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Embracing Labor's new's time

By Patricia Jenkings - posted Thursday, 26 September 2013

In an historic first, Labor rank and file will shortly receive their ballot papers to decide who they consider can best lead Labor through this refreshing period of change.

Undoubtedly, the recent winds of change sweeping through Labor ranks have had something of a ripple effect. Not only has membership interest grown but also ALP branches have become somewhat reinvigorated. Loyal members are motivated to sign on at their monthly meetings to discuss who will be the next leader. For instance, rank and file members are going around the room at their monthly asking each member's opinion on who they individually think could best lead the Party out of the wilderness. This reflects an increase in not just the capacity but also will of members to take control and influence the new direction of 'their' Party.

It is common knowledge, if the Labor Party is to survive, it cannot just be the brightest and so called best calling the shots and setting the agenda. Indeed they need to play a notable role. However, for effective growth, loyal and active party members need to be come empowered, with their practical opinions counting. It is also about them being treated with dignity and respect and given the fair go they historically so richly deserve.


Some may be uncomfortable with the Party's post Federal election rapid change. With such movement uncertainty can prevail. However, this can be overcome through strong leadership, which in turn can inspire active membership goodwill and positivity. A leader with a well thought out vision can make a big difference and one who can stand up to the many challenges ahead and sustain team member momentum.

As the saying goes, everything has its time. Legendary Gough Whitlam steered the Party through remarkable change and modernisation. He showed that this could be done and that the Party can prosper through effective change. Judging from recent developments, I am optimistic that ethical decision-making with integrity by the incoming Leader can and will play a key role. There is also a need for the incoming leader to create teamwork within Labor ranks, requiring sound organisational skills, innovation, courage and persistence.

Labor has been fortunate with two fine candidates to choose from to take up the fight to provide the best chance to win the next election. Both Bill Shorten and Albo are dedicated to the Labor cause and are working hard to win the heart and minds of the voting rank and file with debate about ideas. There has been a move away from 'image' and media cycles to the potential leaders civilly competing and not being afraid to acknowledge and focus on what members and those in the community are really concerned about. They both has proved that they 'walk the talk ', promote team play and practice what they preach, identifying forward thinking policies and programs that can reach out in an ever-changing national environment.

More readily, embracing the nation's cultural diversity. In so doing, the Leader could run Conventions, similar to those introduced by the Labor Chifley Government (1945-1949). They had a two-fold function. First to present an arrangement that would arouse and enlist the community into appreciating the necessity of the ambitious post-war immigration scheme and second, to educate all and serve as a practical and educative arm in the transition of new arrivals in the Australian environment, inspiring a sense of individual responsibility for maintaining the standards worthy of a great democracy.

Another important issue the potential leaders have raised is gender equality. Expanding female representation and women and girls' economic opportunities which is widely considered by global leaders including the World Bank as smart economics.

Since Labor was born in 1891 by the emerging labour movement in Australia, at time the road has been rocky. The Party is known for having something of an obsession with its history and is also steep in tradition. Although somewhat worn, the 1935 Lang Cup won my late father for debating is the very same Branch where I enjoy active membership. Remarkable progress has also been made through hard work and not being afraid to get your hands dirty and your feet wet.


The proof is in the pudding with the lead up to the historical ballot proving a step in the right direction. With renewed faith and hope, modern times could see the Labor family embrace an effective and far-reaching practical agenda. Simply, one that can create a better world for all while recapturing Labor values and principles.

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About the Author

Patricia Jenkings is a former political advisor. She has a PhD from the University of Sydney in social policy studies and education.

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