Constitutional amendments

Constitutional amendments

Editor's Note: These amendments were received by the deadline, but there was delay in publishing them.

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Motion 1:

That we delete the following text from section 5.4 of the constitution:

Branches will seek to take new members through the three introductory educational class series as soon as practicable after they join Socialist Alliance. These are: Introduction to Socialism, Feminism and Socialism, and Introduction to Marxism. Branches are encouraged to implement this within the first three months of membership.
Branch leaderships are to explain to new members the importance that Socialist Alliance places on theoretical education as a guide to our practical work.

So that Section 5.4 would read:

5.4 Applications by individuals to become members of a branch will be processed by the local branch executive/organising committee for a decision on acceptance or rejection, and its recommendation will then be presented to a meeting of branch members for endorsement or otherwise.
If the meeting of branch members, as formally assembled, approves of a membership application, then the applicant will be accepted as a financial member.
Applications by individuals to become members of a branch shall be considered by a meeting of either the branch or the branch executive within 30 days. If the meeting approves the application then the applicant is considered a financial member. If the branch executive makes a decision concerning a membership application they shall report that decision to the next meeting of the branch, which may then accept or overturn the decision of the executive.
An individual who lives too far from any branch to participate at branch level is regarded as an “at large” member. An application for membership from such an individual will be considered by the State executive, which will consider an application within 60 days of the receipt of an application.
If the State executive approves of the application, then the “at large” applicant will be accepted as a financial member of the Alliance. There is no right of appeal against the rejection of an application to become a member.
Branches will seek to take new members through the three introductory educational class series as soon as practicable after they join Socialist Alliance. These are: Introduction to Socialism, Feminism and Socialism, and Introduction to Marxism. Branches are encouraged to implement this within the first three months of membership.
Branch leaderships are to explain to new members the importance that Socialist Alliance places on theoretical education as a guide to our practical work.

Rationale

This change eliminates an unrealistic goal from the constitution (namely that branches be expected to conduct 12 education classes in a 13 week period as a standard practice with new members). It leaves the important motivation of encouraging education of our new members about socialist ideas where it belongs: in our perspectives resolutions.

(For reference, clause 22 of last year's conference resolution reads: “22. Branches should endeavour to take new members through the three introductory class series as soon as practicable after they join Socialist Alliance. These are the Introduction to Socialism, Introduction to Marxism, and Feminism and Socialism.” Clause 20 of the proposed perspectives resolution for this year's conference reads: “It remains a priority for branches to ensure that all new members have the opportunity and are encouraged to complete Introduction to Socialism, Introduction to Marxism and Feminism and Socialism classes. ”)

The constitution should primarily set out the rules of the organisation — not the things members are “encouraged” to do. There are no comparable clauses “encouraging” members to campaign with Green Left Weekly or contribute financially to the Alliance or to participate in other party building activities. If we were to include such “encouragements” in the constitution, it would undermine the bottom line nature of the rules with which members and party bodies are expected to comply.

Motion 2:

To add the following text at the end of section 5.10 of the constitution and to delete section 10.2:

It is the responsibility of any members who have formed a tendency to advise the national executive as soon as practicable about the tendency's formation and the political basis for the tendency. As far as possible tendency meetings shall be open and transparent. Once Alliance policy and campaigning priorities are decided, tendencies are expected to abide by them and not organise public campaigns in opposition to Alliance policy. Secret factions are not permitted in the Socialist Alliance.

So that 5.10 would then read:

5.10 The Socialist Alliance is politically pluralistic and encourages all individuals and affiliates to participate fully in our struggle for socialism. Members of other parties, organisations and groups who join the Socialist Alliance may keep their identity as members of these organisations while participating fully in the development of the Alliance. Any individual or affiliate organisation shall have the right to form a political tendency for the purpose of influencing Alliance policy and activity. It is the responsibility of any members who have formed a tendency to advise the national executive as soon as practicable about the tendency's formation and the political basis for the tendency. As far as possible tendency meetings shall be open and transparent. Once Alliance policy and campaigning priorities are decided, tendencies are expected to abide by them and not organise public campaigns in opposition to Alliance policy. Secret tendencies or caucuses are not permitted in the Socialist Alliance.

And section 10.2 would be deleted

10.2 Any individual member or affiliate organisation shall have the right to form a caucus for the purpose of influencing Alliance policy and activity. As far as possible caucus meetings shall be open and transparent. However, once Alliance policy and campaigning priorities are decided, caucuses are expected to abide by them and not organise public campaigns in opposition to Alliance policy.

Rationale

This change clarifies that a tendency formed to advocate a change in Alliance policy and a caucus formed to advocate a change in Alliance policy (as opposed to a caucus of an oppressed grouping) are the same thing. It spells out that tendencies should be openly declared and participate in open political debate and that secret tendencies are not permitted. If adopted, this change will mean that the word “caucus” will have only one meaning in the Alliance constitution whereas it currently has two meanings, potentially leading to confusion.

Motion 3:

To amend section 5.11 so that it reads:

5.11 Membership assumes a commitment to a non-sectarian and co-operative way of working and respect for the democratic decision making processes in Socialist Alliance. looking to build unity, positively supporting and encouraging the notion of alliances and ensuring that any critical debates are conducted Members are expected to participate in discussion and debate in a positive manner, and without personal attacks.

Rationale

This change aims to eliminate vague or potentially confusing wording and make clear that respect for the democratic decision making process is expected of SA members.

Motion 4:

To add the words “Branches may elect alternate delegates to replace regular delegates in conference sessions where a regular delegate is unable to attend.” into section 6.1 so the amended section reads:

6.1 Policy shall be decided democratically by a National Conference, which shall normally be held annually but at least every two years, or by Special Conference. These conferences shall be open to all members but decisions shall be made by delegates proportionally representing the membership of local Alliances branches. Branches may elect alternate delegates to replace regular delegates in conference sessions where a regular delegate is unable to attend. Conference decisions shall be by show of delegate cards and by simple majority vote.

Rationale

This change specifies that delegates represent Alliance branches — the presumed but unclear existing meaning. It also includes in the constitution a practice which is common in many branches, namely electing alternate delegates to conference.

Motion 5:

To amend section 6.2 to read:

6.2 A Ddelegate ratios shall be decided by the National Executive after consultation with local branches and district and statewide bodies.

Rationale

Since conference delegates come from branches and not other Alliance bodies, this change eliminates an unnecessary burden on the NE (that is to consult with state and district bodies). Of course such consultation can still take place but is no longer mandatory. Changing delegate ratios from plural to singular also clarifies that all branches elect delegates on the same ratio.

Motion 6:

To replace “28 days” with “at least14 days” in section 8.7 and add the words “In the event that electoral law in a particular jurisdiction requires longer notice for such a ballot or motion, the branch will be required to give notice in compliance with that law.” so that the amended section reads:

8.7 Where branch meetings will conduct elections for office bearers, delegates or candidate pre-selections (except where a public election called at short notice makes this notice impossible), or consider a motion to close the branch, then 28 at least 14 days’ notice of the meeting and the intended ballot or motion shall be given to all members of that branch, and the National Executive shall be advised of the motion. In the event that electoral law in a particular jurisdiction requires longer notice for such a ballot or motion, the branch will be required to give notice in compliance with that law.

Rationale

This change makes possible a more speedy election process for branch elections but still gives adequate notice to members of when such elections will take place.

Motion 7:

To replace “Branches” with “more than one branch” in section 9.1 so the amended section reads:

9.1 There shall be an Annual State or Territory Conference in every state or territory where Socialist Alliance has more than one branch Branches.

Rationale

This change eliminates a burden on those branches to organise both an annual state conference and an annual election of branch office bearers in those cases where there is only one branch in a state or territory. In the current circumstances, this would apply to Adelaide, Hobart and a potential future Darwin branch. Of course there is nothing to stop those branches organising a state conference if it would be politically useful.

Motion 8:

To delete the words “Such committees shall usually be formed on the basis of one delegate per branch, with affiliate organisations who are not represented by branch-elected delegates also eligible to nominate a representative.” from section 9.2 and adds the words “Affiliate organisations operating within a state or district have the option of appointing a representative to a state or district committee.” so that section 9.2 reads:

9.2 States and districts shall elect their own executives and office bearers, as required, and shall have control of all campaigns at their corresponding level. Such committees shall usually be formed on the basis of one delegate per branch, with affiliate organisations who are not represented by branch-elected delegates also eligible to nominate a representative.  Affiliate organisations operating within a state or district have the option of appointing a representative to a state or district committee.

Rationale

This change allows more options to states or districts to determine the basis of their elected leadership bodies. It also brings the constitution into alignment with current Alliance practice.

Motion 9:

To delete section 9.8

9.8 State and Territory conferences shall:
• Elect/ratify the National Executive representative/s from their State/Territory, as required;
• Take reports from their State/Territory representatives on the National Executive.

Rationale

This change deletes a clause that has become redundant since the last conference changed the basis of election to the National Executive.

Motion 10:

To delete the following text from section 11.1:

“Nominations shall be called 14 days before a scheduled branch meeting. The Returning Officer shall supply candidates for pre-selection with a list of all branch members eligible to vote. Candidates shall be given equal time of at least five minutes each to speak to the branch meeting.”

so that 11.1 would then read:

11.1 Branches shall pre-select the candidate or candidates for their electorate(s). Nominations shall be called 14 days before a scheduled branch meeting. The Returning Officer shall supply candidates for pre-selection with a list of all branch members eligible to vote. Candidates shall be given equal time of at least five minutes each to speak to the branch meeting. The pre-selected candidate must receive an absolute majority of votes. If no candidate receives an absolute majority in the first round of voting, the candidate with the least number of votes shall drop off and further rounds of voting conducted until one candidate gains an absolute majority.

Rationale

This change brings the Alliance constitution into alignment with a common practice in the Alliance — that of appointing returning officers and calling for nominations for candidate preselection at a meeting called for this purpose.

Motion 11:

To add the word “such” and the words “Caucuses are expected to abide by Alliance policy and are not permitted to organise public campaigns in opposition to Alliance policy.” into section 10.1 so that it reads:

10.1 Any oppressed group within the Alliance shall have the right to form a caucus. All members of the Alliance who are part of a particular oppressed group shall have the right to participate in such a caucus if it is formed. Caucuses are expected to abide by Alliance policy and are not permitted to organise public campaigns in opposition to Alliance policy.

Rationale

This change cleans up wording and clarifies that caucuses of members from oppressed groups (as with tendencies) are expected to abide by Alliance policy and not organise public campaigns against the Alliance. This has previously been ambiguous because of the double meaning of the word caucus in the constitution.

Motion 12:

To replace the word “group” with the “tendencies” in 10.3 so that it reads:

10.3 Caucuses, groups tendencies or affiliates within the Alliance have the right to produce and circulate literature publicly.

Rationale

This change spells out that tendencies have the same right to produce literature as caucuses and affiliates. It also eliminates the word “group” which does not relevantly appear anywhere else in the constitution.

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