As the Labor Party lurches to a blistering defeat in September there is a lot of work going on to reframe it as a democratic and progressive organisation. Those that seriously believe in the ALP as a 21st century social democracy have begun quietly. The reframers know they will run into internal conservative opposition.
It will be a debate that gives Labor members and supporters plenty to keep themselves busy as they contemplate the Abbott era.
In NSW we have seen the beginnings of attempts to challenge monoliths of preselection power bases and union block voting. We have seen boldness borne of desperation in trialling new methods of engagement in preselections. In Victoria demands on the national executive to actually implement the many tomes calling for party democratisation and reform have been accompanied by deadlines for measures such as directly electing the state party leader.
These are the tips of an iceberg reflecting serious attempts to raise questions about the culture and the operation of the Party. Reassessment of values, aims and aspirations for what constitutes a progressive community and the role of the state to build it will underpin much of this debate. Whilst the lid of discipline holds down much of this debate before 14 September it won’t last long after that date.
Big questions are being framed up by every Labor parrot in the corner pet shop with a raft of Labor ex ministers ready to hit the ideas and book circuits.
The large numbers of younger activists looking to the role of Government in building progress provides hope for comeback
Debates on how Labor plans and regulates for sustainable growth to build the capacity of the State to deliver on the social justice and redistributive project that lies at its heart are being argued about – and not just in a 5 km radius of the Centre of Sydney and Melbourne
Given that there will be a long bleak winter of Opposition to contemplate these existential questions it is better to set the parameters now for the ideological debate rather than await the hysterical recriminations and blame shifting that will inevitably follow after September.
For a Party well used to being at the crossroads, the choices to be made soon will be defining
All power to those who are promoting these debates. They will need it.