National Conference Issues

Dear Friends,

Please find below a summary report of the Saturday July 4 Independents’ Pre-National Conference Forum

Forum Report

The purpose of the Forum was to provide input to Conference delegates Sandra Willis and Eric Dearricott and proxy David Imber on what were seen as key Conference issues.

Policy Issues:

a) Refugee and Asylum Seeker Policy:

There was general agreement that:
i) There needs to be a regional approach to asylum seekers
ii) Processing of asylum seekers regardless of how they arrive should be onshore
iii) Labor policy should not endorse turning boats back
iv) Labor should oppose refoulement
v) Workers at detention centres should not be prohibited from speaking out about unacceptable practices and occurrences

b) Climate Change

It was believed that Labor’s policy must include specific and ambitious targets for greenhouse gas reduction and for renewable energy produced electricity.

c) Marriage Equality

Should Labor Parliamentarians be allowed a conscience vote on Marriage Equality (Same Sex Marriage)?

Labor’s current platform supports same sex marriage but allows parliamentarians a conscience vote on the issue.

Whilst there was strong support for the Party’s policy there was general agreement that delegates should adopt an approach which maximises the likelihood of passage of marriage equality laws at the earliest possible time.

d) Trade Agreements

There was strong concern that these will allow workers to be brought in for certain projects working under conditions inferior to Australian agreements which would not only impact on local employment but undermine the wages and conditions of local workers. Other serious concerns were expressed around the ability of companies to challenge Australian social legislation in the courts and intellectual property rights.

f) Party reform

Disappointment was expressed about the failure of the draft rules changes to implement several of Bill Shorten’s April 2014 proposals and the Independent delegates were encouraged to continue to seek to implementation of those modest aspirations.
Particular aspects discussed were:

i) Bill Shorten said

“Future Labor Conferences to be a mix of people from and by Labor members and those elected by State Conferences”

New rule 31b reads

“A proportion of those delegates must be elected by local branch members and include delegates from outside metropolitan areas”

Those present supported Bill Shorten’s April 2014 statement but were strongly of the view that thought that the rank and file component should be at least 50%.

Proposed amendment to 31b

“At least 50% of those delegates must be elected from and by local Labor members and include delegates from outside metropolitan areas. The other delegates to be elected by State Conference”

ii) Bill Shorten proposed

“Give local Labor members a meaningful say in the selection of Senate Candidates”

As with National Conference delegates those present believed that at least 50% of the weighting in the selection of State Senate candidates should be held by the rank and file.

Proposed new NPO

“At least 50% of the weighting in preselecting State Senate candidates must be held by local Labor members”

iii) In April 2014 the Federal Leader said

“From now on intervention by the National Executive shall be the exception not the rule”.

This reform is not currently included in the proposed rules changes – given Victorian members have been stripped of their rights to vote in the past 3 pre-selections of candidates for the Legislative Council those present were emphatic that at rule that restricts intervention in pre-selections must be included in the National Rules by this National Conference.

iv) Bill Shorten said

“… increase the weight given to the local members’ vote by 20% in every House of Representatives seat with more than 300 members”

In Victoria this would mean a 70:30 split in favour of local party members.”

This is included in this form in the new Draft Rules – In reality for Victoria this rule will apply almost exclusively in stacked electorates because of the 300 member minimum we believe the 300 member minimum should be removed from the proposed draft rule.

v) Affirmative Action –

No changes have been included in the draft – this must change especially in relation to changing defining what are included as winnable seats prior to the commencement of pre-selections.

Eric Dearricott
Secretary Victorian Labor Independents
0419 357 192

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