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Labor must re-think organisational structures -

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(generated from captions) With Labor seemingly in the grip of a death wish, those who want the party to actually take the fight up to the Government can only shake their heads. It should have been a winning week for the Opposition. On top of the continuing AWB scandal, there was Finance Minister Nick Minchin's exceptional candour about the need for even more dramatic change to the nation's industrial laws. There's no shortage of issues for Labor to run for, hence the anger of many voters, who actually want a viable democratic alternative. And it's observable as you read the letters pages of the nation's broadsheets - like this comment in today's 'Australian': "There is no influential political party "for the rational Liberal in Australia." Well, one senior Labor figure who has some sympathy with that view is former party president and member for Fremantle, Dr Carmen Lawrence. As far back as Labor's defeat in the 2001 campaign, she's been arguing that the Labor Party won't win elections until it completely re-thinks its organizational structures and policy mix. It's a position she maintains to this day, which is why she's agreed to talk about Labor's problems tonight. She joins me from our studios in Perth.

Dr Lawrence, thanks for joining us

tonight. What it is. Is it you are

saying to people like our letter

write tore the awn I just quoted

there, people who are wondering

there, people who are wondering when it is Labor will start looking

viable. I agree with the letter

write they're political parties,

including the ALP, are public

organisations. And they should be

accountable and open to the public

so they can see how they operate.

And it guzn't just apply to Labor.

It applies to the Liberal Party as

well. Both parties are in decline,

their membership is shrinking and

ageing and they need renewal. My

arguments apply to both politicals.

Look round every State you will see

the symptoms in the Liberal Party

and the Oppositions there. In terms

of your own camp, how do you see

of your own camp, how do you see Kim Beazley's position after a week

Beazley's position after a week such as this? He's had no end of advice?

He has. People do need to cool down He has. People do need to cool down

and have a proper analysis of

and have a proper analysis of what's going on. In the context of the

state of political parties in

Australia, the state of

parliamentary reform or the lack of

it, and to put forward an agenda

that I think will be embraced by

that I think will be embraced by the Australian people, political

Australian people, political parties should be public organisations,

should be public organisations, they should be open, they should have

bigger memberships after all, they

select the candidates, they frame

public policy and form governments.

Nigh need to be democratic and

this's be been my argument about

this's be been my argument about the Labor Party. We can't talk about

Labor Party. We can't talk about the virtues of democracy if our own

party is not democratic. Neither

party is not democratic. Neither can the lils. Both parties are

the lils. Both parties are culpaable on this. What about some of Julia

Gillard's suggestion, firstor the

leader to look beyond factional

allegiance in the appointment of

allegiance in the appointment of the frontbench? Well, I think that's

tinkering a frankly. I think that

the problems are much more deep

seated than that. That would be in

seated than that. That would be in a sense the last thing to address in

my mind. I think you have to loose

wren the hold of the factions at

wren the hold of the factions at the grass roots lev, which means you

have to have one vote one value, a

true democracy. You scrnt a handful

of people controlling the party. In

some senses it's their play thing

and both parties have become

political corporations rather than

parties. They run elections but

don't have proper members anymore.

There are a handful of MPs and

There are a handful of MPs and their staff and officials who run the

political parties in Australia and

political parties in Australia and I don't think that is healthy for the

democracy. It's notd healthy for

democracy. It's notd healthy for the ALP because we were found on the

idea of a depkssy representing

working people. How viable is it to

call for an end to the block vote,

the affiliated vote that the trade

unions have? Well, it is quite

radical but I would rather see

radical but I would rather see trade union members sign up as

union members sign up as individuals rather than have someone control

their vote. A lot of people in the

union movement don't know they're

affiliated with the ALP, don't know

there's a union official voting for

them. It's not democratic, it's not

something we tolerate in our

political system, why should we

tolerate it in our political

parties? The Liberal Party have

another set of proebs. Their

another set of proebs. Their members when they vote on policy are

when they vote on policy are ignored all together. At least our members

have an expectation they will be

listened, to although that doesn't

happen as often as it should. Root

and branch reform is required, but

we need to look very broadly at

that. How are political parties

connecting with the wider community.

That's why they enjoy a privileged

position. These problems are not

restricted to Australia. They take

this issue seriously and so we.

You say there's a need for root and

branch reform but you know the

history of your party. You have to

go back to the days of Gough

go back to the days of Gough Whitlam and Bill Hayden to find wleersd are

prepared to up-end the status quo.

One would say say it's not the

Beazley style, is it? It may not be.

If Kim were to sit down and talk

with people, he would understand

there's a deep disconsent among

members. There's lots of evidence

and wider reasons for being

concerned. If political parties are

not connecting to the Australian

community with policy making and

candidate selection, we have is to

do it in other ways as they are in

some countries by expanding the

parps of ordinary citizens in dks

si. I don't think we can sit by and

have an elected autocracy, vote

every three years and otherwise

every three years and otherwise shut up. That's not what Australians

want, or they shouldn't in my view.

Is there not a counter argument,

though, that that the system you

have can't be that broke because

have can't be that broke because the same factional arrangements are in

fact delivering success at the

fact delivering success at the State level? There are only two parties

level? There are only two parties in Australia and it has to be onetor

other. It happens to be that most

other. It happens to be that most of the State - all the State and

Territory Governments are Labor and

the national Government is

the national Government is coalition and next time round we will

and next time round we will probably see everyone change places. Does

that mean we have a healthy

democracy? I don't think it does. I

think our political parties are

failing Australians generally.

They're not involved as they should

be and I think it's one of the

reasons as the letter writer that

you quoted earlier said that people

are so disill utioned with politics.

It's not something you can sweep

under the carpet. It's something

that should be in the public. If

someone audited us in the same way

organisations in the non-Government

sector are required to be audited I

think they would be deeply shocked.

Say, for instance at the South

Australian election next week

weekend, it looks like Mike Rann

weekend, it looks like Mike Rann may be able to increase his majority

because he's gone out of his way to

find non-traditional candidates to

stand in winnable seats. Is the

difference there you have a benign

form of authoritarianism that can

produce a good outcome for the

produce a good outcome for the party - I am not suggesting it's

particularly democratic, but at the

Federal leader you have a lead

Federal leader you have a lead whore is prepared not to exercise much

authority at all? I don't know it's

a question of authority. Kim has

a question of authority. Kim has had a benign view of the way the party

operates, and I guess I don't share

that optimism. If you look at Mike

Rann and Peter Beattie, they've run

good political corporations but I'm

not sure you could claim that these

are particularly democratic

organisations and yet we give a lot

of money as taxpayers to political

parties, and we expect them to

parties, and we expect them to frame policies. But they're doing it with

only a handful of people having any

input. That's my argument. Not that

we are going to achieve these

changes overnight but let's have an

open public debate, not about the

mashination of 2 Labor Party, which

is symptomatic of the parties, if

is symptomatic of the parties, if we want political corporations running

our elections then we have to find

other ways of engaging people. It

shouldn't just be that people are

elected and then actually have

control of everything that goes on.

I for one don't find that very

satisfying. If I can, you have been

really saying much the same thing

really saying much the same thing as I said in my introduction - since

2001, five years ago, what hope do

you hold that there is going to be

much change? Well, I think you have

to keep the argument going. You

to keep the argument going. You have to try to persuade people that it's

not just a temporary aberration and

maybe I'm wrong in my analysis. But

there are global problems that a

there are global problems that a lot of other democracies have pointed

of other democracies have pointed to and they're starting to take action,

very significant naks some case.

We're alone if we think it's going

to go away. So I'm going to keep

making the argument for as long as

people will listen to me, but I

people will listen to me, but I hope some of what we've seen in the last

few weeks in the Labor Party show

just how desperately change is

needed. They don't show to me you

have to sweep it under the carpet.

They show that change is needed.

Isn't it precisely what we will see,

an attempt to smooth things over

an attempt to smooth things over and assume that thing also settle down?

I think part of the problem is the

way these things are constructed in

the media and I can understand why

the media and I can understand why a leader would want to shut everybody

up. But unfortunately when things

have gone as badly wrong as they

have that is not likely to succeed

and you need a much more general

look at what's going on and a

look at what's going on and a better analysis so you can come unwith

solutions that really do satisfy

more people than the winners and

losers in the current fight. We're

halfway through the election cycle

as well, what can he reasonably do

if you like to really change the

structures of the party so that it

won't also take over all the other

things he needs to do to win the

next election? I think it's a long

haul. I don't think you try to do

haul. I don't think you try to do it overnight. You don't try and do it

all in one rules conversation. You

set yourself some objectives and

set yourself some objectives and try to move forward them. I think if

to move forward them. I think if the Labor Party led by Kim and the

various State Premiers were to

various State Premiers were to reach out to the Australian community and

say we've got a problem, after 100

years as a political party we want

to reform. We know the Liberals

should be doing it too but we're

taking the initiative here and we

want to hear from the community,

want to hear from the community, not in terms of the Haq Wranry view of

that kind but making ourselves open

to per situation around getting

people not necessarily Kim every

day, and definitely not Kim in fact,

but to go out there and bring

forward suggestions for improving

our democracy. That's what it's

about ultimately. It's selfish we

want the Labor Party to succeed and

I do because the values are the

I do because the values are the ones that I endorse. But for the

democracy, the political parties

should be succeeding and I think

should be succeeding and I think Kim would get a lot of kudos if he went

out there and embraced the

Australian community in that way.

In the interim, what of particular

individuals and the extent to which

they can now be positive

contributors? Senator Stephen

contributors? Senator Stephen conray has copped the brunt of attacks

has copped the brunt of attacks this week. Is he a lone operators?

Snow, no he's not. There are plenty

of neem the party who could point

the fingers at one another and

this's what happens when you have a

tiny organisation. Are you

suggesting there there's a Stephen

conray or someone like him in all

the States? Worse in some cases.

What do you mean? In some States

What do you mean? In some States the branches are so small that a

branches are so small that a handful of union officials or factional

leaders control them entirely. At

least they do have a significant

grass roots vote in Victoria. Have

grass roots vote in Victoria. Have a look at WA and see how much

look at WA and see how much emphasis the local members have here. It's

pretty much Vero. How do you feel

pretty much Vero. How do you feel in your own seat of Fremantle? Are the

Brian Burke forces working against

you, for instance? No, they're not.

I have no suggestion that I would

I have no suggestion that I would be challenged. I have no suggestion at

all of that. But that wouldn't

all of that. But that wouldn't worry me. The worrying thing is not that

you're challenged but the methods

you're challenged but the methods by which it might be done are unsave i

and dishonest as we've seen in

Victoria. Simon Crean looked like a

dead duck this week and this week

dead duck this week and this week he looks like the comeback kid. How is

he likely to use his reviefd

political fortune? I hope

positively. He said he wanted to

continue to make a contribution and

I expect he will. I don't think any

of the people who have come out of

this will gain anything by

retribution and revenge. Thing's

retribution and revenge. Thing's the last thing that any of the players

should indulge in. Do you think he

still nurses an ambition about

regaining the leadership? Not

they've seen. What about Julia

Gillard? Did you interpret

her'Australian Story' appearance as

a flag flyer as a leadership in the

future? Have I have to say I was at

the 346s and didn't see it. I think

Julia was trying to raise her

profile. There's nothing

unreasonable about that but it's

important for people on the

frontbench, particularly to pull in

behind the leader and they are not

making comments that are critical

making comments that are critical of him or undermining policy. If you

want to do otherwise, then you

should move to the backbench.

What of her subsequent comment that

she would support Kim Beazley until

the next election? I think you guys

make too much of those timing

questions. Howard answers that

question every three or four months

as far as I can see never gives you

a straight answer. You can never

a straight answer. You can never get the right answer to that question.

Julia is ambitious and she's made

Julia is ambitious and she's made no secret of that and I'm sure she

would put her name forward. In any

future leadership contest, could

future leadership contest, could you ever see the left uniting and

backing Julia Gillard for the

leadership? I would hope by the

leadership? I would hope by the time we get to that stage, if we ever do,

that there won't be such a thing as

the left uniteling behind a

particular candidate but a ballot

based on merit. I hope that is the

future of the Labor Party. So I'm

very much against block votes.

We mightn't live to see that day.

Just - We might not. It's all

speculation. Just one other

speculation. Just one other question on this Australian Story interview,

it was remarkable in that Julia

Gillard did use it to point to a

Gillard did use it to point to a lot of deficiencies as she sees them.

She was critical of the forest

Ripollsy, of the 2004 campaign, of

Kim Beazley's rhetoric and his

approach, also of Kevin Rudd's

approach in the prosecution of the

AWB case. Did you find this

AWB case. Did you find this somewhat curious for someone who in fact has

a leadership position mers the

House? As I say, it was a bit

uncomfortable for everyone and my

recommendation to Julia and anyone

else in that position is these

criticisms are ones that you really

can't make from the position she

occupies and the same is true of

others who might seek to do it.

That's why people resign to go to

the backbench. If they do find

themselves out of sorts with the

leadership or the policies - and I

think that's an area where you can

expect loyalty and discipline. If

you're on the frontbench, that's a

privileged position. And she would

be well to keep it in mind. Well,

along with all the others. Dr

Lawrence, for your time tonight,

thank you so much indeed. Pleasure.