Interview: Picking Up The Peaces
Unions: The Royal Con
National Focus: Around the Grounds
Economics: The Secret War on Trade
International: United Front
History: Confessions of a Badge Collector
Politics: Stalin’s Legacy
Review: Such Was Not Ned’s Life
Poetry: Osama's Top Recruiter
Satire: Woolworths CEO Denied Bonus After Company Posts Profit
The Locker Room
The Fog of War
Trots Bomb Back
The factional system in NSW took a big battering last week as Bob Carr and John Della Bosca created chaos in Macquarie Street with the selection of their new NSW Ministry.
As a strong advocate for defactionalisation I've always said that change needed to come from three areas: the rank and file, the Party Organisation and Macquarie Street.
The factional system has become nothing more than a system to manipulate people into parliament to support each of the factions or sub-factions Ministerial quotas.
Ideology and talent have little to do with what factions and sub-factions are about. One only has to look at the calibre of some of our preselection candidates in safe seats and the machinations surrounding the makeup of the new Ministry for this to be clear.
Bob Carr quite rightly had the authority to have a substantial say in who he got. However whilst he cracked the factional system, he certainly didn't smash it. In some ways what happened last week was the worst of all systems. A halfway house between a non-factional system and a factional system, which, in the end, gave Bob Carr some of what he wanted, gave the factions some crumbs to argue about but overall came up with the result which has left a bitter taste in the mouths of many in the Caucus including some in the Ministry.
Of course, behind Bob Carr was John Della Bosca and Michael Egan both with their own agendas. Having told the factional leaders as to whom they definitely wanted "in" and whom they definitely wanted "out" they then left it up to the factions and sub-factions to argue about the rest.
In the wash up of all this right wing factional leaders Eddie Obeid and Richard Amery were dumped whilst Ian McDonald who had little if any support in the broad left caucus got rewarded handsomely for the role he played to support Workers' Compensation changes in NSW. His factional colleague Kim Yeadon who many regard as the quiet achiever on the policy front didn't even bother to nominate when it became clear that his time concentrating on his ministerial duties would have been better spent networking his own factional colleagues.
As an outsider looking in one can't but look with amazement at how some of the Ministerial Portfolios have been compromised in an effort to appease many of the wounded egos in the Ministerial shake-up. Breaking up the Transport Portfolio and the makeup of some of the Super Ministries seem quite disjointed.
If factions count for something Pam Allan's defection to Centre Unity last week was a timely reminder of how fragile and irrelevant in a philosophical sense the factional system has become. Here we have Pam, a person who I regard as "left" becoming so disillusioned by the machinations within the "left" that she sees herself as having a more secure future in the "right". I don 't think Pam ever forgave her left comrades who ousted her four years ago from the Ministry. Time will tell whether Pam's shift to the "right" will make a difference to any ambition she might still have to re-enter the front bench in the future.
Factionalism clearly breeds both opportunism and mediocrity. It doesn't promote new blood and it doesn't always reward talent. Bob Carr's decision to play a bigger hand in ministerial selection is a recognition that factionalism as it currently stands is failing. Yet the process, which took place in Macquarie Street last week, is hardly a good replacement if we want real reform in the Party.
In my view the Party should disengage the factionalism amongst our parliamentary representatives by abolishing factional caucuses.
A reasonable replacement would be the Leader and four others elected (post election) by the caucus forming a leadership group. That group would be given the authority to put together a prospective Ministry for endorsement to the caucus. Each person wishing to nominate for the Ministry would put in writing why they believe they should be supported and the areas of interest.
The Leadership Group would need to have regard to a range of factors not the least being performance, rejuvenation, talent, gender, philosophy and regional balances when determining the outcome.
Ultimately the Leader and the Leadership Group elected by the caucus would need to win over a majority of caucus for endorsement of its overall package.
Some might argue that this proposal is very close to the process that occurred last week. Not so. The difference here is that the whole Caucus elects in advance the group that would put together the proposed Ministry and the whole caucus would decide the package not individual factional groupings or secret meetings. This would make the process of determining the Ministry completely transparent and open.
The next four years will be an interesting period for NSW Labor. If we don't take this opportunity to seriously reform party structures and disengage the factional system., then we are likely to spend a long time in Opposition once Bob Carr calls it a day.
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