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Saturday, October 12, 2013

Responses to the ALP Leadership Election Result

above: The winner of the Opposition Leader election - Bill Shorten

With a 'mixed mandate' from the ALP's first experiment with a rank and file component in electing the parliamentary leader, Bill Shorten needs to move straight away to implement the reforms he promised to 'Local Labor', Race Mathews and others - in order to keep the Party unified and with high morale - as we rebuild and aim to retake government in three years.

Tristan Ewins

With Albanese getting about 60% of the membership vote there's a 'mixed mandate' here. Importantly, I read that the Right was enforcing 'pairing' to ensure their members were voting for Shorten in the caucus. That said, I don't know why some members of the parliamentary Left decided to vote for Shorten. Hopefully the full story will come out in the coming days and we’ll have a fuller appreciation of how this process has panned out….

But we agreed to this process, and this is what we've got to work with. 50% of the vote for the rank and file is still a step forward. Especially if we get more far-reaching reforms as part of the deal over the coming months......

Another matter is that with Albanese recording such a strong vote amongst the members he deserves recognition. There's the option of the Deputy Leadership. Though Shorten has already committed there to Plibersek - and Plibersek is certainly incredibly talented - and could have had a go at the leadership herself if she'd been inclined to do so. Perhaps whoever misses out should receive a shadow ministry of their choice? Though that's complicated by the fact Bowen did a good job as Treasurer.

Albanese overwhelmingly won the rank and file vote on the basis of unequivocal support for direct election to Conference and other reforms. Shorten supported reform too - giving personal guarantees to Race Mathews which were then communicated to the membership and to ‘Local Labor’.

Perhaps Albanese could also be given the job of heading a Committee to oversee democratic Party organisational reform between now and the next Conference. And maybe Conference could be brought forward so that whatever policy positions we adopt - we have plenty of time to campaign on difficult issues which nonetheless are a matter of principle. (for example: increasing Newstart in the face of Conservative attacks)

On the plus side Shorten will make a very articulate leader; But he has to overcome the 'Bill the Knife' tag; He needs to break through against those perceptions early on to stop it from undermining his position.

If we get direct election for National Conference the victory for Party democracy will still be great. (so long as the Parliamentary Party then accepts the policy parameters set by Conference)

At Facebook Glenn L. McGrath reports that: "Bill won by 4 MP votes, 55/86 = 63.95, it would need to have be 51/86 = 59.3% for Albo to have won." So if the Left had held it really would have been down to the wire. I'm trying to confirm whether there were three Left supporters of Shorten or more.

In any case – again, it is done now; Bill will be an articulate leader;  Bill Shorten has tried to overcome the ‘Bill the Knife’ tag  today; And I hope he succeeds - for him and for the Party. On the night Shorten supported Rudd he looked like a ghost. I'm certain it was a very difficult decision which weighed heavily on him.


Of great importance:  With such a close vote the pressure needs to be on to implement further internal democratic reform quickly - starting immediately; With such a strong rank and file vote for Albanese Shorten needs to move quickly on democratic reform to keep the party unified at this point and into the future.

A Committee made up of members genuinely committed to democratic reform ahead of the next National Conference – and with a brief to achieve this - would be a the best thing;  So long as it isn’t distorted into a mechanism for ‘burying’ reform rather than implementing it ASAP.

If Albanese is at the helm of such a committee here’s hoping that won’t happen that way…
PLS Debate!!!

nb: 'Christian Kunde' at Facebook writes:  1 caucus vote = 350 member votes. Albo lost by 700 votes/2 caucus votes. If 3 from the Left voted Shorten, that would have easily been enough"

I'm still trying to work out just how close it really was...


  1. re: internal cohesion and discipline - so long as there's a fair degree of 'give and take', and the broad parameters of Conference are observed - we should be able to enjoy the discipline we need.

    Except for a few things: a) We need the Conference process to be democratic - with direct election of delegates, and the observance of its content. b) And we should reform the leader direct election process further - say to 45 (caucus) / 55 (membership) - as it is potentially harmful to our cohesion when a very clear majority of the members vote for a candidate only for the other candidate to win.

    nb: Though the problem with that would be if a candidate was elected without the support of a clear majority of caucus. So what I'm saying here is not a 'final word' on potential reform of the leadership election process. Rather I'm hoping to encourage debate... Perhaps there is a better answer re: the leadership election.

    But direct election of Conference delegates and observance of the Platform need to be non-negotiable.

  2. In the ALP We Need to press strongly and resoundingly for Bill Shorten to Stop Equivocating on the issue of democratic party reform! Shorten explicitly supported Direct Election of Conference Delegates in an exchange with Race Mathews. That was then communicated to Local Labor which has over 800 members on Facebook. Meanwhile Albanese was absolutely unequivocal about Party Reform - and as a consequence received a resounding mandate from the membership.

    The least we can do now is to establish a Committee on Party Reform ASAP - with a brief to develop proposals for Direct Election and other reforms before the next Conference. Albanese should chair that committee. If the ALP is to move forward with high morale and unity we need to end all equivocation and adopt a footing towards implementing reforms - including greater participation in party activism, policy development - but most crucially of all - direct election to Conference - and respect for Conference's authority.

    The following is From an Interview With new Leader Bill Shorten on ABC Radio National this morning: Shorten backs reform - but he is not unequivocal - and he does not specifically mention Conference direct election.... Opinions welcome...

    ALISON CARABINE: The membership ballot was part of a process of democratising the party. You have given a commitment to ongoing party reform. Under your leadership, can you guarantee that the recommendations of the Faulkner, Carr and Bracks Review will be fully implemented at the next National Conference?
    BILL SHORTEN: I do support the principles of reform, and some of the principles of reform which I think are fundamental to making the Labor Party a healthy organisation, and competitive at the next election, include but are not limited to encouraging more people to join our party.
    The fact is that there are 43,000 - 44,000 members of the Labor Party. I would like to see a much larger Labor Party. I think that democracy – it doesn't matter if you're Liberal or Labor – flourishes when more people take an active role. What I also am committed to is improving the diversity of our candidates who run for elected office representing the Labor Party.
    We look at the Abbott Coalition, where they've managed to only find a position for one woman in the top twenty Cabinet spots in Australia. I reject the assumption that merit is more located in the brains of men than women. I can't believe that it's not possible to have a greater proportion of your Cabinet who are women. I'm looking forward to what the Shadow Ministry do, and the Shadow Ministry elections, in terms of seeing more diversity.
    So, when it comes to our party reform, we've got to improve the base. We've got to improve people's participation. I will certainly work with National Conference to see how we can further improve the party. We'll also do that on the basis of these principles of engaging people and we need to reach out to new constituencies as well. There are too many Australians in small business or regional Australia who think that Labor doesn't speak to them, when in fact, we do, and we can, and we need to engage.

  3. "I don't know why some members of the parliamentary Left decided to vote for Shorten."

    It's pretty straightforward Tristan. Some on the 'the left' view Shorten as a more electorally appealing leader than Albanese. And in the contemporary ALP winning elections always trumps politics.

    It has been a long time since factional membership was a necessary indicator of an MP's political views.

    The primary purpose of the factions is (in the words of a Labor staffer to me) to 'distribute the spoils of office'.


  4. If factions are only about peoples' careers these days that barely seems enough reason to exist... But I don't think it's like that for everyone. I am willing to fight to see that the Left continues to stand for something. And to challenge our colleagues in the Right to think about values and ideas as well.

    Also, given some polls I've seen Albanese was actually quite popular in the electorate. And I think Plibersek probably would have been most popular with the voters... A shame she did not run....

    Anyway - the process is done with now - and we need to get behind Shorten. My point re: the Right's 'pairing' arrangements is that what's good for one should be good for the other.... There should have been a free vote for everyone.

    But now the purpose of morale and cohesion is best served by delivering the reform agenda supported by Albanese, and also by Shorten (at least in words - we'll see now if he delivers!!!). That is - organisational reform - including direct election of National Conference delegates.... That's what the members want - and our efforts to renew and rebuild the party will falter unless it's delivered...

  5. I agree it is not like that for everyone inside the ALP. But for those whose jobs and careers are dependent on factional membership and complying with factional voting, it is. And those people (the MPs, their advisors etc) are the effective decision makers within the party - especially when the party wins government at Federal and state level.

    I actually agree with Shorten on this. In a recent interview he was very open and honest about how the factional system is now largely based on key personalities (MPs and Senators) and their capacity to reward loyalty.

    But I don't agree that we simply need to get behind Shorten. The left should develop its own programme for party reform and party policy, and fight for it. The left should put pressure on Shorten and hold him to account.

    If the left simply suspends its critical faculties - it will get nowhere.


  6. Fair enough to make support for Shorten conditional on democratic reform - after all that's what he promised; But hold him to account if he doesn't seriously and genuinely attempt to deliver... It's because there's a 'mixed mandate' from caucus and the rank and file - that we can pose democratic reform as the condition of support - because that is crucial for morale, mobilisation and cohesion in the Party.

  7. Just some clarifications re: this post;

    Shorten did promise direct election for National Conference; so it is his mandate to actually deliver that and other reforms.

    Bill's the leader - and that that's the result according to the process which both candidates agreed to. I accept that Shorten is leader; and that he should make a very articulate leader. And if somehow we can overcome the 'Bill the Knife' those qualities with come through. As well as the credibility he has re: the NDIS.

    But 60% of the rank and file voting for Albanese has to count for something. In terms of who's leader - it IS 'all or nothing'. But it doesn't have to be 'all or nothing' in terms of 'taking on board' some of Albanese's positions - which 60% of rank and file voters voted for...

    In terms of what Albanese promised - including internal democratic reform - Bill can take that on board without any question around who was elected leader according to the agreed process.... He could also make the gesture of suggesting Albanese to head a Committee for democratic reform - to drive the reform process forward, and not to 'bury' it. He might also have granted Albanese the portfolio of his choice. (perhaps excluding Treasury because Bowen has showed himself quite capable there)

    The only thing that's going to undermine Bill's legitimacy is if he doesn't deliver on his promises. The reason this discussion is going on, though, is that while Shorten made clear promises to Local Labor, and to Race Mathews in particular, at other times the signals coming from his campaign were equivocal. If there's some questions being put now - it is only to clear that up. As the reforms are crucial to the cohesion, morale and expansion of the party membership.