News National Labor backtracks on leader process

Labor backtracks on leader process

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Bill Shorten has ducked questions over whether the Labor Party is dropping new rules which would protect him from being removed as leader.

The draft ALP constitution – which will be debated at the national conference in late July – includes a new rule that the parliamentary leader is chosen by a ballot evenly split between caucus and grass-roots members.

But it does not set in concrete the way in which a leadership ballot can be triggered.

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ALP caucus rules agreed in 2013 that an election for leader can only be held after a federal election in which Labor does not form government, when the leader resigns, at the request of the leader or if a petition is signed by caucus members.

The petition must be signed by at least 75 per cent of the members of the federal parliamentary Labor Party in government or 60 per cent when in opposition.

Asked on Tuesday whether the party’s draft constitution would protect him from being removed, Mr Shorten said: “When it comes to the Labor Party and its rules, that’s a matter for the Labor Party.”

When pushed to clarify his position, Mr Shorten said: “I’m not worried about the issue and the party’s united, and I’m grateful for the support I get from my federal parliamentary party.”

It is understood some members of the ALP’s Right faction have been agitating to drop the leader ballot process altogether and hand the power back solely to the caucus.

Former leader Kevin Rudd came up with the rules in the wake of leadership instability in the party and concerns over the influence of factions.

ALP national secretary George Wright said the proposed rule changes would enshrine in the party’s national constitution the method of electing the parliamentary leader introduced by Kevin Rudd in 2013.

“The changes have already been adopted by the federal parliamentary Labor party and the ALP national executive and were used to elect Labor’s new leader in 2013,” Mr Wright told AAP on Tuesday.

“The proposal before the conference would mean they are also specifically included in the party’s rules.”


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