Marriage equality – lobbying tips

Labour activist Tony Milne, who was involved in the successful Civil Unions campaign, has pulled together this quick list of lobbying tips for those who want to make a difference in the campaign for marriage equality.

Respect the way in which an MP has decided to make a decision (there are multiple ways MPs are influenced or could come to their decision, and multiple factors they are taking into account when making a decision – some of which may have nothing to do with the bill itself).

Discuss, don’t lecture.

Share your view and experience, don’t bully, hector, or harass (makes you feel better, but doesn’t help persuade – in fact, does the opposite).

Pick up on the signals in any response to inform future responses. For example: if an MP says they will be guided by their electorate (incredibly valuable information for an MP to share!), organise locally to encourage locals to explain from a personal perspective what it will mean to them the day the law passes. Or organise a petition of locals to demonstrate local support.

Never attack an MP you’re trying to persuade.

An undecided MP (even a “no”) who has been treated with respect, dignity, compassion and understanding, is more likely to become a “yes”.

Let’s not repeat the mistakes of our opponents whose poor tactics and lack of lobbying skills have helped our victories in the past.

Congratulations

Jennifer Kanis’ election night party. Photo by former NZ Young Labour President, Ella Hardy

Congratulations to Jennifer Kanis and Victorian Labor for the outstanding victory at the Melbourne by-election this past weekend. This afternoon the Greens conceded defeat.

It was a terrible set of circumstances for Labor – their federal poll ratings are rock bottom, the Liberals didn’t stand a candidate – instead giving implicit support to the Greens, and it being a seat with a significant Green shift (the ALP lost the federal seat of Melbourne to Green deputy leader Adam Bandt at the 2010 election).

My one word of warning is that this win does not change the situation that put Labor in this position in the first place. They are still in the same place they were at the disastrous Queensland and New South Wales state elections. This win cannot be seen as an opportunity to rest on their laurels it must be part of a catalyst for the radical change that the ALP desperately needs to have any chance of regaining the confidence of the electorate.

Labour’s Organisational Review – Building Support

In my eyes, this section of the review, Building Support, is one of the most vital. In times of declining participation in politics, and declining levels of political party membership (note: I’m not privy to Labour’s membership number, but I’m noting a general trend among modern political parties which I assume is also seen in Labour), Building Support is necessary not just to make sure we win in 2014, but to make sure that we’re around in the future.

So here are the recommendations for building support, as endorsed by Labour’s New Zealand Council:

D) Building Support
a) We will review and improve our welcome processes and induction packs for new members.
b) We will reduce barriers to membership by introducing a koha-based initial membership fee for young people and for people living on low incomes so that, on entry, low paid members pay what they wish.
c) We will up-skill our activists in the key skills of campaigning, organising and fundraising, and policy development. An early priority is enhanced candidate development.
d) We will develop a ‘registered supporters’ scheme for individuals and groups. A registered supporter is a person who agrees to have their name listed as such. They will receive communications and attend party functions, except formal meetings. Registered supporters cannot be a member of another political party.
e) We will increase our focus on building both our membership base and registered supporters.
f) We will encourage affiliation of appropriate bona fide groups in the community that share Labour’s values, principles, and kaupapa.
g) As a priority we develop a specific strategy for recruiting young voters and activists which includes a focus on Maori, Pasifika and our ethnic sectors.

There is a lot to cover! Only one rule change proposed for this section, rule 11, which relates to point d. We’ll come to that soon…

a) We will review and improve our welcome processes and induction packs for new members.

Good good. I understand that this is already underway, and it can’t come fast enough. All party members have heard some terrible stories of poor introductions to the party, so I’m very glad to see it get some focus. I guess we’ll have to wait and see what the outcome is like, but it’s excellent to see that here.

b) We will reduce barriers to membership by introducing a koha-based initial membership fee for young people and for people living on low incomes so that, on entry, low paid members pay what they wish.

I’m really in two minds about this one. Given the current fee for a someone who is un-waged is only $6.60, it’s not going to be a huge difference. Perhaps however the difference will be more psychological, I’m not sure. I’d be interested to hear what people think about this idea. It’s also interesting that a rule change is not required to action this point.

c) We will up-skill our activists in the key skills of campaigning, organising and fundraising, and policy development. An early priority is enhanced candidate development.

Excellent. I’ve got lots of ideas about how this could be achieved, but I’ll save those for some other time. For now I’m just glad to see it in the recommendations.

d) We will develop a ‘registered supporters’ scheme for individuals and groups. A registered supporter is a person who agrees to have their name listed as such. They will receive communications and attend party functions, except formal meetings. Registered supporters cannot be a member of another political party.

This is an interesting idea. The rule change (11) that accompanies this point changes the existing rule around supporters, which is (probably deliberately) vague. It specifies that supporters can attend party meetings except when in committee (does that include conferences?) and that they cannot be a member of any other political party. It’s not as stringent as the test for membership, which can also exclude people who are members of other groups as the New Zealand Council decides.

However, beyond that, the recommendation doesn’t go very far. Supporters are not allowed to vote for selections or the leadership and the recommendation doesn’t really suggest how they can be involved in the party. It will be interesting to see how, if at all, this is implemented.

e) We will increase our focus on building both our membership base and registered supporters.

I’m going to have to say I’m not happy with how vague this recommendation is. I believe the last time we had a major party-wide membership drive was back in 2009/10, and it was somewhat successful. I do think this needs to be something we do every year, so that recruiting new members becomes a fundamental part of our culture. I would at least like to see a measurable goal for membership growth come out of the review. I haven’t got the numbers, but off the top of my head I’d suggest that a goal of 5% growth would be a good place to start.

f) We will encourage affiliation of appropriate bona fide groups in the community that share Labour’s values, principles, and kaupapa.

Now here I have to eat a piece of humble pie and point out that my post about the affiliates section of the review was incorrect. There is a recommendation to encourage more affiliates. This is a very good thing. However, again, it is a reasonably vague recommendation and it will all come down to how much time and resource is devoted to it.

g) As a priority we develop a specific strategy for recruiting young voters and activists which includes a focus on Maori, Pasifika and our ethnic sectors.

This is a somewhat clumsily worded, but well intended recommendation. Are activists not voters? Is this saying we need to convince young people, Maori, Pasifika and “ethnic people” to vote for us, or join us? Both are worthwhile, but I’m not sure which it is suggesting.

All in all, this is a very important part of the review. My worry is that it only seems to be scratching the surface, and because it lacks any significant structural changes, ideas for implementation, or metrics to measure success, I don’t really see much changing because of it.

Labour’s Organisational Review – Affiliates

I’m going through the recommendations of the review in no particular order. I don’t have a lot of time this evening, so I’m going to focus on one of the smaller recommendations: how Labour engages with it’s affiliated organisations.

Here is the recommendation which has been endorsed by the New Zealand Council:

Strong relationships with affiliates will be enhanced at local level through LECs and industrial branches and also through the regional organising hubs and New Zealand Council.

Unlike many of the other recommendations, this one is not accompanied by any rule changes – presumably the rules as they stand are adequate to facilitate the intended stronger relationships with affiliates.

TTammany thing that stands out to me is that these recommendations are somewhat different to the recommendations that were proposed in the original May 2012 discussion document, which included:

6.  

d) We discuss with affiliated unions ways of optimising affiliation.
e) We investigate means of affiliation for groups in the community.

So it’s interesting that the endorsed recommendations have dropped the desire to see more groups affiliated to the party.

The Labour Party currently has six affiliates, all trade unions (RMTU, MWU, DWU, EPMU, MUNZ, SFWU). During the consultation phase I heard several people suggest that the Party look to bring other groups on board as affiliates, or through some other relationship. I think that would be a healthy thing. For example, in the UK the Labour Party lists amongst its affiliates a range of non-trade union affiliates such as the Fabian Society and the Christian Socialist Movement. In the Herald today, Claire Trevett suggests the Ratana Church as a potential future affiliate.

There are also some other aspects of the review (leadership elections, selections, branch membership etc which will indirectly impact on affiliates, I’ll be touching on those in future posts.

In summary, I think that the review could have been bolder regarding affiliates, and it’s a shame we don’t have any concrete recommendations to “optimise affiliation” or to encourage new affiliates, as both were suggested in the May discussion document.

Voter enrollment via Facebook?

In a move to increase democratic participation, from next week Washington will be the first state in the union to allow voter registration via Facebook.

Your information is coming to us from Facebook but you can do that without leaving Facebook. Your name and date of birth are pulled from Facebook profile, then it operates exactly as it does if you’re not in Facebook. Our state database checks to see if you’re already registered. If you are, it will take you to MyVote service, [where] you can update registration information. You also need a Washington state ID or driver’s license. We do another real-time check to match that this is a real person who is registering.

Certainly something that the New Zealand Electoral Commission should be looking at.

Labour’s Organisational Review – Electorates and Branches

This is going to get very detailed, very fast. If the technical details of the internal mechanics of the Labour Party are not something that interests you, then I recommend you watch a video of Barack Obama singing a Justin Bieber song instead.

From the review recommendations…

Electorates and branches will have fewer formal meetings and will be freed up to engage in meaningful policy debate, tackle community issues, campaign in local and general elections, recruit members and supporters, raise funds and organise social activities. To support this, Branches will only be required to hold a minimum of three formal meetings each year; an Annual General Meeting, which also agrees branch goals, a meeting to elect delegates to Regional Conference and discuss the issues which they will be debating; and a meeting to debate policy proposals and elect delegates to Annual Conference. Other meetings can be focused on the branch goals. Similarly, LECs will only be required to hold a minimum of four formal meetings a year, and branch-based LECs are the preferred model.

See attached rule changes affecting rules 23, 35, 36, 37, 38, 48-76,171, 197 and new rules 33, 40A.

Exciting stuff.

Almost all Labour Party members will have been to a meeting that has been bogged down by over half an hour going over needless correspondence, perhaps another half hour with a line-by-line review of a financial report, and by that point, everyone has lost interest.

This part of the review is trying to address that problem, and I think it certainly solves some of the problem. I’m going to break this down into the Branch and Electorate Committee components.

Branches

The change to rule 23 gives branches an actual objective (their exact purpose used to actually be quite nebulous), and requires them to set annual goals and report to their Electorate Committee on them. I will be very interested to see how many branches will actually observe this rule, but I certainly think it is a step in the right direction.

Rules 35 and 36 are being changed so that branches are required to hold two different types of meeting – formal and informal. They will be required to hold three formal meetings: an AGM, a “regional conference meeting” where they discuss policy proposals and elect delegates for regional conference and an annual conference meeting where they elect delegates to annual conference. They can then hold informal meetings as and when required, which presumably wouldn’t be burdened with as much bureaucratic overhead.

Ironically, this actually creates more requirements than already exist. Not only does it create added complexity, but it actually adds more meetings than are currently reading. By my reading (and I may be wrong here!) branches are currently only required to meet once a year (rules 36 and 42).

My gut feeling as that the problem that is trying to be addressed here is cultural, not constitutional. As it stands, if a branch wants to spend its time having social events and talking about politics, there are very few barriers to that in the current constitution. I think the rule changes proposed are much of a muchness- they don’t really create less work for branches, but perhaps they will encourage a cultural change.

Local Electorate Committees (LEC)

The rule changes around LECs also aim to remove the meetings-for-the-sake-of-meetings phenomena. However, instead of requiring three formal meetings, LECs are required to hold four. The purpose of the fourth meeting is left undefined. Perhaps someone just couldn’t let go of that meeting to read the correspondence? The existing rules did express a preference that LECs meet monthly, but again, they were already able to resolve to meet less frequently (existing rule 62). I was under the impression that they had to meet at least six times per year, but can’t seem to find mention of that rule.

For simplicity’s sake, I think it would have been preferable if both branches and LECs had the same meeting requirements. Given I can’t seem to find any particular reason for LECs to be required to meet once more often than branches (please tell me if I’m missing something obvious!) I think I will propose an amendment to remove the requirement for the fourth formal meeting.

There has also been an attempt to require a gender balance on the LEC, though there are some problems with the way it has been drafted. Rule 50 now states that no more than 60% of the LEC can be of one gender, whereas rule 171, which deals with how delegates are selected for the LEC, now states “Where there is more than one delegate at least half of the delegates must be women.” The inconsistency is slightly sloppy, and could lead to problems should more than 60% of the total LEC delegates end up being women, or if lots of small branches with only one delegate end up selecting men. The new rule 50 is inadequate as it does not provide a mechanism for dealing with either problem, and doesn’t indicate a consequence if the 60% gender balance is not met.

In addition, there is a very minor change which adds a requirement for a Youth Liaison Officer to be co-opted onto the LEC. Nothing controversial there.

 

 

At the end of the day, I think many of the bureaucratic problems faced by branches and LECs are cultural problems of their own creation. While the proposed rule changes may provide some with a good reason to re-evaluate what they’re doing, I suspect many will be stuck in their old ways. Already around the country there are some great branches and LECs who are doing new and exciting things within the existing framework. I’d be more interested about hearing about those, and getting the message out to people that we don’t always require constitutional changes, just a willingness to be open and try new things.

Labour’s Organisational Review

Labour’s President, Moira Coatsworth, yesterday issued an update on the progress of the organisational review. The party’s New Zealand Council have endorsed a raft of changes, some of which seem to take the form of little more than policy or ideas, and some which have become potential amendments to the party constitution. I’ve spent a few hours so far going through the documents, there certainly is a lot to take in.

Almost all of the coverage of the review, and the discussion I’ve heard in the party has focussed on the change in the way the party selects its leader. I’m going to do something a bit different and take a closer look at the other aspects of the review, which may go under the radar.

The documents are all available on Labour’s review webpage. In short, they are:

A one page summary document.

The full review recommendations.

The proposed constitutional amendments. (and for good measure, you can also download the constitution as it stands now).

The deadline for any substantive feedback on the proposed rule changes is August 31st.

Also, if there are any readers out there who want to have a say publicly, I’m willing to host any well thought out responses to the review recommendations in the form of guest posts. Just contact me.

Why the Maori Party won’t walk out

The Maori Party hoped to be a part of any government, regardless of its leanings. Then [Pita Sharples] confessed: “Actually, I got so used to the increase in salary I told the Prime Minister you’d better be good because if the other guys get in, I’ll go sell myself over there to keep my ministerial salary. I just got a new house, man – I can’t afford it on a backbencher salary so I’m up for grabs.” Whoops.

NZ Herald, 8 Feb, 2010