The former Labor Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam, who turns 86 today, has proposed major internal reform for the ALP, including rank-and-file election of national conference delegates.
The man responsible for fundamental internal reform of the ALP in the 1960s and 1970s, a campaign that saw him nearly expelled from the party, says the changes are needed to overcome the “friction of the factions”.
Whitlam, whose three-year term as Prime Minister ended with a vice-regal dismissal on November 11, 1975, calls for the ALP’s National Conference delegates to be voted for on an electorate-by-electorate basis by the party membership. At present, delegates to the National Conference are chosen by the State Conferences along rigid factional and union lines.
Quoted in the Financial Review, Whitlam delivers a “scathing assessment” of the ALP machines in the various states, pointing to the ALP’s abysmal showing in Queensland (7 of 26 House of Representatives seats in 2001), NSW (20/50) and South Australia (3/12) as evidence that “the predominant factions in those states cannot win federal elections”.