Bitter pill for factions holds party’s cure

Kevin Rudd: used the system to oust Julia Gillard. Photo: Andrew MearesThis is the reform Labor has to have – the one that slams shut the revolving door of leadership, invites the disaffected supporters to re-engage and encourages government in the national interest.

The irony, of course, is it is proposed by the man who capitalised on the worst features of the existing system to bring down Julia Gillard just a fortnight ago – and was himself a victim of that system in 2010.

It has been championed by Mark Latham, another former Labor leader who urged the party against rewarding the ”white-anting” of Gillard by Kevin Rudd and his supporters.

Most importantly, and finally, it draws a line under the political assassination of Rudd in 2010 that may well have been the biggest burden Gillard carried in her three years and three days in the top job.

Potentially, at least, it means opinion polls revert to what they used to be (useful indicators of community sentiment) rather than what they have become (calculated weapons in the destabilisation of leaders).

If embraced, it promises to be an antidote for the cynicism that has become all pervasive, especially when it comes to Labor’s NSW branch, and inject new energy into a party that has been mired in internal machinations and power plays for way too long. No wonder Anthony Albanese is talking up a massive membership drive.

Of course, no one is better qualified to articulate the destructive nature of the status quo than Rudd who, to varying degrees, has been a player in Labor’s six federal leadership changes in a decade.

Too often, he remarked on Monday when announcing the proposed change, political leaders become timid and intimidated by the avalanche of opinion polls when difficult decisions are taken. Was he talking of his own experience on climate change in 2010?

Too often, the whole of government and governance declines because leaders feel compelled to look over their shoulder when tough decisions have to be taken.

As Rudd pointed out, this is not a revolutionary reform. It has been adopted by parties in other democracies to encourage membership participation.

Wisely, he is proposing the caucus’ loss of power to tear down a prime minister is accompanied by giving it back the power to choose the ministry and the other leadership positions.

The removal of the caucus power to elect the ministry is one explanation (or excuse) for the timidity of the ministry – with certain notable exceptions – under Rudd and Gillard.

Labor should also focus on another proposal championed by Latham and the NSW state secretary, Sam Dastyari: a primary system of preselection, where members and community supporters get to choose candidates.

A first step would be to ensure locals have the most influence in the seats left vacant by Gillard, Craig Emerson, Stephen Smith, Simon Crean and Peter Garrett.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

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