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Debunking the myths about how decisions are made in the ALP

By John Hargreaves - 7 November 2016 31

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How I get heartily sick of people trying to portray the Australian Labor Party as puppets of the union movement or the poker machine lobby. So, for the last time, I hope, I’ll try to debunk this nonsense.

Before I go on to show how decisions are actually made in the Labor Party here in the ACT, let me say that the information I give below is the same as given to any prospective member of a sub branch in their own decision to join the Party.

But firstly, on the pokies issue, how do the proponents of the ALP-dependent-on-pokies explain the vicious attack that ClubsACT made during the last election campaign when they opposed pokies for the casino. They said it would send the club industry broke. Was the ALP trying to kill the Golden Goose?

Back to the process. Here I invite, nay, challenge the other parties in the political spectrum to reveal their processes for the readers to judge for themselves whether there is democracy at play or not; whether political decision making is captured by any group or other.

The well over 1500 members of the ACT ALP enjoy a process which in inclusive and consultative. And while all members of the ALP needed until recently to be members of a union, it needs to be said that not all members of a union are members of the ALP. An example is the CPSU (Community and Public Sector Union) which is affiliated to the ACT ALP but from which only a fraction of its overall membership are members of the ALP in the ACT. The same is true of the CFMEU (Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union) and the SDA (Shop Distributive and Allied Employees’ Association).

The Branch structure is one of sub branches, responding to geographic areas, and the business of which is conducted by members elected to an Executive by the sub branch members, with no other criterion than membership for a specified period. Members of a sub branch are generally members of a union, residents in the ACT and eligible to vote here. In this forum, issues of the day are discussed, debated. The conclusions are conveyed to ministers, MLAs, the Party hierarchy, the Federal Party and the National Executive. Sub branches elect delegates to the Annual Conference.

The sub branches are part of a wider Branch, whose Executive is elected at the Annual Conference from delegates eligible to attend that Conference. This eligibility is membership of the ALP for a specified period and elected from a sub branch or appointed by an affiliated union. Issues are referred to Annual Conference by sub branches, unions, policy committees or the Administrative Committee, which is charged with administering the Party between Annual Conferences.

Policy committees have a range of areas of interest and are charged with examining current party positions on issues, developing proposals for changes in policy, and are an ideas exchange forum for interested and involved members of the Party. Members of policy committees are only elected from sub branches ensuring rank and file involvement in the contemplative stage of policy development.

Factions are not an official arm or organ of the ALP in much the same way as factions are not in the formal structure of the Liberal Party. A faction is defined where a group of people come together to discuss issues and come to a common conclusion, sometimes binding their membership to specific positions and sometimes not. They exist because like-minded people wish to collect to develop ideas around a particular ideology or contest. They are unofficial vehicles which are good training grounds for the development of political debating skills outside the formal processes. The factions divide into left, right and non-aligned. Some members choose to be independent of any faction at all.

The union movement divides into two broad groups collecting together under the ACT banner of Unions ACT. These are unions affiliated with the ACT ALP and those which are not affiliated. Non-affiliated unions are not represented at the Annual Conference. Unions also unofficially divide into factions – left, right and unaligned.

It is reasonable that an ALP government (or Opposition for that matter) develop a working relationship with the union movement to progress common concerns. This picks up the views of a specific cohort of society whose advice is valued by the developers of political outcomes. The private sector is disparate and not cohesive. It is becoming so with the amalgamation of the Chambers of Industry but still there are many sectors not represented in a pinnacle grouping such that one voice can be heard.

An example of how a rank and file idea for change became Australian law is the following.

A member of an ACT sub branch was a member of an unaffiliated airline industry union and a regular crew member on overseas flights. He saw the international sex trade up close and saw Australian citizens travelling to Asia for sex with underage children and determined to see what could be done about it. These predators were safe because of the jurisdiction issues of behaviour overseas.

He moved a motion calling on the federal government to enact legislation making it an offence at Australian law to engage in such activities overseas and declaring that the penalties which will apply will be the same if the offence were committed in Australia.

After passage through the ACT system overwhelmingly, the motion was referred to the National Conference and again overwhelmingly supported. The Prime Minister of the day instructed such legislation to be enacted and so it was. Such is the power of an individual member of the Party to right an obvious wrong but also a political vehicle was available for it to happen.

As I said earlier, this information is available to anyone who wishes to join the ALP here in Canberra. The Party is not a secret society, it is not masonic, it is an inclusive and constructive vehicle for ordinary people to get involved with political decisions which affect them, and at the contemplative stage.

So, the challenge is out there. Come on Libs! Show us all how I, if an ordinary member of the Liberal Party can have my views taken seriously, regularly and effectively. The same goes to supporters of the Greens. Show us how the collective decision making in a committee-of-the-whole system works.

And to those who perpetuate the myth of union control, have another think about it.

What’s Your opinion?


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31 Responses to
Debunking the myths about how decisions are made in the ALP
John Hargreaves 1:54 pm 08 Nov 16

dungfungus said :

John Hargreaves said :

I’m still waiting for the other parties to show the transparency that I have in this post.

Does that include The Greens?

YES

John Hargreaves 1:53 pm 08 Nov 16

dungfungus said :

The CPSU claims it has no affiliation with the Labor Party but the evidence is opposite:

http://www.cpsu.org.au/news/use-your-vote-protect-services-jobs-and-rights

So, are we to believe the members of the CPSU who “volunteer” to door the door-knocking do it for the love of their union only?

The CPSU is affiliated with the ACT ALP and also with the Left faction. FYI

Mysteryman 11:48 am 08 Nov 16

How I get heartily sick of people trying to portray the Australian Labor Party as puppets of the union movement…

John Hargreaves said :

Garfield said :

Thanks John, however with your stated purpose of demonstrating that the unions do not control the Labor Party, there was one omission I noticed. When it comes to the annual conference, how many delegates do the affiliated unions get and how many do the membership get?

The important thing is that one has to be a member of a union to be eligible to go to Conference. the ratio is 50:50 so that when the colour of the various groupings are taken into account no single grouping has a majority unless they coalesce at the time.

Wow, you’ve definitely debunked the “myth” that unions control the Labor party. I mean, apart from the fact that union membership is a requirement to be eligible for the conference, and half of all delegates are placed there by the unions.

John Hargreaves said :

It’s interesting that the business lobby who control much of the Liberal agenda don’t get a seat at the policy determining forum and thus can’t take part in debate on policy and more important can’t be held to account by the rank and file of the Liberal Party in the way that the affiliated unions cop it at ALP annual conferences.

So…. this mystery business lobby doesn’t actually get a say on Liberal party policy, but you’re claiming that they control the Liberal party? Makes perfect sense.

I must say, John, you’ve done a brilliant job with this thread.

devils_advocate 9:53 am 08 Nov 16

Years from now, when the term “thread backfire” gets its own entry in the dictionary, the URL for this post will appear under that entry.

Blen_Carmichael 8:48 pm 07 Nov 16

John Hargreaves said :

How I get heartily sick of people trying to portray the Australian Labor Party as puppets of the union movement or the poker machine lobby.

People like Bob Hawke and Paul Keating, John?

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/latest-news/hawke-and-keating-promote-union-rethink/news-story/4b04e225d9825e9040db45345445b01b

Garfield 3:01 pm 07 Nov 16

John Hargreaves said :

Garfield said :

Thanks John, however with your stated purpose of demonstrating that the unions do not control the Labor Party, there was one omission I noticed. When it comes to the annual conference, how many delegates do the affiliated unions get and how many do the membership get?

The important thing is that one has to be a member of a union to be eligible to go to Conference. the ratio is 50:50 so that when the colour of the various groupings are taken into account no single grouping has a majority unless they coalesce at the time.

So, just to make sure I have this right, every single person at the ALP conference is a union member with 50% appointed directly by the unions, but the union movement doesn’t control the party?

dungfungus 2:20 pm 07 Nov 16

John Hargreaves said :

I’m still waiting for the other parties to show the transparency that I have in this post.

Does that include The Greens?

dungfungus 2:15 pm 07 Nov 16

The CPSU claims it has no affiliation with the Labor Party but the evidence is opposite:

http://www.cpsu.org.au/news/use-your-vote-protect-services-jobs-and-rights

So, are we to believe the members of the CPSU who “volunteer” to door the door-knocking do it for the love of their union only?

devils_advocate 1:10 pm 07 Nov 16

What kind of influence does membership in the ‘business supporter program’ confer?
http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/property-developers-buying-up-act-labor-party-memberships-20160718-gq86ob.html

Blen_Carmichael 12:53 pm 07 Nov 16

I noticed John didn’t mention this little pearler:

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-03-16/unions-given-'veto'-power-in-act-government-procurement-projects/7249472

ALP not beholden to the unions? My hat.

John Hargreaves 12:28 pm 07 Nov 16

I’m still waiting for the other parties to show the transparency that I have in this post.

John Hargreaves 12:27 pm 07 Nov 16

Garfield said :

Thanks John, however with your stated purpose of demonstrating that the unions do not control the Labor Party, there was one omission I noticed. When it comes to the annual conference, how many delegates do the affiliated unions get and how many do the membership get?

The important thing is that one has to be a member of a union to be eligible to go to Conference. the ratio is 50:50 so that when the colour of the various groupings are taken into account no single grouping has a majority unless they coalesce at the time.

It’s interesting that the business lobby who control much of the Liberal agenda don’t get a seat at the policy determining forum and thus can’t take part in debate on policy and more important can’t be held to account by the rank and file of the Liberal Party in the way that the affiliated unions cop it at ALP annual conferences.

imhotep 12:23 pm 07 Nov 16

It never ceases to amaze that otherwise intelligent people can imagine some tribe/team/party/culture endlessly capable of malevolence, stupidity, incompetence, corruption and all the rest, while apparently genuinely believing that their own ‘team’ is a model of competent virtue.

It’s not only in politics; you see it in sport, international relations, conspiracy theorists and obsessives of all stripes (anti-vaxxers, various ‘truthers’) etc.

The notion that one group of people is all good and some other team is all bad is of course ridiculous, as our political history shows, but it is amazing how many people promote the idea.

Garfield 11:48 am 07 Nov 16

Thanks John, however with your stated purpose of demonstrating that the unions do not control the Labor Party, there was one omission I noticed. When it comes to the annual conference, how many delegates do the affiliated unions get and how many do the membership get?

John Moulis 11:00 am 07 Nov 16

John, I found it interesting that the list of clubs supporting the Clubs ACT “Vote Liberal” campaign pointedly omitted the Labor Club, Tradies and the Burns Club, three of the four clubs I am a member of. During the campaign Karl Maftoum, Labor candidate and a board member of the Burns Club said the club was moving away from reliance on poker machine revenue, and one of these initiatives was the wildly successful Star Buffet all you can eat restaurant at the club.

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