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Anthony Albanese, speaking at the 2018 national conference

‘Virtual’ ALP national conference will maximise stage management

The Labor party will hold its national conference “virtually”, before Easter next year, Anthony Albanese has announced.

The conference had been due to happen in Canberra next month but was put off due to COVID.

But some in the party complain that having the conference – which has 400 delegates – online will mean it will be even more highly stage-managed than in recent years. It seems a decision driven more by convenience and politics than health issues given COVID now appears under control in Australia.

Although Scott Morrison has indicated he intends to run into 2022, Labor has to be prepared for an election late next year, making it important for Albanese to keep the conference as predictable and friction-free as possible.

Albanese on Tuesday told the ABC the party’s national executive this week will discuss arrangements for the conference, with the dates to be finalised when the parliamentary sitting calendar is available.

He said the virtual staging of the two-day conference would draw on the experience of the Democratic Convention in the United States this year.

“In New South Wales, we held a party convention here for one day about six weeks ago. So, we have that experience.”

Observers would be able to watch the proceedings, he said.

Labor has already a draft platform drawn up for the conference.

Friday’s national executive meeting is also due to discuss the way ahead for the Victorian ALP. Earlier this year the executive intervened in the Victorian branch and installed administrators, after revelations of branch stacking.

Meanwhile Morrison next week will attend parliament’s question time virtually on three days, because he will still be in quarantine at The Lodge after his recent trip to Japan.

The Prime Minister has been busy with online activities since going into isolation, attending the G20 leaders meeting at the weekend, and before that, APEC, and delivering a speech on Monday night to a British audience. He is also doing some school functions. On Tuesday he shot a video on the latest AstraZeneca-Oxford University vaccine news. The company announced the vaccine was up to 90% effective.

On Tuesday he had a call – by phone – with Indonesia President Joko Widodo after the two saw each other at six virtual summit sessions over the past two weekends, including the East Asia Summit and APEC.

Among other matters they discussed COVID and progress on vaccine trials, as well as economic issues, and agreed to look for opportunities to increase bilateral co-operation further.

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