I believe Labor faces two great challenges: maintaining a unity of purpose in defeating the Abbott government; and building a stronger movement for change in this country.
I am seeking your support to become Labor's next President because I am deeply committed to achieving both these objectives – and because I have the experience, responsibilities and capacity to make a difference by working with caucus colleagues, members and affiliates.
I joined the Party more than 25 years ago and have been Labor’s Member for Port Adelaide since 2007. In the Gillard and Rudd Governments, I held various Ministerial portfolios, and now serve as Labor’s spokesperson for the Environment, Climate Change and Water.
Before entering Parliament, I worked for 15 years with United Voice, including 11 years as South Australian State Secretary. During that time, I was involved in campaigns in industries as diverse as child care, aged care, automotive components and wine. I was an active supporter of the Unions@Work reforms led by Greg Combet and led a successful campaign to allow workplace agreements to include provisions requiring non-union members to pay a “bargaining fee.”
I have been a consistent supporter of reform in our Party that delivers more influence to Party members. At the 2002 Special Labor Conference, I moved a motion that members have a direct say in electing delegates to National Conference.
Despite the recent - incredibly important - change to electing our leader, Labor provides members with less direct input to important decisions than pretty much any other labour or social-democratic party in the world. Members should have more of a say – over delegates to the National Conference and candidates for the Senate, Legislative Councils and more. These issues have been talked about for too long – it’s time National Conference finally made a decision about reforms that have been recommended by Bob Hawke, Neville Wran, John Faulkner, Bob Carr and Steve Bracks.
These reforms needn't and shouldn't diminish our Party’s links to trade unions. Those links are a mighty strength. Unions give the Party a deep connection to working families and their priorities. I worked in unions as they refined their campaigning skills under Greg Combet’s leadership and John Howard’s attacks. Five state elections in the past 15 months have reminded us how effective that campaigning can be.
I cherish the union link. The challenge is to ensure it is fit for purpose: to look at ways of broadening participation in our Party.
Let me be clear in saying that reforming our Party is not a distraction from our task of electing a Shorten Labor Government. Far from it.
I want to be Labor's President to champion our greatest strength - our membership, as together we campaign to change our country for the better.
Mark Butler MP - ALP National President Candidate