Friday, April 04, 2014

Nothing to see here - move on please


Troy Bramston's big story under the heading "Labor to loosen its union links" was nothing more than a repeat of what various Labor bods had said all week - that the union links would be "loosened" by no longer requiring members to be unionists.

I don't know why anyone thinks this is a big reform - because it doesn't already apply. And even if some Branch Secretary somewhere is insisting on it, under current rules in NSW you can join any branch in your state electorate, or you can join the "Central Policy Branch". 

Evidently Mr Shorten is going to announce "his plans" in Melbourne on Monday.

Apart from that big "news" the Bramston column is otherwise a news report of an Op Ed that appears in the same paper - by NSW General Secretary Jamie Clements.

Oh and one other item - the suggestion that delegates will be directly elected to national conference, that the party is considering "centralising membership and making membership rules uniform".  Which is al pointless and meaningless because control of the party happens at State Conferences, not National ones. And the party structure is technically a Federal one - the State organisations and the national organisation have their own rules.

Now it might indeed be easier to achieve real reform were the party to centralise, but I don't see that happening.

The biggest joke of the lot was in the Clements column where he rejected the Stephen Loosley idea of conference decisions being non-binding. He wrote:

"I've always believed Labor conferences create a good litmus test. They provide Labor leaders with a forum to argue their case for reform. To convince the public, our leaders hone their arguments before representatives of Labor's rank and file and affiliated union members. If you can't convince your Labor colleagues, you won't convince the voters."

This is just outright fantasy. The "key reforms" he claims Hawke and Keating took to conference first were actually narrow pieces over privatisation and uranium mining. Nothing like it has happened at a NSW Conference over recent years - except the rolling of a Premier. The leader only appears for the orchestrated triumphal entry after the mandatory video-clip to a rapturous standing-ovation. Every vote is decided before conference starts on the block votes of the aligned unions.

It is hard to believe that there has ever been a person whose view was changed by the debate at conference, and even less whose vote would have changed.

So be ready - as I predicted yesterday we are going to have another round of leader announced "reforms" around which the membership must coalesce.

Footnote: Today's Australian was also dominated by the story of the ALP number one position holder in the WA Senate by-election, Joe Bullock, giving a speech that revealed he was not exactly in tune with modern Labor. I don't recall him from University but his claim that he was the one to convince Abbott to join the Liberals was part of the same David Marr story that revealed the punch.

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