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Reform plan in limbo

A PUSH to give ALP members greater input in the party's key policy-making forum has made limited progress, amid renewed warnings Labor would continue to decline.

A PUSH to give ALP members greater input in the party's key policy-making forum has made limited progress, amid renewed warnings Labor would continue to decline.

A day after Julia Gillard reiterated her call that the party attract 8000 new members next year, the factions, rather than implement immediate reforms, agreed to refer to a committee the key proposal to give the rank-and-file a direct presence at the national conference.

The compromise, brokered by Ms Gillard, came after the Left faction abandoned at the last minute its proposal, developed two weeks ago, for 50 per cent of the delegates to the national conference to be elected by the rank-and-file and 50 per cent to be appointed by union bosses.

Late yesterday, it put to the Right a new proposition, in which the national executive would explore options for appointing rank-and-file delegates to the conference.

Ms Gillard said she wanted the next conference, due in three years, to include a component of delegates elected by the rank-and-file.

The Right, which has the numbers on the floor of the conference, was also set to proceed with its own reform proposals which fall short of what was recommended in the post-election review.

The review, conducted by John Faulkner, Steve Bracks and Bob Carr, warned the party would continue to decline unless it empowered the membership.

Mr Bracks warned the conference yesterday that if the party failed to adopt meaningful reforms, "hundreds more branches will collapse" and the only party members will be "pensioners and superannuation contribution beneficiaries".

Senator Faulkner said "the position of the party's dire".

The review's key recommendation was that a significant proportion of delegates to national conference be directly elected by the rank-and-file. Presently, the state branches, which are half union controlled, send delegates to the conference.

It also recommended the system of three rotating national presidents be replaced by a single president, elected by the membership, who serves the full three years and has a vote on the national executive. The conference agreed to the three-year term but the Right blocked giving the president a vote on the executive.

Earlier yesterday, the NSW Right powerbroker and ALP general-secretary, Sam Dastyari, offered to increase the 400 delegates at national conference by 150.

These 150 people would be rank-and-file members and would consist of one person from each federal electorate. The Right claimed the deal collapsed when the Left demanded there be another 150 appointed by trade unions.

Ultimately, the Right killed the idea because, a Right source said, it would have diminished the faction's influence by diluting the factional balance among delegates.

"It will put us out of business," he said. The Right was set to use its numbers last night to let the state branches keep appointing delegates to the national conference and to test in a couple of seats a US-style system of primary elections for preselecting a candidate.

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