Rural Labor not open to power shift

ALLOWING Labor Party members to select upper house candidates would destroy rural NSW representation, according to Albury party member Darren Cameron.

Mr Cameron and other rural and regional members voted against a move at Labor’s NSW conference at the weekend to allow all members a vote on Legislative Council and Senate tickets.

The proposal, by Labor elder John Faulkner, was voted down.

Mr Cameron said the idea had been at odds with a call from federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, who had told the conference NSW Labor must “rebuild as a party of members, not factions”.

Speaking from Sydney, Mr Cameron said that while on the surface a rank-and-file vote might appear more democratic, it would be “a terrible outcome” for the regions.

At present, delegates from each region, including the Albury state electoral conference and Farrer federal electoral conference, select the upper house candidates.

If the rank-and-file held that power, branches with most members — typically those in the metropolitan areas — would have a bigger say, and the system would be more open to electoral abuse, Mr Cameron said.

“We would lose any influence we enjoy over the upper house ticket,” he said.

“The city branches advocated this because it would favour them — they would dominate.

“At the moment, we get the same representation — we’re happy we get the rural representation we do and we intend to keep it.”

Mr Cameron pointed out it was a different situation for Labor in NSW than in Victoria, where members have been pushing for member vote because the Legislative Council was based on the whole state and not split into seats.

Mr Faulkner had told the conference that the NSW system, which allowed the conference to choose members, was broken and had allowed corrupt former ministers such as Eddie Obeid, Ian Macdonald and Tony Kelly to enter Parliament.

Meanwhile, delegates backed a plan to give members a say in choosing the party’s NSW leader in a move designed to take away the power of factional bosses.

Under the plan, leadership would be determined by a ballot weighted at 50 per cent caucus members and 50 per cent party members.

The plan will come into effect after next March’s state election.