Labor report attacks union power
Labor report attacks union power

An internal WA Labor report whose recommendations would significantly weaken the stranglehold of union powerbrokers on the party's affairs has been buried by its powerful administrative committee.

The Shaping Labor report, a copy of which was leaked to The Weekend West, recommends sweeping reforms to the party's internal processes, including tougher rules around secret ballots for internal voting to end the "ugly" practice of show-and-tell balloting and direct election of Labor's State executive, the party's decision-making branch.

The reforms, the report's authors argue, would have "major implications for the way factions (unions) organise within the political wing" by weakening the power of factional bosses, who rank-and-file party members perceive are running the party like a "black box".

The report, commissioned by Labor's administrative committee after the disastrous Senate re-run in April when Joe Bullock was the only senator returned, involved face-to-face talks with almost 500 rank-and-file members at eight town-hall style forums and attracted more than 200 written submissions.

The report's authors - barrister and former Federal candidate Tim Hammond, Community and Public Sector Union secretary Sue Bowers and former Carpenter government staffer and campaigner Daniel Smith - describe dissatisfaction from ordinary members at the power of union bosses, the lack of genuine debate in Labor's branches and internal elections and preselections whose outcomes are predetermined by deals.

The report's foreword says it should be made available "in its entirety" to all members in the interests of transparency. The administrative committee, dominated by factional players, has sought to have it quashed.

The Weekend West has learnt that the authors gave the report to the 15-member committee - which includes United Voice secretary Carolyn Smith, SDA faction leader and senator-elect Joe Bullock, AWU secretary Steve Price, AMWU secretary Steve McCartney and CFMEU secretary Mick Buchan - on Monday night. The committee resolved that it should not be released and The Weekend West was told some members wanted sections reworked. It is believed WA Labor leader Mark McGowan, who is on the committee but had to leave Monday's meeting early, wanted the report released.

Sources said Ms Smith was most opposed, describing sections that used the words "unions" and "factions" interchangeably as "offensive".

Although the report expressed strong support for retaining the 50-50 representation split between union and political wings at State conference and State executive, it was the view of many members that the union wing had greater and growing influence.

It was because membership of the political wing comprised individuals who were closely associated with the union wing. Additionally, unions had been active in recruiting Labor members.

Labor State secretary Simon Mead denied yesterday that the report had been buried, saying it was only ever intended as a paper to the administrative committee.

It is contradicted by the report's foreword, which makes clear it should be made available to all members.

Mr Mead said the intention was to release a "discussion paper" soon. Later, he called back and said the committee was still considering the report and would meet again on Monday to discuss it.

Asked about Monday's meeting and her opinion of the report, Ms Smith said: "I don't talk about what gets discussed at admin.

"I don't talk about internal discussions we have within the ALP. They are internal party discussions."

The report is replete with quotes from ordinary party members who took part in the forums who are critical of Labor's culture.

"The public nature of our internal disputes is hurting us . . . it is embarrassing to the general membership," one party member said.

The leaking of the report comes ahead of Labor's State conference on July 5-6, at which rule changes proposed by Mr McGowan to democratise the party will be debated.

The West Australian

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