By Mehroz Siraj
As leader of the federal Australian Labor Party (ALP) and the country’s Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd has officially intervened into the working of the NSW Labor.
While addressing a major media conference last week, Rudd announced that he had written to the federal ALP’s executive committee, advising it to take control of the NSW Labor for the next month.
Sweeping party reforms are to be introduced in NSW, Rudd announced .
In the wake of NSW’s corruption investigations that had centred around polarising party figures Ian Macdonald and Eddie Obeid, there would be a complete ban on awarding party tickets to property developers for the upcoming elections.
Both, Obeid and Macdonald were expelled from the party a few weeks ago.
A new tribunal aimed at hearing conflicts amongst party members would also be set up, Rudd revealed.
The aim of such a tribunal, which would be headed by neutral and competent administrators and legal experts, would be to ensure that issues within the NSW ALP were resolved internally only.
Corruption has been a massive and under-tackled issue for the ALP over the years.
It has seen former Health Services Union chairman and parliamentarian, Craig Thomson, former speaker, Peter Slipper and former prime minister, Julia Gillard embroiled in longstanding legal parliamentary and judicial battles over the last three years.
Rudd’s strong stance against corruption within the rank and file of the ALP is aimed at improving the election prospects of the party.
Rudd’s position that corrupt individuals would have no place in the ALP in the future, has been widely supported by members of the NSW Labor.
“The Labor party will not tolerate anyone who would act in an inappropriate manner,” the NSW Labor’s John Robertson told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).
“This ensures that the appropriate reforms that are needed will be implemented,” he said, voicing full support for Prime Minister Rudd’s initiatives.
Another senior NSW Labor member, Sam Dastyari said that addressing corruption was just the first step towards a massive reforms programme within the party that would be put in place before the next election.
“Cultural and structural changes would be put in place,” Dastyari told the ABC while accepting the idea that reforms within the federal and NSW Labor would require a massive cultural shift.
This cultural shift was not possible in the presence of strong unions who were dictating their agendas to the party, he said.
“It is the biggest party reform act within the party in over 40 years,” he reminded, recalling the Gough Whitlam led intervention into the NSW Labor in 1971.
Electoral reforms and giving non-caucus party members, the rights to vote for and choose their leaders were also under consideration, Dastyari informed.
The need for undertaking longstanding reforms within NSW Labor became clear at the conclusion of a damning corruption inquiry in the state earlier this year.
The inquiry that was conducted by NSW’s Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), heard cases of alleged financial corruption in property dealing against former state ministers and powerbrokers, Eddie Obeid and Ian Macdonald.
Both, Obeid and Macdonald were alleged to have allocated mining contracts in the state’s Hunter and northern regions to their colleagues and friends, without putting in place a thorough bidding process and proper introspections, as required under Australian laws.
Both are alleged to have earned millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks in return for favouring their colleagues and allies in allocating prestigious mining contracts in such discriminatory ways.
The investigating tribunal’s verdict and reports on this case would be made public in late July.