Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is ordering an intervention into Labor’s New South Wales branch to stamp out corruption and further limit the influence of wealthy property developers on the party.
Mr Rudd said last week he was revolted by the evidence tendered to the Independent Commission Against Corruption in New South Wales.
At his first Cabinet meeting as Prime Minister, Mr Rudd secured agreement to place New South Wales Labor into administration for a period of 30 days to begin the clean up.
And as Amanda Cavill reports, Mr Rudd says this is just the first step in his plan to reform the Australian Labor Party as a whole.
Mr Rudd and New South Wales Labor boss Sam Dastyari have agreed to take steps to improve the party’s image after damning revelations about former state MPs’ conduct was revealed by the state’s Independent Commission Against Corruption.
The Prime Minister and the national executive have handed Mr Dastyari absolute power to begin the reforms.
The changes include a policy of zero-tolerance under which MPs will be expelled if they are investigated for corruption.
New South Wales Labor’s administrative committee, 80 per cent of which is made up of union officials, is expected to be sacked.
Mr Rudd and Mr Dastyari want to have 50 per cent of the new administration made up from rank and file members.
Property developers will also be banned from standing for pre-selection.
It’s the first federal Labor intervention into a Labor branch in more than 40 years.
Mr Rudd says the ALP must be modern, more democratic and representative of the community.
He says it must also be free of the corruption that has been exposed in the New South Wales branch by the state’s anti-corruption agency.
“The labor Party I intend to lead will be a modern Labor party. I want a more democratic Labor party. I want one which is more representative of the face of modern Australia and I want a Labor party which is free from the taint of some of the things we have seen emerge in ICAC in New South Wales.”
The current disputes and credentials committee will be dissolved to make way for the establishment of an independent judicial body to oversee dispute resolution.
Mr Rudd says he also wants an internal ombudsman to hear the complaints of members and conduct timely investigations.
The move has been welcomed by New South Wales Labor leader John Robertson.
“Reform is important and the announcements that the Prime Minister made are absolutely critical. Greater democratisation of our party, implementing reform so it’s easier to remove anyone who’s found to have acted corruptly in our party. Issues that are going to send a very strong message to the community that this great party has a very proud history but also has a future in a contemporary society like Australia.”
The federal opposition says any reform of the corrupt New South Wales Labor party is welcome.
But Coalition Treasury spokesman Joe Hockey says given it was the New South Wales Labor party that supported Mr Rudd for Prime Minister, twice, the move is nothing more than a political ploy to fool voters.
“It’s a joke. When Kevin Rudd says that he is going to force an investigation into New South Wales Labor, it’s like the caged animal trying to force an investigation into the zookeeper. It’s a joke. The New South Branch of the Labor Party has delivered Kevin Rudd the leadership of the Labor party not once, but twice and now he’s so revolted by their behaviour that he’s going to investigate it? I mean, come on, please Kevin Rudd, stop treating the Australian people like fools.”
Mr Rudd says his party still wants the full participation of the trade union movement but there is a more diverse base who also need a voice.
And he’s warned this is just the first move towards modernising the whole of the Labor movement in Australia.
“This is the beginning of the reform program. The time has come to modernise the Australian Labor Party. We need to open the windows and the doors of the great Australian Labor Party to the Australian Community. We need to give people full voice, fair opportunity. And of course therefore the task of wider reform of the Australian labor Party beyond New South Wales lies ahead of us and I’ll have more to say on that in the future.”
Mr Dastyari has 30 days to begin implementing the reforms and Mr Rudd has not ruled intervening again in the future, should further changes be necessary.
The Independent Commission Against Corruption is expected to hand down its finding in the New South Wales Labor corruption inquiry in the coming weeks.
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