President of the NSW Labor Party Mark Lennon has urged delegates gathered for its annual state conference to endorse the adoption of a code of conduct in order to clean up the party’s culture of bullying and harassment.
More than 800 delegates have filled Sydney’s Town Hall to wrangle over party policy, campaign strategy and party reform.
The delegates will vote on a number of measures that are being put forward in the wake of internal reports critical of the party’s workplace culture and treatment of women.
The party’s former NSW General Secretary Jamie Clements resigned in January, following harassment allegations by former Labor candidate and staffer Stefanie Jones.
Mr Lennon told the conference it had not been an easy time for Labor, but the party needed to complete the reforms in order to give itself the best chance of winning back government in this year’s federal election.
“As a political party we will always engage in robust debate, discussions and meetings…. but we should never let such times descend into harassment and intimidation, that is not us, that is not the Australian Labor Party, we are so much better than that,” Mr Lennon said.
“That’s why one of the important reforms is the proposal to introduce for the party a code of conduct.
“A code of conduct will allow us to better define what is appropriate behaviour in our dealings both in and outside the party, it clears up grey areas and leaves no margin of error,” Mr Lennon said.
Call for 50 per cent of elected positions to be held by women
Acting General Secretary Kaila Murnain, who is the first women to hold the role also urged delegates to adopt the reforms.
“I can tell you what they stand for very quickly, more change now,” Ms Murnain said.
She said a motion would be put forward to introduce targets to ensure that women made up 50 per cent of all elected party positions by 2027, from every electorate council in the state upwards.
There would also be a mentoring program for women rising through the party and external training for party officials.
Despite agreement from the factions on many of the changes, the Left faction put forward amendments to reduce the size of the party’s administrative committee in order to fast track the reforms, and to hold another state conference in December 2016 to track their progress.
Deputy State Opposition Leader Linda Burney told the conference the party could not afford to lose momentum over the reforms.
“Cultural change in any organisation, be it the Labor party or anywhere else is the most difficult thing to achieve,” Ms Burney said.
“And if you don’t want to be part of the solution then get away, because you’ll be part of the problem in bringing about that cultural change.”