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Shorten on long road to Labor reform

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Who can get to a Labor Party meeting at 1.30pm on a Tuesday?

Not the tradies and sub-contractors Bill Shorten wants to bring back to the party.

The opposition leader unveiled his plan    on Tuesday to modernise and expand the ALP to 100,000 members.

But the meeting he addressed in Melbourne was filled with older veterans of ALP battles past, not the fresh faces he wants.

For any prospective Labor members, the ones Mr Shorten hopes will join in “one-click” online, it was a real taste of an ALP branch meeting.

The first question Mr Shorten faced was from an older man who addressed him as “comrade” and lengthily demanded he promise a republic in his first term as prime minister.

It starkly highlighted why Mr Shorten made the speech – that a modernised Labor needs to listen to Australians, not lecture them.

“It’s going to be up to the people who believe in an Australian head of state convincing Australians of that,” he said in response to his ALP comrade.

Mr Shorten took questions about “gross disloyalty” among infighting Labor MPs, as well as technical issues with preselection of candidates.

Our challenge now is that apathy is taking over the Labor party

On taking factional power away from unions, Mr Shorten said he wasn’t worried about retaliation, including unions possibly removing financial support.

“It’s up to unions what they do. I’m not anti-union, I’m pro-union,” he said.

A question about asylum seekers got one of the biggest rounds of applause of the day, but Mr Shorten made no promises on the issue.

Mr Shorten also said it was ridiculous that new party members had to wait up to two years before they could vote in internal ballots.

“We had rules designed to prevent small groups taking over the Labor party. Our challenge now is that apathy is taking over the Labor party,” he said.

A question about how to stop the media from supporting Tony Abbott and criticising Labor was batted away with a line about focusing on what the party can control.


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