By Adam Gartrell, Updated November 27,
2011, 12:23 pm
2011, 12:23 pm
Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd says he has an open mind about the idea of giving Labor's ordinary members a say in the election of the party's parliamentary leader.
Mr Rudd has issued a fresh call for reform of the ALP in the lead-up to this week's national conference.Mr Rudd has warned that unless Labor undergoes serious organisational surgery it is at risk of fading away and becoming a third party in Australian politics.
He wants rank and file branch members to be given the power to directly elect the party's national secretary, national executive and delegates to the national conference."There is a structural problem that needs to be dealt with," the foreign minister told Sky News on Sunday."How do you take control of the Australia Labor Party back from the factions and deliver it to 35,000 members of the Australian Labor Party?"Because those members have been leaving in droves."
Mr Rudd says he also wants a "conversation" about ALP NSW General Secretary Sam Dastyari's radical proposal to give the rank and file a say on who becomes the party's parliamentary leader."I have an open mind on the question and the need to have such a debate," he said."Let a hundred flowers bloom, let a hundred schools of thought contend.
"Do I have a defined position on it? No. Do I think we should have a conversation about it? Yes."
The parliamentary caucus should have its own conversation about the proposal, Mr Rudd said."It would be interesting to see what the attitude of caucus members might be. I don't know." Mr Rudd said the party had nothing to fear from its members. "Because I believe they are actually much closer to the Australian people themselves," he said. "They represent the diversity of the nation. The factions do not."
Deputy Opposition Leader Julie Bishop said Mr Rudd's proposals should be seen in the context of his own wish to return to the party's leadership. "This is a direct challenge to the prime minister," Ms Bishop told Sky News. "His attack on the factions is a reminder of how Julia Gillard took his job from him. "I think that Kevin Rudd's reform suggestions have to be put in the context of a leadership challenge."
Ms Bishop said the Liberal Party was "working through" its own reform proposals.
Queensland Premier Anna Bligh, who is also the federal president of the ALP, said Mr Rudd's comments should resonate with the party's members.She said factions would always evolve within political parties but they should not exist to the detriment of others.
"There's nothing unusual of people of a like mind coming together within organisations, you'll see it all the time, whether it's a P and C at school or a political party," Ms Bligh told reporters on Sunday. "What's not acceptable is when those organisations, within organisations, call them factions or anything else, become so entrenched and so removed from other members of the group it becomes unhealthy and we are bordering on that. "It's time to bite the bullet, modernise and democratise the party."
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