My re­form agenda is un­fin­ished busi­ness, warns ALP pres­i­dent


Out­go­ing La­bor na­tional pres­i­dent Mark But­ler has blasted the party for not be­ing more demo­cratic or giv­ing rank-and-file mem­bers a strong enough voice in de­bates about pol­icy is­sues or pre­s­e­lec­tions, and says this is “un­fin­ished busi­ness”.

Mr But­ler, the op­po­si­tion’s cli­mate and en­ergy spokesman, lost a re-elec­tion bid for pres­i­dent to for­mer trea­surer Wayne Swan in June but has re­fused to yield the top party post un­til the na­tional con­fer­ence be­gin­ning next week.

“In 2015 I had the priv­i­lege of be­ing elected na­tional pres­i­dent on a very clear plat­form of want­ing to con­trib­ute to re­forms that would make our great party more demo­cratic, and sub­stan­tially big­ger and bet­ter or­gan­ised,” Mr But­ler writes in the of­fi­cial guide for con­fer­ence del­e­gates ob­tained by The Aus­tralian.

“I have fought for a more open and demo­cratic party at ev­ery op­por­tu­nity, but three years on, re­forms that give mem­bers a greater say in the im­por­tant de­ci­sions in our party re­main un­fin­ished busi­ness.”

In Jan­uary, Mr But­ler said that La­bor needed to em­power mem­bers but at­tempts at in­ter­nal re­form had been re­peat­edly “blocked” by the “backroom buf­foon­ery” of “fac­tional lead­ers” at party con­fer­ences.

Mr Swan writes that pol­i­tics glob­ally has be­come “pop­ulist, ragged and ugly” and warns that the “de­cline of tra­di­tional par­ties” is a chal­lenge La­bor must ad­dress. He also ar­gues that win­ning “the bat­tle of ideas” is more im­por­tant than just win­ning elec­tions.

“La­bor’s fu­ture lies first and fore­most in be­ing clear about what we stand for,” he writes. “Our party has a proud record of pro­gres­sive so­cial re­form but we must al­ways have it at the fore­front of the pol­icy bat­tle of the eco­nomic in­ter­est of work­ing peo­ple.”

Bill Shorten says La­bor’s poli­cies are di­rected to­wards giv­ing all Aus­tralians “a fair go”, and he urges the party to de­bate is­sues vig­or­ously while re­spect­ing that some del­e­gates may dis­agree with one an­other.

“Our fel­low Aus­tralians are look­ing to La­bor, look­ing to us for con­crete poli­cies to im­prove their daily lives and real plans to build a bet­ter fu­ture for our na­tion,” the Op­po­si­tion Leader writes. “This con­fer­ence is an op­por­tu­nity to demon­strate we are ready: ready to serve as the next gov­ern­ment of Aus­tralia and ready to de­liver a fair go for all Aus­tralians.”

Tanya Plibersek, La­bor’s deputy leader, ar­gues that the party must demon­strate to vot­ers that it is “com­pe­tent to lead the na­tion” again. “We have shown we have the en­ergy, sta­bil­ity and sense of pur­pose to take on big and dif­fi­cult re­forms,” she writes.

La­bor’s na­tional sec­re­tary, Noah Car­roll, re­minds del­e­gates that the con­fer­ence is a “sem­i­nal” part of per­suad­ing vot­ers that La­bor has a “clear man­date” and is ready “to change this coun­try for the bet­ter”.

The La­bor Party’s 48th na­tional con­fer­ence will be held at the Ade­laide Con­ven­tion Cen­tre from De­cem­ber 16-18.

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