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Labor opens new school - for its own candidates

Politics

Prospective SA Labor MPs will be offered the chance to attend a new “Candidate Training School” – providing intensive training in “direct voter contact, messaging, media and data” – as the party gears up to fight two elections in 2022.

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Around 200 delegates will gather at the West Adelaide Football Club tomorrow for the state party’s annual convention, which will vote on almost 100 pages of motions that will help determine Labor’s platform ahead of the next state and federal elections.

These include a push to embrace party reform – including stricter gender quotas, more say for grassroots members in electing leaders and new rules to crack down on branch stacking – mostly pushed by the fledgling “Active Left” sub-faction as it bids to extend its influence.

But state secretary Reggie Martin will tell the conference that the party is fundamentally in good shape, despite being ousted from office in SA after 16 years in 2018 and failing to gain the key seat of Boothby locally as Labor crashed to an unexpected federal defeat in May.

In a speech to be delivered tomorrow – an excerpt of which has been obtained by InDaily – Martin will tell the delegates that “the [federal] election loss has had an unexpected outcome – over 250 people joined the party in the first five days after the election, and our membership continues to grow”.

“So much so that I am happy to report that we are now at our highest level of membership in over 27 years,” his speech reads.

He will also outline a new pilot program designed to upskill prospective candidates for 2022.

“With both the state and federal elections likely to occur in 2022, we must utilise the intervening time to prepare ourselves and build our capacity to campaign,” he will say.

“With this in mind, and following from the State Election review, today the Labor Party launches its most ambitious training program ever, the Labor Candidate Training School.

“All members of the Party who are interested in being a candidate for election can nominate for one of 20 positions in the new training program.”

At least half of the positions will be reserved for women, with the party pushing for gender quotas to be more strictly enforced.

It’s understood the application process will be open to all party members, with successful applicants decided by a small panel. Attending the course will not guarantee preselection but will enhance a nominee’s credentials and prospects of election.

Martin’s speech says successful applicants “will participate in a two-year training program covering all aspects of campaigning: from direct voter contact, messaging, media and data”.

“The party will engage with experts from these fields and more to ensure that the next round of Labor candidates will be as well prepared to enter the fray as is humanly possible,” he will tell the convention.

Among a range of party reform agenda items on which the convention will vote is a push by unions including the Australian Rail, Tram and Bus Industry Union, the Communications Unions and the CFMMEU to allow for “the party leader and party president to be elected on the national model of 50 per cent Convention [vote] and 50 per cent rank and file members”.

The same unions will ask the conference to endorse amendments to the rules to “ensure sub-branch members attend a minimum of three sub-branch meetings or other official Labor functions per year in order to be eligible to nominate or vote in sub-branch elections”.

This would prevent issues such as a recent case in Florey where a sub-branch member distributed a letter outlining a range of grievances, including that when he door-knocked other members “a number of people appeared to be uncertain whether or not they were members of the Labor Party”.

The unions want a review of the party’s voting methods and platforms for internal elections, citing “several examples
 where inconsistencies have prevailed”.

“We should always aim to be fully transparent and accountable,” the motion states.

“The ALP should explore the supervision of ballots by an independent third party such as the AEC, and the trialling of electronic voting for internal ballots.”

However, the Active Left motions are unlikely to garner broad support, with a senior party source noting: “This has been considered by conventions in the past, and hasn’t been accepted.”

The Left-faction Australian Services Union and Community and Public Sector Union will put a motion calling for gender equality on parliamentary committees, lamenting “there are currently a significant 
number of Parliamentary Committees that have no women members, including Parliamentary Committees where there are more than two members of the Labor Party”.

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