Labor Left leader Anthony Albanese last night called on union chiefs and powerbrokers -- including himself -- to relinquish power and influence to members because they have a “collective responsibility’’ to reform the party.
And he hit out at some March for March protesters who overstepped the mark, cautioning that those on the progressive side of politics “should leave the abusive slogans and offensive posters to the fringe’’.
Mr Albanese, who won the popular vote in last year’s leadership ballot, backed calls for the party to be overhauled, saying critics who argued internal debate was a distraction were missing the point.
“If we can craft progressive policies and endorse candidates drawn from across the community -- not just from our existing circle of insiders -- we can make Mr Abbott a one-term prime minister,’’ he told Young Labor supporters in Cairns.
His intervention in Labor’s reform debate is significant because the former minister is widely respected, popular with members and heads the Left faction.
“The bottom line for Labor Party reform is that unless some people who hold power now are prepared to share it with others, it will fail,’’ he said.
“You can’t give more power to the membership without taking it from the powerbrokers.’’
They had a collective responsibility to act, even if that meant some lost power. “I include myself in that,’’ he said. “This will mean uncertain outcomes. But that’s the point.’’
He also called for civility in politics. “Labor’s starting point on the road to political recovery must be acceptance that negativity and name calling won’t advance our political cause.’’
It was a shame, Mr Albanese said, that when Australians joined the March in March protests, the “message was undermined by some of the banners’’.
He said he saw one that “actually condemned democracy’’. “That’s not progressive. That’s unacceptable. Full stop’’.
Some protesters also wore “F..k Tony Abbott’’ T-shirts.
“We should leave the abusive slogans and offensive posters to the fringe,’’ Mr Albanese said. “Labor seeks to govern with majority support of the nation, not to be just a party of protest.
“We must change the culture of party processes to harness the broader participation that will broaden our access to new ideas and potential candidates. Ideas must come from the parliamentary wing and workplaces, but also from business people, mums and dads in the suburbs, young people, professional people, churches, and ethnic communities, even the local footy club.’’
He also backed the push by ALP national president Jenny McAllister and retiring veteran senator John Faulkner for union chiefs and factional powerbrokers to cede power.
“I support the rank-and-file membership having a direct say in electing delegates to state and national ALP conferences,’’ he said.
“The same goes for the selection of Senate and upper house candidates.’’