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.