Attempt to break factional chains goes online
Online ... Andrew Leigh is looking for people who want to join the Labor party, but don't want to join a faction. Photo: Lyn Mills
Federal Labor MP Andrew Leigh has stepped up his recruitment effort for his independent group, with a website calling for support and offering an alternative to his party's factional system.
The group, ACT Independents, which describes itself as ''a network of independent, or non-aligned, Labor members in Canberra'', has established a website and appealed for potential members who want to be in ACT Labor but do not want to be in a faction.
Dr Leigh said that the site was attracting new blood to the ranks of the party's ACT branch, not poaching members from the established Left and Right groupings.
The member for Fraser was joined by his Labor colleagues Liz Dawson and David Mathews to launch their site, which encourages potential party members to consider getting involved with the non-aligned grouping.
The network has about 50 members, according to the MP, out of a Labor membership in the territory that hovers between 1200 and 1300.
''It's about attracting people to the Labor Party,'' Dr Leigh said on Monday.
''I've got a lot of respect for people in factions, plenty of friends who are in factions, but if people are keen to join the Labor Party but not to be involved in a faction, then it's important for them to know that that's an option for them.
''I think there are people who join the Labor Party because of the factions, I think there are people who join the Labor Party wanting a non-factional alternative.
''I just want to make sure that all of those options are on the table.''
The party's factional problems have been very public this month with elder statesman John Faulkner warning the NSW branch that it must rid itself of the influence of the groupings for the good of the party. The same day, the state branch's Left faction voted to apologise for preselecting scandal-plagued former minister Ian Macdonald.
There was also a call for the NSW branch to hold a special conference to deal with ''extreme factionalism'' within NSW Labor other reforms.
But Dr Leigh, who ruffled feathers in the federal Labor caucus this month with a pro-Palestinian motion that had the potential to embarrass Prime Minister Julia Gillard, said he was ''relaxed'' about factions in the party.
''Every grouping in the party makes its own decisions about how to get engaged. My view is that this was a potentially [good] way to draw people to the party but nothing other than an idea to help us reach our membership targets,'' he said.
''I take a horses for courses approach … Good people join the Right, good people join the Left and good people join the independents.''