Andrew Giles MP
I’ve been a Labor Party member in Victoria for almost 30 years.
I’ve never been prouder of the work of my Party in government than I am now under Daniel Andrews’ leadership - his determination and resolve through the pandemic capped off with a budget for our times.
But I’ve never been more concerned about the state of the party organisation than in recent months.
Labor’s national executive answered those concerns, in adopting the recommendations of Steve Bracks and Jenny Macklin to clean up Victorian Labor.
Their report is difficult reading for any true believer. Indeed, for anyone who cares about the state of our politics and our democracy.
It shows a structure that had lost its meaning, and a culture that had degenerated.
Abuse, bullying, branch-stacking and the pursuit of power for power’s sake are the antithesis of Labor values, pushing away decent members and undermining faith in progressive politics.
A betrayal of the true believers, and of all those who count on Labor governments. It’s a damning indictment, for which all of us must take responsibility, asking ourselves: what should we have done?
The report shows that Daniel Andrews and Anthony Albanese were right to act decisively to clean up Victorian Labor, and right to call in Steve and Jenny to restore our integrity.
Which they’ve done. By making 37 recommendations that will transform how the party works, and its culture. Along with an audit of our membership has led to the expulsion of well over 1000 members.
And more: by recognising that we have to move into the 21st century.
Reviewing the state of our membership, improving integrity safeguards in our rules and putting in place strong measures to protect our culture are necessary but not sufficient for our movement to continue to be fit for its great purpose of building a fairer future.
We can, and we must, learn from the experience of other membership organisations, including our affiliated unions, to be better.
So that never again can our rules be manipulated to serve the purposes of the few, not the many.
The state of all our political parties matters to all of us, it’s fundamental to the health of our democracy. Just today, there have been shocking revelations about branch-stacking in the Victorian Liberals.
In Labor, unlike our rivals, we’ve always had the courage of our convictions to have our conferences in public. To bring our policy debates into the open.
This is a good thing.
But too much of how the party works has been opaque - even to members - enabling bad practices to take root, and an unacceptable culture to form.
Transparency is a powerful disinfectant, as the confronting 60 minutes program which led to intervention in Victorian Labor showed us.
All parties need more of it, and the focus on good governance that is a big part of the reforms in the report.
This year, confronted by allegations of branch stacking and worse, we’ve confronted these head on, and set out a pathway to reform as well as dealing with those responsible for bringing Labor into disrepute.
Victorian Labor members can now have confidence in their Party, that it will again be a place for debate, which welcomes all our supporters equally and encourages them to make their own contributions to our mission.
The true believers are back in charge.
For this, we owe Steve and Jenny a vote of thanks.
Labor members and supporters especially, but all Victorians.
Just as our Premier took every question, every day as his leadership guided us through the second wave, Victorian Labor has confronted hard truths and addressed them.
Our party can be ours again.
Now it’s up to us to build on this report, to work with its findings to strengthen our culture and build a bigger, more dynamic and diverse party of values and integrity.