22 January 2005

in the Ruddy light of a new day

At first, i was attracted to the idea of Beazley leading the ALP again. I think Latham fell without being pushed, and obviously his illness exacerbated his tendency to go it alone. Bringing the old warhorse back for a last run, and perhaps even a Howard-style resurrection, would be a great story. Sadly, events have destroyed that idea.

Beazley has vetoed the idea of Julia Gillard as deputy leader. jenny Macklin refuses to stand aside and Beazley has said he is very happy with her as deputy leader. Beazley is looking to the NSW machine for support. Crean refuses to go away and is up to his armpits in the campaign for the leadership. The reason we keep getting nothing campaigns and nothing platforms is the dominance of the party by its factions. The Democratic Audit of Australia has just released a detailed analysis of the way Australian parties operate. They find:

The Labor Party can claim that its formal structures and processes include powerful representative and responsible components. The Platform is written and amended by a Conference of delegates from the grass-roots organisation. The caucus, the cabinet and the leader are bound by the Conference and the Platform. Each level of the party is formally responsible to a wider sector of the party. In practice, however, three features question the efficacy of this. First, the union base has, for over a century, been able to dominate the numbers at the Conferences. Second, there has been some ‘seepage of authority’ to the top levels of the party. Third, the factions have become allpowerful.

That has to change and, despite Beazley's avowal that he's learnt his lessons, there's no sign he actually has. keeping Macklin and swanning around with the NSW Right and is not going to challenge factional dominance or get the ALP open to the force of ideas again. Rudd would be a better choice. And at least he can utter a sentence without 14 subclauses.

Meanwhile, the ALP rank and file, let alone the ALP's wider supporters in the electorate, are sick of the insider game. As we heard on the 7:30 report:

DR PETER BOTSMAN: No-one doubts Kim's abilities, but this is an insider fallacy, that all we need to do is have a one-horse race and everything's gonna be okay. The truth is that the rank and file are very angry when they hear people on the radio saying that it's just a matter of being, again, loyal to a leader. That's not what people want. People want to be able to participate in the Labor Party and know that their voices count. They want to be able to actually elect a leader themselves, and really, this should be the last time that Labor allows a caucus to simply elect a leader. It really should be a rank-and-file vote for a leader, and the new leader needs to be about advocating those kinds of changes in the party.

MAXINE McKEW: But as Kim Beazley said the other day, it's not a US-style primary system. In the meantime, we're stuck with the caucus system as it is; they elect the leader. Who is the most viable alternative, then, do you think, to Kim Beazley?

There's a better question then if this is a caucus election or a primary election. The question is what kind of eleciton should it be. Most progressive parties elect their leader by direct ballot, or by a wider electoral college. The caucus system has not produced a successful leader since Keating. That's getting to be a long time.

No comments: