Lavarch Report

THE NEW SOUTH WALES Labor Party has released its review document, the Lavarch Report, which recommends some superficial administrative changes to the workings of Head Office in response to decades of carpetbagging behaviour and unprincipled, shameless, grifting on the part of the NSW Right. That it has wasted the time of all involved goes without saying, that it’s a faux-reformist’s grab-bag of corporate buzzwords should be no surprise, that it can be adopted without question or demur by the Administrative Committee—a body the Report, to its credit, describes as completely dysfunctional—should point out exactly how much real change it proposes.

It recommends that Party officers should have employment contracts and performance indicators, that those people shouldn’t be on the Admin Committee and in a position to oversee themselves, and a number of other process recommendations informed by company-directorial practice and regulatory documents applying to NGOs. It comes from a misguided bureaucratic faith in rules and process, and a neglect of actual power analysis; the kind of happy credulousness that comes with smiling at crocodiles.

Lavarch in the report asserts and calls on members to recognise that:

No faction has a monopoly on good, principled and active members of the ALP.

This is true as far as it goes—but there’s a Gresham’s Law variant at work, in which the bad and unprincipled members drive out those acting in good faith. Centre Unity, or the NSW Right, does have an effective monopoly on power, without which ‘principle’ is just theory; and it exercises it in setting norms and behavioural standards, ones where it is, in fact, perfectly acceptable to take money in shopping bags. This kinds of both-sidesism absolutely rejects the possibility that one side is in fact worse, that one side in fact is in power and the other isn’t, and that that relationship of sordid intimate domination is key to understanding the last thirty years of Laborism. Setting out what the report is about, Lavarch establishes principles, beginning this way:

The first principle… is that power is to be exercised in the best interests of the Party as a whole; personal or sectional advantage is subordinate to the Party’s interests

Which only shows the profound lack of political awareness and understanding of what the organisation actually is. For the NSW Right the Party’s interest is precisely the subordination of its competitor faction, and is only that and nothing more; ‘smashing the left’ at Conference is the only performance indicator that has ever mattered. No performance contract or review panel, made up of the mates of officeholders, will ever alter this, or actually bring about the one thing that could improve matters: not ‘transparency’, but democracy.

My own very short submission to the Review process is copied below. The Review thanks me for the trouble I took to lodge it. I may as well have shouted it to the void.


Comrade

I note that contributions are invited from members to a review of the NSW Labor Party.

The NSW ALP is profoundly undemocratic, both in its rules and in its culture. Over decades, its decision making bodies have become gerrymandered and do not represent, or even pretend to represent, the membership of the Party or its affiliated unions. Indeed, the representation of trade unions is primarily factional, rather than industrial.

The Platform and policies established at Conference have become a joke, which neither the Party or its members of Parliament even pretend to support. This must change.

A Party which pretends to be democratic must require:

  • One vote, one value, when it comes to delegations to Conference,
  • Union delegations to be genuinely selected by members of those unions, rather than appointed,
  • Toxic elements of the organisation, as Young Labor has come to be, to have their voting influence curtailed.

It goes without saying that the actions of Head Office and the Parliamentary Party disappoint and let down the membership—and the broader community—because there is no sense in which the Party and its MPs feel themselves accountable.

Yours in solidarity,

Liam Hogan

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