05 September 2009

Editorial - Review a real opportunity for renewal

Our Party has a proud history. From its roots in the strikes of the 1890s through to today, the Australian Labor Party has been a voice for ordinary Australians in our political system. It has represented working people and their families and advanced a progressive agenda, changing and building the fabric of our society.

Fundamental to its continued existence as a modern political force able to fulfil its legacy and represent the interests of working people, is its ability to reform itself, improving its structures and processes.

Currently the Queensland Branch is about to undergo another round of internal reforms. It is essential that this process be a genuine attempt at improvement and renewal, not simply an exercise in stifling participation, winding back democratic mechanisms, or cost cutting.

Over the past 10 months, since the announcement was made by the State Secretary to overhaul the state branch, there have been a flurry of ideas and proposals to reform our great Party.
However, one proposal mooted by a certain section of our Party, is to have just one branch per state electorate. This idea would be disastrous for regions and city alike and is perhaps just a crude attempt at cutting back the cost of having ‘too many party units’. It would certainly add nothing to building a dynamic, robust Party. Imagine having only branch to choose from? What would happen to participation if adopted meeting times did not suit 49% of members? Indeed, any proposal that would limit choice for members would be totally unworkable.

Focus instead should be on developing ideas to enhance participation by building branches and helping them manage their membership.

The presence of a diverse range of strong branches, properly resourced, will underpin organisational renewal. Rather than being viewed as line item in a report, branches should be seen as a vital component of the wider labour movement. But of course, it is important for branches to play their part in any renewal by being open to change and continuous improvement.

Additionally, the utilisation of modern communication methods such e-mail, social networking, sms and blogging could help build new networks within the Party and form new structures outside the traditional, geographically based local branch. However, for this to work, our Party Office needs to be willing to lead the way and assist branches with their own transformation.
Of course, it is easy to be cynical about any organisational review. We have seen many over the past 15 years, with only piecemeal change to the way the Party operates. Thankfully, however, there have been some worthwhile democratic reforms that have helped steer the organisational wing in the right direction.

Hopefully this review will be one with real, positive results for members. As it is only with a commitment to genuine improvement and internal renewal that the Queensland Branch has any hope of ensuring that it averts a possible long term decline.

Rod Beisel is Secretary of the Annerley Branch 

(Originally published April 2009)

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