What is the Policy Forum?
The NSW Labor Policy Forum was created in the aftermath of the 2011 election disaster as part of a package of ‘reforms’ proposed by Head Office. It is modelled on UK Labour’s Policy forum which formulates UK Labour’s election Manifesto. The NSW Labor Policy Forum has a similar role, to produce a ‘directions document’ for the 2015 election, to be endorsed by the 2014 Conference, as explained here https://www.nswalp.com/nsw-labor-policy-forum/
It consists of 16 elected rank and file representatives, 16 union reps appointed by the Admin Committee, and the Shadow Cabinet. After the election of rank and file reps, co-chairs were appointed by Admin Committee, to assist John Robertson, the official Chair. In practice it is often chaired by the Party President Michael Lee (who is elected by Conference). As such it is still highly controlled by Head Office, although less so than Conference and Admin C’ttee.
Why get involved?
I nominated for the position of rank and file member of the Policy Forum as part of a broader practice of critical engagement with the Labor Party, hoping for the best from it but not having the highest of expectations that it could do what was claimed by Head Office- that is, give rank and file members a real say over Labor policy. I ran on a very straightforward platform of moving the Party’s policies to the left, making them more genuinely Labor. (My campaign video and platform and subsequent reports on the Policy Forum are here: https://lukewhito.wordpress.com/)
What have you done?
I have met with the following Branches and SECs to talk about how rank and file members can get involved in developing Labor’s policies for the 2015 election, and would be very happy to attend your Branch/SEC/FEC as well, either in person or via Skype/phone hookup.
Macquarie Branch, Annandale Branch, Bennelong FEC, Ryde Branch, Lane Cove Branch, Ku Ring Gai Branch, Riverstone SEC, Newcastle SEC, Leichhardt Branch, Sutherland Branch, Cronulla SEC, Caringbah Branch, Cook FEC, Hills Branch, Macquarie Calare Left, Country Labor Left Caucus, Springwood Branch, Valentine Branch, Lithgow Branch, Bondi Branch, Bondi Beach Branch, Coogee SEC, Merimbula Branch, Glebe Branch, Sydney SEC, Kings Cross Branch, Epping Branch, and the USYD Fabian Society.
I have attended every branch that has invited me, with the exception of Paddington, and I hope to visit them soon. I also have advanced plans to visit Harboard, Bay and Basin, Parramatta, Canterbury and Narooma/Eden Monaro FEC in 2014.
I have also maintained a facebook and twitter presence, as well as my blog to encourage people to have their say and to alert them to major events or to get them to participate, for instance, in the Jobs and Economy Policy Survey that my Commission created (you can still do it here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/LaborJobsAndEconomy )
Finally, I have emailed every ALP member I have an address for, including every SEC and FEC secretary, repeatedly, to encourage participation in a variety of ways, such as the aforementioned survey.
How can ALP members participate?
There are a number of ways you can influence NSW Labor’s 2015 Policies. I would start by encouraging you to talk to me in person or via facebook, twitter, my blog etc. You can also attend the Policy Forum. I would advise that members still pass motions at their Branch and SEC, and send those to the relevant Shadow Minister, and copy me in if you like. You can still take the Jobs and Economy Survey as well, and I would be happy to attend your Branch meeting to discuss policies with you.
The Policy Forum will meet again in March where each Commission will present a ‘draft chapter’ of the ‘directions document’, of 2-3000 words. If you have ideas that you want included in those documents, you may want to get them in to the relevant Shadow Minister and Policy Forum members before then.
The future- 2014 and beyond
As a member of the Jobs and Economy Policy Commission, my focus has been on pushing policies that promote economic equality, in response to the steady 30 year worsening of economic equality in NSW and Australia. I believe the NSW Government has a role to play in arresting this slow march towards a more and more unequal (and therefore unfair and unhappy) society. Dr Richard Wilkinson’s presentation on the effect of inequality on a society (here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cZ7LzE3u7Bw) reaffirms what people in the Labor Party know instinctively- we don’t want to live in the kind of society that extreme inequality produces. NSW Labor can make a difference on inequality, first by testing each policy against equality outcomes, by reporting on inequality at each State Budget, and by investing heavily in early intervention programs, programs that address indigenous disadvantage, and of course by equalising access to well-paid jobs, health, education, recreation and transport.
Next year I will also propose reforms that will make the Policy Forum more representative and effective. If you’d like to talk to me about that or anything related to policy, please contact me via firstname.lastname@example.org or 0422 265 775.