The South Australian Labor Party is scrambling to respond to a legal threat made by a Labor scion over “oppressive, antidemocratic and inconsistent” campaigning guidelines for hopefuls vying for federal preselection.
Alice Dawkins, 27, the daughter of former Keating government treasurer and senior minister John Dawkins, works for a consulting firm specialising in Asia strategy after a stint working for Andrew Forrest’s Minderoo Foundation, and is contesting the soon-to-be vacated federal seat of Spence.
On June 21, her lawyer, Greg Griffin, sent a letter to SA Labor secretary Reggie Martin threatening to take matters to the Supreme Court unless the state branch responded to concerns about the preselection guidelines by Tuesday afternoon.
The guidelines — which are provided only after candidates have nominated and in a short window before ballots are sent out — include a ban on doorknocking, mailing or emailing voters using addresses provided by the party, and may sidestep the state’s quotas for women in Parliament.
Dawkins has since given the party more time to respond as campaigning for nomination begins; the party’s roll of preselectors was given to candidates on Tuesday and the deadline for ballots to be sent out is Friday.
Griffin’s letter says Dawkins and other candidates were given access to a document outlining compulsory guidelines for preselection only after they had nominated.
“It is incorrect to assert that Ms Dawkins or for that matter any member nominating for preselection can properly be said to have agreed to a decision of the state executive of which she was not aware … until after she paid her $1000 nomination fee and which should have been provided to her before she signed the nomination form and not after,” it said.
Griffin also takes exception to the guidelines. He wrote: “Putting aside that issue, the guidelines themselves appear oppressive, antidemocratic, and inconsistent with the stated objectives of the ALP of encouraging rank and file participation in the preselection of candidates.”
SA Labor’s internal campaigning guidelines, as seen by Crikey, identify phone calls and text messages as acceptable forms of campaigning between the hours of 10am and 8pm.
The document explicitly prohibits doorknocking, mail-outs or emailing using the party roll — a rule which gives “an unfair, unwarranted and impermissible advantage to select candidates”, Griffin says.
The letter also claims the seat’s preselection process will skirt federal and state affirmative action rules that require 45% of Labor seats to be held by women. It criticises the decision to leave just three days between rolls and ballots being sent out, arguing that it gives candidates just three days to campaign.
Spence, considered a safe Labor seat, has been held by Nick Champion since it was created in 2019. Champion is expected to move into state politics after the next election.
Dawkins will face stiff opposition from Transport Workers’ Union senior branch official Matt Burnell who’s also seeking preselection.