January 24, 2013
My judgement is that the ALP's factional system would have blocked any aboriginal candidate from being pre-selected for a winnable Senate seat. It is to the ALP's shame that it has never had an indigenous representative in national parliament.
It also tarnishes the ALP's credibility as a progressive party with a record of improving the lives of indigenous Australians in the form of anti-discrimination and land-rights legislation to the closing-the-gap policies and the Redfern speech and the Apology.
It is good that Nova Peris has been selected by Gillard going over the top of the factional power blocs in the Northern Territory by exercising a "captain's pick". The factional system has little interest in reform, a merit based system, or openness and accountability. We can expect a large and bitter backlash from them to this important and right step for the ALP.
Will the ALP now reform itself and look to recruit more indigenous people into federal seats? It needs to do something, given the Aboriginal candidates were elected for the Country Liberal Party in the 2012 Northern Territory elections (eg., the marginal wins to Bess Price and Larissa Lee). Both Warren Snowden (the MHR for Linigari) and Trish Crossin (who filled Bob Collins’ casual Senate vacancy in 1998) have refused to step aside.
The ALP has a view that it should be selecting among its own membership. But the factional system prevents this, especially the "Darwin end" of the NT Labor party. It did so in 1998 with Tracker" Tilmouth (who withdrew) and again in 2001 with the Aboriginal candidate, Pat Anderson.
Peris, a celebrity candidate, will inevitably clash with the Labor Party machine and the straitjacket that it imposes on members. She may well be left hanging in the wind.