Labor elder John Faulkner will push for the direct election of Senators by ALP members and a new pledge to uphold ‘‘integrity’ by all Labor candidates.
Senator Faulkner will use the next NSW Labor conference to attempt to amend rules around preselections for the senate and the state upper-house.
In a letter to the party rank and file in NSW, he said the reform would take power from a ‘‘small number of factional leaders’’ and put it into the hands of all members.
But there was immediate resistance to his proposal, with some on the Right interpreting it as little more than a ‘‘takeover attempt by the Left’’.
The Left would be in a far stronger position if the union bloc votes are removed from the floor of conference, Labor’s supreme rule-making body, and replaced with a system of one-member one-vote.
The Left’s Anthony Albanese would have become opposition leader if the rank-and-file vote had been final. The 50 per cent weighting given to caucus members, many of who owe their political careers to unions, ensured Mr Shorten won the leadership despite the popular vote going against him.
NSW Labor leader John Robertson supports an experiment in direct leadership elections with a similar 50:50 weighting but does not support allowing the membership to pick upper-house candidates.
A senior Labor source said: ‘‘John Faulkner is right that Eddie Obeid and Ian Macdonald were preselected under the current rules but he forgot to point out that Michael Williamson became the national president of the ALP through direct elections. You could say that system has also been responsible for crooks.’’
After Labor suffered another electoral drubbing in the Western Australia senate election replay at the weekend, Mr Shorten signalled his support for painful but necessary party reforms with an idea to scrap an archaic rule that ALP members must also be a member of a union.
But some Labor heavyweights, including the Left’s Rodney Cavalier, said Mr Shorten must go much further. On Tuesday, Employment Minister Eric Abetz described Mr Shorten's proposal as ‘‘window dressing’’.
In his letter, Senator Faulkner described his proposal as ‘‘ambitious but achievable party reforms to address corruption in our party’’.
‘‘Putting preselection for Senators and MLCs into the hands of the members will bring transparency and democracy to a process that is sadly deficient in both qualities. A wider pool of candidates and a preselectorate that embraces the full party membership will, I have absolute confidence, raise the quality of our candidates,’’ he wrote.
‘‘Our present system rewards intrigue, trading favours and doing deals. Eddie Obeid, Ian Macdonald or their ilk would not be able to win preselection in a genuinely democratic process where all party members cast a vote. Their success depended on nothing but factional anointment; they required no support beyond the leadership of a faction.’’
It is understood the Right will not oppose Senator Faulkner’s push for an integrity promise in the pledge by candidates.
On Wednesday, another senior Labor Party head added her voice to calls for its membership be moved beyond unions.
ALP national president Jenny McAllister says Labor’s results in the West Australian Senate election re-run showed the party had a long way to go in winning elections, labelling its pre-selection process broken.
She is pushing for reform in the system that allows union bosses to select upper house candidates.
‘‘Union leaders, parliamentarians and faction leaders who exercised enormous power under the old model need to accept that the old ways have to change,’’ Ms McAllister said in an opinion piece for News Corp.