ACT Labor held its inaugural branch member ballot for the President, Senior Vice-President and Junior Vice-President during October 2014.
I was elected President, retaining the position for the Left, while the Vice-President positions were split between the Independents group and the Centre Coalition (Labor Right).
The ballot was the result of a lengthy review of participation in ACT Labor. The aim of the review was to find ways to increase participation for members (and non-members) with ACT Labor.
I was a part of the participation review committee and ran for President because I want to keep implementing the reforms we recommended from the review.
Moving the election of President away from the ACT Labor conference to branch members and including a rank-and-file component to the election of our territory Parliamentary Leader were just some of the reforms proposed.
The change to a branch member election was the right thing to do.
Increased democracy within the broader ALP, with branch members voting for our National President and contributing to the vote for the leader of the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party meant members are increasingly expecting a say over positions held within the party.
One striking part of the campaign was the focus from all candidates (four candidates for three positions) on member engagement and participation.
The need to implement cultural reforms arising from the participation review was a strong theme through the entire process, and finding ideas to make membership of ACT Labor meaningful was a common theme we heard when listening to what branch members had to say.
Voting eligibility for the President ballot was reasonably broad: anyone who had been a branch member at the end of 2013 was eligible to vote in the ballot.
This meant that the big group of members who joined up in the wake of the 2013 Federal Election were eligible.
The best thing to come from the process was the chance to speak with and energise these new members of ACT Labor. Many who joined last year after the election hadn’t then taken the next step of becoming active party members.
Making the phone calls to new branch members gave them a chance to not only participate in the election process, but also to find out a bit more about what they can do as a part of their ACT Labor membership.
It was also an excellent chance to reach out to longer-term members who had seen their activity either decline or never really take off to remind them of the different ways that they can engage with ACT Labor.
The phone calls to newer members were so successful that I’m keen to continue that direct engagement with new members to welcome them to the party and help them to understand how they can continue to have their say.
Voting in a ballot is only one component of member participation and I’m keen to see more of our members take an active role in ACT Labor, particularly as we head towards both a Federal and an ACT election in 2016.
Louise Crossman is the ACT Labor President, the first elected by a direct member vote