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Wednesday, 11 November 1998
Page: 179


Mrs GALLUS (7:28 PM) —Mr Speaker, let me congratulate you very sincerely on your appointment. Today we have heard many speeches from the new members of this parliament. From the opposition we have heard speeches of care and concern that are warming to the heart of those who hear them. It would make us think that the branches that select these members are places that you would want to visit, full of friends and companionship, and good examples of democracy.

Today I was horrified to come across a letter that an ALP member had written to all branch members in South Australia about what really happens in ALP branches. I suspect, Mr Speaker, that you will be as distressed as I was to hear what this man had to say about the ALP branches. I can give you his name: Mr Ron Williams, a member of an ALP subbranch. Mr Williams refers to the `machine'. He says:

What is the "Machine"?

The "Machine" is the term used to describe the current coalition between the Bolkus Social Left faction and the Right's Labor Unity faction.

This is, of course, Mr Speaker, in our state of South Australia. He continues:

It is led by a handful of powerful Left/Right Union Bosses and several senior State and Federal Members of Parliament.

Mr Williams continues:

So what is so dangerous about the "Machine"?

The "Machine" is dangerous because it has almost total control over every level of decision making process within the South Australian Labor Party.

This includes nearly all Sub Branch and FEC delegates to State Council and State Convention, membership of the state Executive and the State Platform Committee and other Party Committees, Party Office Positions, Parliamentary Caucus and the Shadow Cabinet. Even Mike Rann's position as leader of the Parliamentary Labor Party is based on the "Machine's" continuing support . . .

However, because factions tend to be secretive about their operations, particularly at the sub branch and FEC level, most rank and file members are not even aware that their branch/FEC is aligned.

Poor members. He continues:

For example, the "Machine" factions carve up the sub branches and FECs between them and then support each other's candidates for delegate positions to State Convention and State Council and all other Party Committees. The "Machine" uses this lack of knowledge of its operations by grass roots members—

again, poor members—

to ensure their delegates are elected and thereby maintain its grip on power. Without the support of the "Machine" it is now virtually impossible for a rank and file member to be elected to a position of power or influence within the ALP. Fear of either losing support for a party position, being labelled a "spoiler", or having a political career cut dead is enough to keep most faction members in line. . . . It takes real courage to stand up to the "Machine" heavies and their venom.

He goes on to talk about how the members are elected:

. . . most sub branch delegates are picked and supported by the "Machine" faction bosses and therefore have the financial and material backing of unions and certain Parliamentary offices to promote themselves. Most union delegates to convention have been hand-picked by the Union bosses. Union rank and file members have little or no say in their selection and are unlikely to even know who they are.

In the lead-up to sub branch elections for Convention and Council delegates hundreds of "new" members are enrolled and their membership fees paid for by the "Machine" factions to ensure "Machine" candidates have the numbers to get elected (known—

my goodness—

as branch stacking). Most of these "new" members will never go to a sub branch meeting or help at the polling booths at election time.

So, even though the "Machine" can claim to represent 80% of the Convention . . .

I will shortly be out of time, so I will just sum up what Mr Williams said:

The whole apparatus of ALP party machinery is controlled by the Party State office, itself controlled by the "Machine" factions.

I believe the stranglehold the "Machine" currently has over the South Australian Labor Party is so damaging that it is vital it be brought to the attention of the rank and file . . . Every ALP member has the right to know how the "Machine" operates and the disastrous impact it is having on the Party.

I repeat an earlier sentence:

It takes real courage to stand up to the "Machine" heavies and their venom.

That, I hate to say, is about the Labor Party in our state of South Australia.