Labor has taken an historic step to ensure women hold 50 per cent of positions at all levels of the party organisation and get a greater shot at running for parliament.
But the ALP national conference rejected a raft of rule changes that would have given grassroots members a greater say in candidate selections.
A deal was struck between the NSW Right and Victorian Left factions to take the 40 per cent target to 45 per cent in 2022 and 50 per cent in 2025.
State party branches would be required to report on how the target was being met and the national executive would be able to intervene in preselections to ensure compliance with the rule.
Conference and union delegate Linda White said the importance of the decision should not be underestimated.
However, two motions to allow more member involvement in Senate candidate preselections were rejected by a majority on the final day of the conference in Melbourne on Sunday.
A further motion will see direct election of candidates to the national conference based on a formula involving House of Representatives seats.
Another historic change of rules to allow people who aren’t union members to join the party was carried.
The new rule states that: “Members of the party are encouraged to be members of a union or to employ union labour. However, state branch rules must not require members of the party to be members of a union or to employ union labour.”
Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese said for the party to grow it must give members a greater say in all areas of decision-making.
“We must change the power relationships within the Labor party,” he said.
“That requires people like myself and others in this room to give up some of that power we have historically held.
“That power and influence should be extended to the rank and file membership because it is the key to our electoral success.”
NSW opposition leader Luke Foley was heckled when he moved a resolution – later passed – to review the party’s “socialist objective”.
Federal Labor frontbencher Chris Bowen said the party’s objective should be for “a better, fairer country”.
“We won’t rest until we have a modern, sophisticated, multicultural, fair and egalitarian nation,” he said.