Parachuted Labor MPs told survival up to them

Parachuted Labor MPs told survival up to them

Sam Dastyari will announce the opening of federal preselections.AT LEAST six federal Labor MPs risk losing their seats unless they can win the support of local branch members after NSW party bosses warned they would not help them win preselection.

The general secretary of the NSW Labor Party, Sam Dastyari, said he had told all federal MPs including John Murphy in the seat of Reid, Stephen Jones (Throsby), Chris Hayes (Fowler), Ed Husic (Chifley), Michelle Rowland (Greenway) and Laurie Ferguson (Werriwa) that they would be expected to win the support of their branch members. The six were parachuted into the seats for the last election.

Cabinet ministers in NSW including Chris Bowen, Peter Garrett, Tony Burke, Tanya Plibersek, Anthony Albanese and Greg Combet are unlikely to be challenged according to ALP convention.

Craig Thomson will probably not contest the seat of Dobell because his suspension from the party prevents him from running and is unlikely to be lifted until after the preselections.

Mr Dastyari will announce the opening of federal preselections at the annual state ALP conference on July 14 and 15 and has promised – other than in exceptional circumstances – to not impose candidates on rank and file members as the party has been ”too quick” to do in the past.

”We need to use those powers more sparingly,” he said. ”Party members rightly expect to be involved in selecting Labor’s candidates for office.

”The first big test for us will be this upcoming round of federal preselections. From time to time you may need to intervene, but it should be the exception and not the rule.”

Mr Dastyari said he wanted to extend the community preselection model trialled in the City of Sydney Council elections to state and federal preselections.

He said the party had recruited 2000 new members in NSW, at least half through a $5 membership deal. NSW had hit an all-time low of fewer than 13,000 members after the last state election. The party needed to go beyond the traditional branch structure and was preparing to launch an online branch which already has 500 prospective members.

”There is and there will always continue to be a place for traditional branch structure. But you have to be prepared to give Labor Party members and supporters alternative ways of participating,” he said.

The NSW MP Penny Sharpe, who is helping co-ordinate the new online branch, said it would help the party reach out to regional members, women with children, young people and the elderly who could then take part in policy formulation and debate.

Ms Sharpe said the online branch would help generate interest in activities such as door knocking.

The Labor historian and former NSW minister Rodney Cavalier, however, disagrees with moving away from the traditional branch structure, calling community preselections and online meetings an attempt to ”mask the fact the party has disappeared in most of NSW”.

”We are talking about branches in the arc of the party’s birth, what were the safest Labor suburbs in all of Australia. There were four branches in the Glebe peninsula, which became two, which became one, became none,” he said.

”If the Labor Party abandons residence [geographic electorates] as the principal reason to join the Labor Party, it should be no surprise that it disconnects from the electorate. People vote where they live.”

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