‘I have mandate for change’

Opposition leader Bill Shorten will give a landmark speech today proposing sweeping reforms in the ALP.

According to reports in Fairfax, Shorten’s plan includes weakening the influence of unions and directly electing of candidate who are non-faction or union aligned. He hopes to attract thousands of new members.

Mr Shorten, as the first member-elected leader of the Australian Labor Party, is the architect of the most significant cultural shift in Labor internal structures in decades – according to political journalist Mark Kenny – including an end to Labor’s longstanding requirement on prospective members to be members of a relevant union.

“I believe it should no longer be compulsory for prospective members of the Labor Party to join a union, and I have instructed our national secretary to have this requirement removed from Labor Party rules,” according to Shorten’s speech notes.

According to Fairfax, Shorten has flagged a sharp reduction in union dominance in Labor’s supreme policy making body, it’s triennial national conference, by constructing its membership in the future through “a mix of people directly elected from and by Labor members, and those elected by state conferences”.

This could result in union representation at national conferences – the next one being scheduled for 2015 – dropping from as high as 70 per cent to as low as 25 per cent.

The democratisation push is aimed at modernising the ALP by breaking the grip of unions and factional chieftains, delivering the ALP from the pernicious of back-room players and so-called faceless men.

However, the move could face resistance from those very quarters, especially because Mr Shorten believes the challenges facing his party go much deeper than mere presentation.

According to notes from his speech, Shorten will argue “unless we change, it is where we will stay” and “if you think the system is broken, help us fix it”.

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