The WA Labor Party has rejected suggestions it cancelled its State conference this year because it didn’t want an open debate on thorny issues.
It says it is time to focus on the March election instead.
The State party denied a media report claiming it axed the 2012 gathering because it did not want “on-the-nose” Prime Minister Julia Gillard coming to Perth eight months ahead of the State election.
The Liberal Party’s Joe Francis, the member for Jandakot, said the opposition was gagging itself “in case someone might say something that doesn’t help”.
The WA Liberals would hold its conference in four weeks and was not scared of having open debate, Mr Francis said.
“We’re not scared of open and controversial debate - it’s healthy democracy,” he said.
But WA Labor State secretary Simon Mead said cancelling the conference was not controversial or unusual, because the party usually did not hold its conference in the year before an election.
“It’s 257 days until the next election and we want to focus on the election,” Mr Mead said.
“We’ve had two conferences since the last State election and both have been big successful affairs - huge internal debate with lots of reform - but now’s not the time for that.”
WA Labor leader Mark McGowan said former Premier Geoff Gallop did not hold a State conference in the lead-up to the 1996, 2001 or 2005 state elections.
“This decision was made publicly by State executives more than a month ago,” Mr McGowan said.
“There will be a full State conference next year.”
Mr Mead described the Liberal Party State conferences as “clap-fests” that had no power, whereas the opposition used them to set a firm policy platform.
“Their conferences are completed differently structured,” he said.
“Their conference does not bind anyone in that party and most of their MPs ignore it.”
Mr Francis said WA Labor had retained the fundraising part of its conference, whereby meetings with ministers can be bought for $5000.While the State Liberal Party held similar fundraisers, it had copped far more flak in the media for doing so, he said.
'The West Australian' is a trademark of West Australian Newspapers Limited 2013.
All rights reserved.
Select your state to see news for your area.