Proposed constitutional amendments

Urgent appeal. Socialist Alliance needs to submit an updated list of over 1500 members to the Australian Electoral Commission to maintain our electoral registration and appear on the ballot at the next federal election. We're asking all existing members and those interested in joining to confirm your willingness to support our electoral enrolment by filling in this form.

I'm proposing some small, but important, changes to bring our Constitution more into line with our present practice and to make more explicit our Alliance building work.

It was drafted up in a different period - when we were an alliance of left parties and individuals - and even though it was changed in 2010, it still overly reflects an adaptation to the left parties that insisted at the beginning of the process that we could only be a "united front of a special kind", something the Alliance membership overwhelmingly rejected at successive conferences.

In a nutshell I've:

  1. Added a new 3.1 which states upfront our aim and makes clear that we are revolutionary socialist party but uses transitional language.
  2. Shifted back the points about electoral work, and replaced "parliamentarians" with "elected representatives". 
  3. I added in the necessary changes (insisted on by the AEC) regarding our decision to elect co-convenors. 
  4. Under section 8, I've added building the Alliance as a critical job for branches, alongside helping build and influence the workers' and other important social movements in a left-ward direction. While this clause may have been implicit, I feel it needs to be made explicit.
  5. Added some small amendments from the Treasurer to make sure that SA meets the requirements of the ATO as being a non-profit organisation.
  6. The rest of the changes (track changed) are largely overlooked sub-editing.

*  *  *

Socialist Alliance Constitution (2010 2012)

Name

The name of the organisation shall be the Socialist Alliance, hereinafter referred to as “the Alliance”.

Definitions

2.1 Financial Member. A financial member is a member of the Socialist Alliance who has paid the membership dues for that year.

2.2 Oppressed Group. An oppressed group is any broadly defined section of the population that suffers discrimination within capitalism based on race, ethnicity, sexuality, gender, age and/or disability.

2.3 Affiliate Ggroup. An affiliate is a socialist party, migrant organisation, trade union or similar working class organisation that has joined the Alliance as a discrete entity.

Aims and objectives

3.1 The aim of the Socialist Alliance is to replace the capitalist system with one in which the fundamental elements of the economy are socially owned and controlled and democratic systems of popular power established. Only these radical measures will enable us to deal with the economic, ecological and social crises of the 21st century.

3.2 The Alliance seeks fundamental social and political change by developing policies, campaigns, and protests in co-operation with all workers, environmental, anti-racist, and other social movements, and to propose an alternative to the corporate control of society. A sustained mass campaign of total opposition to capitalism should aim to create the conditions to bring about a transformation to a socialist society that is based on co-operation, democracy and ecological sustainability.

3.1 3.3 The Alliance is a coalition of socialist parties and socialist individuals also supports supporting a common action platform for the purpose of endorsing candidates to contest elections for local and state government representatives and for the federal House of Representatives and the Senate. The Alliance also operates to conducts campaigns that are based on its platform and policies as adopted, involving trade unions and communities, in order to support the provision of all of the resources and services that workers, unemployed, women, pensioners, Aborigines, refugees, migrants and other oppressed groups have the right to access and receive.

3.3 3.4 The Socialist Alliance stands candidates to give a voice to working-class struggle, and meet the need for working-class political representation.

3.4 3.5 In parliament, Socialist Alliance elected representatives use their positions to support workers' struggles and social movements, fight reactionary policies and promote the mass campaigns that can defeat the attacks on jobs and living standards.

Accountability of Socialist Alliance elected representatives parliamentarians

4.1 The Socialist Alliance does not allow its elected representatives (local, state or federal) parliamentarians or local councillors to exercise a conscience vote. If As they have been elected on the basis of the Socialist Alliance platform, they are required to vote in accordance with that platform and publicly advocate it.

4.2.1 Socialist The Alliance elected representatives parliamentarians, and persons employed to work in the offices of Socialist Alliance parliamentarians elected representatives shall be subject to the specific direction of the Branch that covers the electorate except that if their electorate is covered by more than one branch or their electorate is not covered by any branches they shall be subject to specific direction by their state organisation.

4.2.2 Socialist The Alliance elected representatives parliamentarians, and persons employed to work in the offices of Socialist Alliance parliamentarians elected representatives shall be subject to the specific direction of the National Executive where such directions relate to Alliance platform or national policy, which shall override any specific directions given by their local branch or state organisation.

4.2.3 Socialist The Alliance elected representative parliamentarians and persons employed to work in the offices of Socialist Alliance parliamentarians elected representative shall be subject to the specific direction of the National Conference which shall override any specific directions given by their local branch or state organisation or the National Executive.

4.3 Socialist The Alliance parliamentarians elected representative shall be accountable to the National Conference of the Socialist Alliance, and in between conferences, parliamentarians elected representative shall be accountable to the National Executive.

4.4 Once elected, Socialist Alliance candidates to political office shall donate any part of their salary that exceeds the average weekly wage, as published by the ABS, to the Alliance to help fund its work.

4.5 Socialist The Alliance parliamentarians elected representative shall be required to gain the consent of the body they are accountable to in Section 4.2.1 to be able to employ persons to work in their office(s).

Membership

5.1 Any individual who broadly agrees with the aims and objectives of the Alliance and agrees to participate in the non-sectarian, co-operative spirit of the Alliance is eligible to join.

5.2 A person who applies to become a member shall complete a membership application form and lodge with the Alliance the prescribed membership fees.

5.3 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.

5.4 A financial member who through their actions brings the Alliance into disrepute or who engages in behaviour that is considered to be detrimental to the best interests of the Alliance, may be asked by the branch executive or the National Executive to show cause within 30 days why the member’s membership should not be suspended or cancelled. The relevant branch or the National Executive shall after that time make a decision to maintain, suspend or cancel that person’s membership.

5.5 A member who has responded to such a request, and has subsequently had his/her membership suspended or cancelled, is entitled to lodge an appeal with the National Executive against the decision to suspend or cancel the membership of that person.

5.6 The National Executive is empowered to consider an appeal against the suspension or cancellation of a member’s membership, and may take evidence in writing or other form in making its decision. The National Executive will consider an appeal within 60 days of the lodgement of the appeal with the National Convener, and convey its decision to the appellant within 7 days of making its decision. A decision of the National Executive under this Section is final.

5.7 The National Conference will be the body to review a National Executive initiative to suspend or cancel the membership of a member. The decision of National Conference shall be final.

5.8 The Socialist Alliance encourages full participation of all members as activists and leaders at local, state and national levels of the organisation and as candidates and branch officers. The Alliance actively encourages working class women, Indigenous people, immigrants, queers, people with disabilities and young people to take on leadership roles within the Alliance.

5.9 The Socialist Alliance is politically pluralistic and encourages all individuals and perspectives to participate fully in our struggle for a socialist socialism society and in our way of working as an alliance. Members of other parties, organisations and groups who join the Socialist Alliance are expected to be able to may keep their identity as members of these organisations whilst 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.

5.10 To further this end Membership assumes a commitment to a non-sectarian and co-operative way of working, looking to build unity, positively supporting and encouraging the notion of alliances and ensuring that any critical debates are conducted in a positive manner and without personal attacks.

5.11 Once decisions have been taken by the elected bodies of the Alliance all members are expected to present that decision as the position of the Alliance, both in public and in dealings with other political organisations. At the same time, individual Alliance members and affiliate organisations are free to indicate their agreement or disagreement with any Alliance decision.

5.12 The assets and income of the Alliance shall be applied solely in furtherance of its objectives and no portion shall be distributed directly or indirectly to the members of the organisation except as bona fide compensation for services rendered or expenses incurred on behalf of the organisation.

National conference

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. Conference decisions shall be by show of delegate cards and by simple majority vote.

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

6.3 National working groups and other bodies may be formed by National Conference or the National Executive.

6.4 The National Conference shall elect the following National Officeholders:

  • National Convener/s
  • National Treasurer

6.5 The National Executive shall be composed of:

  • The National Officeholders and 12 other National Executive members directly elected by National Conference
  • One representative per affiliate organisation that chooses to exercise the right of representation on the National Executive
  • State and Territory representatives. The State and Territory representatives shall be Queensland 2, New South Wales 4, Victoria 3, Western Australia 2 and 1 each from the other States and Territories, those representatives to be selected by the relevant State Executive or State Committee.

6.6 If one-quarter of the paid-up membership or a majority of State executives/State committees request it by petition to the National Executive, a Special Conference of the Alliance shall be called in addition to National Conferences.

6.7 The implementation of policy and new activities between Conferences, and the organisation of annual and any other Conferences, shall be carried out by the National Executive, and any national body constituted by the National Conference or National Executive.

6.8 The National Officeholders and National Executive shall be accountable to the National Conference and to any Special Conference called for the purpose of considering their actions.

National executive and national officeholders

7.1 The National Officeholders and National Executive shall be responsible for the running of the organisation and for finance, membership, arrangements of meetings, communications with local groups and individuals, national bulletin production and distribution, liaison with other groups and organisations, and arrangements for seeking and enabling electoral registration and compliance with electoral laws; and any other matters delegated to them by the Alliance as a whole.

7.2 The National Executive has the power to appoint:

  • A National Secretariat to implement decisions of the National Executive and to prepare National Executive meetings;
  • National Working Groups;
  • National Conveners of Working Groups; and
  • Other officers of the Alliance where required to implement its duties as outlined in this constitution.

Section 7.3

The duties of the National Convener/s comprise: 

  • ensuring that the appropriate notice of National Executive and National Executive Secretariat meetings, agenda and motions on notice are provided in good time; 
  • ensuring that a chairperson and minute taker is appointed for each meeting; 
  • contacting other available National Executive members to facilitate a quick response to any urgent and pressing political matters; 
  • attending to national correspondence; 
  • maintain the Alliance membership and affiliation records (this duty can be delegated to a membership officer appointed by the National Executive); and 
  • performing other duties as the National Executive may from time to time determine. 

In the case that the national conference decides to elect more than one National Convener (that is, National Co-Conveners), the incoming National Executive shall nominate one of the National Co-conveners to act as "secretary" in accordance with Section 123(1) of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918, to be responsible for the carrying out of the administration, and for conduct of correspondence, of the Socialist Alliance, as directed by the National Executive.

7.3 4 The National Executive may appoint (from within its membership) a replacement of a National Officeholder should s/he resign in between National Conferences.

7.4 5 The National Executive has the duty to both canvass the broadest possible consensus within the Alliance and to initiate and lead political discussion throughout the Alliance to clarify and resolve differences on all important matters whilst while continuing to take decisions on behalf of the Alliance on immediate decisions consistent with the platform and decisions of the National Conference.

7.5 6 In between National Conferences, the National Executive may convene a National Council comprising National Executive members, Conveners of National Working Groups, Branch Conveners and members of branch Organising Committees/Executives. National Council shall have the power to set broad political directions for the National Executive.

7.6 7 The National Executive shall meet formally at least every two months. It shall establish new national sub-committees as required, coordinate election campaigns nationally, and shall allocate specific national tasks such as media liaison and the development of draft policy documents in specific areas.

7.7 8 The National Executive Secretariat, national working groups and individuals acting on behalf of the Socialist Alliance nationally, or the National Executive, should regularly report the substance of their work to the National Executive.

Local branches

8.1 The basic unit of the Socialist Alliance is the local branch. A branch shall have at least seven members. Each new branch must be ratified by the National Executive taking into account the location of other branches, including in relation to Federal and State electoral work. All Alliance members will be assigned to a branch by the appropriate district organising committee (see below) or, in the case of remote regions, by the National Executive. Members will normally live in the area covered by their branch, but alternatively may indicate the branch in which they will be active to the district organising committee or the National Executive. The National Executive may charter branches on a non-geographical basis where this helps the organisation of members.

8.2 A branch meeting shall be properly convened if it is held on a regular scheduled day (or days) of the month, or else called by authorised branch officers or on receipt of a petition by 25 per cent of branch members to branch officers, and notified by mail or email with at least seven days notice to each branch member.

8.3 Each branch meeting shall have a chair and a minutes secretary. The approved minutes shall be forwarded to the relevant State, District or City Organising Committee, and branch members as requested.

8.4 A properly convened branch meeting which achieves a quorum can make decisions for the branch. Decisions shall be made by show of hands by simple majority vote. The quorum at a properly constituted branch meeting is 5 members or 10 per cent, whichever is the greater.

8.5 Branches shall elect office bearers, including a Convener, Treasurer and Returning Officer, at least annually. Office bearers can be voted out at any properly convened branch meeting. Office bearers shall be subject to the specific direction of the branch.

8.6 Branches shall be responsible for ensuring a political discussion at branch meetings, carrying out campaigns to build the Alliance in their area as well as in support of workers’ and social movement struggles, and for the running of election campaigns.

8.7 Providing their material does not contradict the Alliance platform and policy as adopted, Alliance branches shall be free to raise additional, specific demands within their material.

8.8 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 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.

States and districts

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

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.

9.3 All financial members of Socialist Alliance who reside in the relevant state or territory shall have the right to vote at a State or Territory conference, unless a previous state or territory conference properly constituted establishes that future conferences shall be delegated.

9.4 The quorum at a properly constituted State conference is 5 members or 10 per cent of the financial membership, whichever is the greater.

9.5 Two or more branches may decide to form a district.

9.6 A Special State or District conference shall be called if the State or District executive decides, if at least one branch in the state or district demands it or if 25% of the membership of the state or district petition for a state conference. In the case of a conference called for by a branch or petition the conference must be held within 30 days.

9.7 States or districts, or two or more neighbouring branches, may choose to have organising committees to coordinate campaigns across branches and to coordinate state electoral campaigns.

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.

Caucuses

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 a caucus if it is formed.

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.

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

Election campaingns and pre-selection

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.

11.2 Branches shall also be responsible for their own election campaigns, including raising finances, to nominate candidates and production of material (above and beyond whatever common election material is provided centrally). They shall also be responsible for fulfilling any local legal requirements and providing necessary information to the National Executive for the purposes of complying with the election legislation (records of membership, donations, etc.)

11.3 Senate, state upper-house and city-wide candidates shall be preselected by state or city-wide conferences of the Alliance called for this purpose with 14 days notice.

11.4 In the event of disputes about candidates within or between branches or affiliate organisations the National Executive shall have the final say.

Amendments

12.1 Amendments to this Constitution shall be made by simple majority vote of the National Conference.

By-laws

13.1 Interim by-laws dealing with matters pertaining to the structure and functioning of the Alliance not set down in this Constitution may be adopted by the National Executive. Such by-laws shall be submitted to the following National Conference or Special Conference for ratification.

Dissolution of the Socialist Alliance

14.1 The Socialist Alliance may be dissolved by a special conference called for this purpose by the National Executive, or by one quarter of the membership (as above). Any assets of the Socialist Alliance will be distributed to any non-profit organisation or organisations having aims consistent with those of the Socialist Alliance as determined by such a special meeting or conference. The delegate ratio for such a special conference may be no less that the delegate ratio used for the last properly constituted National Conference.

randomness