Open Letter to NSW Labor

Rose Jackson is the newly elected NSW Labor Assistant General Secretary. Here she writes to NSW Labor members about her agenda for the Labor Party.

NSW Labor members –

On Friday 22 July I was elected NSW Labor Assistant General Secretary. I’ve written a letter to party members so I can introduce myself and give a sense of my priorities in the role.

I believe in Labor’s project. I want to see Labor in Government. I want to see a fair tax system, good jobs of the future, real action on climate change and marriage equality. A big, active and organised Labor Party is essential to achieving that goal. I want to be part of building that party.

I’ve always been passionate about labour as a movement.

The Parliamentary Party plays an essential role for Labor – they are there to do what we are ultimately all striving for, Labor Governments implementing a Labor agenda.

Our union colleagues have been the driving force for social change in Australia for over a century.

The Labor Party itself is at the epicentre of these two forces. We support the Parliamentary Party, engage with them, campaign for them, develop policy with them, but we are not them. We work with our union friends, but whilst they are focused on building and exercising power for their members, we seek to engage with the entire community.

Labor cannot win government without an active and engaged Labor Party. Or even if it can, it will not have the ideas or vision needed to improve lives or the political capacity to implement those ideas.

I want a bigger Labor Party. More people joining and less people leaving, disillusioned because the reality of engagement with Labor did not live up to the promise.

I want a more active Labor Party. More people with the skills, motivation and support to be local leaders for Labor in their communities. More people seeing a real value in engagement, feeling valued for what they put in.

I want a more democratic Labor Party. Power in Labor will always be shared between the Parliamentary Leadership, the party office, our union colleagues and the membership broadly. Everyone has a stake in decisions and everyone should have a say. We have to get the balance right. At present the thousands of active party members who slog their guts out for the cause are sidelined in too many ways – I’d like to see them involved in directly selecting their FEC and SEC delegates to Conference, a direct say in Senate candidates, a directly elected NSW Labor President.

I want a more progressive Labor Party. I want to be part of a Labor Party where members can campaign for what they are passionate about – whether it be progressive tax reform, a Human Rights Act, legalised abortion and have a real chance of influencing policy direction. In general I don’t see it as the job of Party Officers to get involved in the policy process, I see my role as defending the right of all members to propose ideas through party forums – including ones that don’t fit with the ideas of the leadership. There is nothing wrong with an open culture of debate and discussion in NSW Labor, we should be a party where having ideas is as encouraged and as rewarded as having the numbers.

I want a Labor Party that is doing absolutely everything it can to form Labor Governments.  It is sadly too easy for the Labor Party to get distracted from this goal, consumed with internal issues and in-fighting. Leadership is necessary to avoid this, to keep the party focussed on winning elections – training activists, developing campaigns, building our capacity – that’s the kind of leadership I believe in. Unless we are all doing absolutely everything we can to win elections for Labor then there is still more work to do. Too much talent and capacity is wasted within the party because members who are not from a certain group or clique are sidelined.

In the modern world, it is easier than ever before to express your opinion. The digital world in particular means it is no longer necessary to join a political party to have a say. The flip-side of this is that social fragmentation means it is harder than ever to find genuine common purpose with others. Labor’s value is the ability not just to have an opinion, but to join with others and make a difference. Attending a rally or tweeting a politician is a pretty isolated activity that achieves little. Labor is where strangers come together to fight for a shared purpose – and win.

Whether we are strangers or have worked together before, I look forward to fighting – and winning – with you.

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