Veteran Labor senator John Faulkner wants Senate candidates chosen by the party rank and file – but the NSW party has ensured his successor will be selected by the present, faction-dominated system.
Faulkner, whose term has three years to run, today announced he would not be seeking nomination for the term beginning July 1 2017.
On Friday the NSW branch will call nominations – even though the new, already elected Senate has not even begun.
The Senate candidates who will face the people at the 2016 election will be pre-selected by the July state conference, which will endorse the choices of the factions.
Nominations for the Senate team would normally be called next year. But the NSW party is going early on the grounds that there is a state election in 2015, as well as a national party conference, and the state conference could get crowded out of the calendar.
Faulkner today reiterated that at the July state conference he will be arguing for change to the party’s rules “to address internal corruption and to open up the closed factional processes of selecting Senate and NSW Legislative Council candidates”.
“No issue is more critical for Labor in New South Wales,” he said.
Even in the unlikely circumstance that his proposal got through, it would not apply to this round of Senate preselections.
But it is considered to have no chance of passing because the right, which has the numbers in the NSW party, is digging in against it.
Opposition leader Bill Shorten has nominated giving the rank and file a say in Senate nominations as among the party reforms he wants made.
In his statement, Faulkner stressed that “my commitment to party reform and internal renewal remains undiminished”.
Faulkner, who commands respect on both sides of politics, entered Parliament in 1989 and served as a minister in the Keating government and the Rudd and Gillard governments. As special minister of state in the Rudd government he proposed extensive changes to the electoral funding laws that, however, never passed the Senate. He later became defence minister but announced in July 2010 that he would leave the frontbench after the election. He was present at 2010 meeting between Rudd and Gillard on the night of the leadership coup and was a known critic of the overthrow of Rudd.
Faulkner was a member of the review panel that looked at the 2010 election; the review called for extensive democratisation of the party. Party reformers will be looking to him in the lead-up to next year’s national conference to fight for broad-based changes.