Former federal Labor leader Mark Latham has backed a push to give rank-and-file members more say in party pre-selections, calling the current model “indefensible”.
Mr Latham joined party elder John Faulkner on Monday for the NSW launch of Local Labor, a group that will push for greater democratisation within the party.
Senator Faulkner will put a motion before the NSW Labor annual conference this weekend that would let party members directly elect candidates for the NSW upper house and the Senate.
Speakers at the event in Sydney on Monday foreshadowed a trade union backlash and opposition from factional bosses.
But Senator Faulkner said the “rotten processes” of the current model were what had allowed the corruption exposed in recent Independent Commission Against Corruption inquiries to flourish.
“I want to fix the shameful behaviour and the scandals that have characterised NSW Labor,” he said.
“I say, change the system that gave us Eddie Obeid … change the system that gave us Ian Macdonald.”
Mr Latham said the walloping NSW Labor received at the 2011 election should be incentive enough for party reform.
“You’d think after the last NSW state election result, at the absolute bottom of the electoral trough, given the horrendous nature of the corruption problems, there’d be a greater recognition of the need for reform at state level,” he said.
“One thing that I think would be overwhelmingly helpful is for one of the union leaders to step forward, Gorbachev style, and say `Look … this past model is not working anymore.
“‘We need something new.
“‘Let’s democratise the party and recognise that these changes are not only necessary, they’re inevitable.'”
In an opinion piece published by Fairfax Media on Monday, NSW Labor general secretary Jamie Clements argued the direct election proposal would favour incumbent and inner city candidates at the expense of those from rural and regional NSW, and would weaken Labor’s link to the union movement.