“Whitlamesque”: Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has won praise from a grassroots Labor activist. Photo: Andrew MearesKevin Rudd’s lightning strike against the ”factional few” was welcomed by Labor politicians and hailed as ”Whitlamesque” by one grassroots Labor activist.
The radical reform proposal to give rank and file members a 50:50 say in choosing the Labor leader would refocus Labor on arguing out good policy and take the heat out of the opinion poll cycle that ended the prime ministerships of Mr Rudd in 2010 and Julia Gillard, caucus members said.
Backbencher Andrew Leigh said the rule changes would address the problems caused by the distraction of polls which ”suck up more and more of the oxygen. There is so much pressure that opinion polls place on leaders that it makes it difficult to do reforms that involve a period of unpopularity before popularity follows,” he said.
Darcy Byrne, the mayor of Leichhardt and a long-time campaigner for party reform, said: ”This is the most radical democratic reform in the history of the ALP.”
”In giving tens of thousands of people a vote on the leadership, Kevin Rudd is making Labor the people’s party,” Cr Byrne said.
Ed Husic, now parliamentary secretary to the Prime Minister, said the reform would force Labor leaders to engage with the membership and detail a coherent policy agenda to win their support.
”This will require the leader to argue out a policy platform,” he said. ”Genuine policy debate can only be welcomed.”
NSW Labor leader John Robertson welcomed the process.
”NSW was the first to set up a special committee of inquiry into the model last year,” he said.
Labor MP Stephen Jones, a member of the Left, hailed the announcement. ”A lot of us have been talking about it since June 2010 and it will be warmly welcomed by rank and file members.”
Not all Labor members support the proposal. Former Tasmanian premier David Bartlett said the system was not perfect, but was better than the alternative.
He described the current system of representative democracy as ”an antidote to crass, race-to-the-bottom, populist claptrap”.
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The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.