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Gallop branches out

WHILE the debate rages in Labor ranks nationally over the level of union power at executive level, WA Premier Geoffrey Gallop is focusing his sights at another strata of influence – the branch member.

In a comprehensive interview with WA Business News to be published next week, Dr Gallop confirmed his support for changing the balance of power within the party, but he said the issue in WA was also about giving branch members more say in choosing candidates.

Senior Labor and union sources confirmed the issue was likely to gain enough support to prompt considerable change at the party’s State conference later this month.

Dr Gallop failed to win enough support for a similar move last year to change rules that give WA branch members only about 15 per cent of the vote in the preselection of candidates for their electorate.

“It is my view that the ability of the ordinary members of the party to have greater say in the selection of candidates is an objective that I am pursuing,” he said.

“I initiated a reform at the last (State Labor) conference, which went a small way. I would like to see that extended so that the local member of the Labor Party, the ordinary member, has a bigger say in who the candidates are for the seat.”

Dr Gallop also said he favoured the move towards an equal balance of power between affiliated unions and other members, the so-called 50:50, but he would wait until a national review being undertaken by Neville Wran and Bob Hawke was completed.

One WA unionist told WA Business News that Dr Gallop was likely to succeed.

“I think it will get up again,” the source said.

“I doubt there will be much opposition to that.”

However, the same source said there were doubts about the degree of difference such changes would make in terms of opening the party to new ideas.

For instance, the source pointed to New South Wales’s track record where branch members had more than 90 per cent of the selection vote yet that State had big branch stacking issues.

Labor State secretary Bill Johnston said the WA party was prepared to wait until next year’s conference to implement any recommendations from the Wran/Hawke review that was not expected to provide a report until August this year.

However, Mr Johnston confirmed the moves to change the voting mix at branch level were likely to result in significant change.

“It may well end up at 50:50,” he said.

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