NSW ALP conference began with a bang, starting with a spirited debate on party reform followed by a passionate address by State Opposition Leader John Robertson.
Conference delegates received a Welcome to Country by Aunty Millie Ingram, supported by a large contingent of Indigenous ALP members, part of the Deadly Labor group.
The report of the administrative and rules committees marked the start of a vigorous debate on party reform, with NSW General Secretary Sam Dastyari acknowledging the need to build “a broader, more active, grass-roots movement.”
Time for bold reform
Assistant Secretary John Graham led the charge from the left, stating that the NSW Right’s failure to embrace in-principle support for direct election of the Parliamentary Leader’s position was overly timid.
“Reform must be brave and it must be bold,” Mr Graham said.
However, it didn’t take long for the sparks to fly, with the debate about Labor’s attitude and relationship with The Green’s providing the impetus.
Mr Graham questioned the effectiveness of using the issue of preference strategy as a means to woo back supporters who had drifted to the protest party.
“How about winning people back by talking about policies, policies such as social and economic justice?” Mr Graham asked.
Road to renewal
Old sparring partners Senator Doug Cameron and AWU Chief Paul Howes soon joined the fray, but beyond the theatrics there appeared broad agreement that urgent structural reform - including direct election of the leader - and progressive policy development were necessary to create real momentum and revive Labor’s fortunes.
The man tasked with rebuilding the NSW Parliamentary Party, John Robertson, delivered a powerful address that confronted the practical realities of rebuilding Labor at a state level.
Mr Robertson declared that, if elected, he would overturn Barry O’Farrell’s cuts to workers’ compensation rights, ban hunting in national parks and boost the numbers of science teachers in NSW schools.