives to replicate some more gender equity in their own party and also in structures within government such as boards and committees.

    I was at conference, and the rank and file feeling (of which I am one), was quite positive for most of the conference. I agree with you that we need to stop internally berating ourselves (Leave it to the Liberals) and we have to start working to recruit more members and start being more proud of our party and its achievements. It concerns me when a room of 800 people who must be leaders in their own communities (and hence why they attend conference), still feel it is someone else’s responsibility for membership. Yes our leaders disappointed us, but we need to be strong to overcome this.

    I am passionately in favour of marriage equality, and I too, was disappointed when the matter was referred to Federal Labor, but at the end of the day those members who spoke in favour of marriage equality were so inspirational that I am sure they would have changed many opinions. I have a quiet hope that Federal Conference will end discrimination in our marriage laws.

  5. thejackalscodex permalink
    July 15, 2011 12:51 pm

    Bob, is there a transcript available of your thoughts and reservations about primaries? I’ve been writing a series of posts on my blog on how to implement primaries, and it would be good to get your views on it!

    • Bob Carr permalink
      July 15, 2011 5:55 pm

      No transcript but too much per for public sector unions as in California and the cost of reaching out to an unknown electorate are the mIn reservations.

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