Crisis = Danger + Opportunity

By Jenny McAllister

Its said that the Chinese character for crisis is a combination of the characters for danger and opportunity.

What can this fact tell us about Review 2010’s warning of the crisis facing the party?

Review 2010 uncovered deep concern amongst party members and affiliates about the direction our party has taken in recent years.

The overarching grievance is a perception that we are slowly but sure transforming from a large political movement to a small professional party. The decline in membership, debate, campaigning and community activity are symptomatic of this overall trend.

But the Review uncovered something more than discontent. The Review has also tapped a rich vein of enthusiasm and commitment to the Labor project.

At last weekend’s Progressive Australia conference in Sydney, over 500 members and supporters expressed their optimism for renewal.

Drawing strength from the experiences of renewal in Australian trade unions, the US Democratic party, and the British Labour Party, the debate ranged widely.

How can we use the tools of community organising to build support in the community for a Labor agenda? What institutions do we need to push, expand and challenge the ideas which drive our movement? What behaviours do we currently reward through our rules and culture, and what needs to change? How can we best tell our story so it connects with our past and Australia’s past?

The energy, passion and optimism in the room on that day made me wonder briefly if this was indeed the same declining institution documented by Messrs Faulkner, Bracks and Carr?

I know similar discussions are being had by ALP members across the country.

Part of my job as ALP Vice President is to make sure this conversation is heard, and  becomes part of the national discussion about our response to Review 2010.

Over the next seven days I’ll be meeting with party members in Launceston, Hobart, Melbourne and Adelaide to hear your priorities for reform and change.

I’ll be reporting back to the National Executive on what you tell me about how you’d like to respond to the Review.

We should never waste a good crisis. The energy and enthusiasm we’re seeing for a renewed Labor Party is an opportunity not to be missed.

Jenny McAllister is the Senior Vice-President of the Australian Labor Party. Jenny believes that active party membership can make a difference on important issues. She has been active in campaigns for the environment, peace and women’s parliamentary representation. In 2003 Jenny co-founded the Labor Environment Activist Network. Now a national organisation, the LEAN campaigns within the ALP on environmental issues, particularly climate change.

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