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The Labor Language and all its Jargon

February 11, 2021

Sometimes it feels like joining a political party should come with a handbook and a dictionary. So here it is, a dictionary to help new members, and old members alike get their head around the common party phrases and jargon.

Labor Party Structures

This is the administrative authority of the Party and comprises the Executive, a representative from each of the Territory and Federal Parliaments, a Women’s Coordinator, the Young Labor President (non-voting) and fifteen delegates elected from Conference. The Admin Committee has the power to carry out decisions and directions of Conference/Branch Council, oversees the financial management of the Party (in conjunction with the Finance Committee), and considers resolutions and reports on administrative matters.
Branch Council is the place where delegates from our sub-branches and affiliated unions come together to debate significant policy questions and governance decisions outside of the annual Conference. Branch Council is a decision-making body with fewer powers than Conference but still with the ability to make some decisions concerning policy and the Rules as well as receive reports from different groups or individuals in the Party. Branch Council is composed of voting and non-voting members who come together at quarterly meetings. Voting members include those delegates elected by sub-branches, nominated by affiliated unions, a representative from each of the Territory and Federal Parliaments, and a delegate from Young Labor. These members have the right to speak, move motions and vote during Council proceedings. Non-voting members have full speaking and moving rights but are not entitled to a vote.
Campaign Committee oversees the planning, coordinating and administration of election campaigns.
Conference is our annual meeting where delegates vote on policy documents, rule changes, and party positions submitted by the different party bodies such as sub-branches and policy committees. It is the peak decision-making body of ACT Labor, holding the highest degree of power in terms of policy, process and governance functions. Conference is comprised of delegates elected by sub-branches, nominated by affiliated unions, and delegates from the Administrative Committee, Branch executive and public representatives.
Each year Conference is held to consider and debate changes to the Party’s Rules, Platform and other matters that have been brought to the Conference by the different party units. Conference is the only body in ACT Labor with the power to change all sections of the rules and to make changes to the Platform. The Rules are our primary governing document and outline how the Party operates including our democratic decision-making process. The Platform outlines what we stand for as a party, highlighting our plan for addressing and removing the causes of social injustice in our community and what people can expect of our policies in government. Other decisions brought to Conference for consideration and support may be resolutions that call for a specific action, highlight an issue that the Party or another group needs to resolve or investigate or acknowledge a positive outcome that may have occurred locally, nationally or internationally.
The credentials committee determines the eligibility of members to stand/vote in ballots and considers challenges to membership and continuity under the rules.
The disputes tribunal considers and resolves disputes about the interpretation of the rules, breaches of the rules and claims of intimidation or harassment.
Helps to conduct federal electorate campaigns by coordinating activities and fundraising efforts. Sub-branches also have a number of positions elected at their AGMs that facilitate their functions including an executive while Policy Committees have a Convenor and Secretary to assist with their administration.
The Legislative Assembly is the ACT’s local and state parliament. You can learn more about the Assembly on their website here.
Party Office is the ACT Labor headquarters. Party office staff ensure that the branch can continue to provide for its members and run successful, coordinated campaigns.
Policy committees are groups of members who meet regularly to discuss, debate and create policy. They are a great way to engage with specific areas of policy that are of interest to you. To join a policy committee contact the committee and ask to be added to their circulation list and begin attending their meetings. Find a list of our Policy Committees and their meeting times here.
Rules and boundaries is a committee that reports on any matter concerning the rules that may be brought to it from other Party units and drafts amendments to the rules as required.
Just as the ACT Labor Party is a smaller section of the Australian Labor Party, we split up the ACT into 17 smaller groups called sub-branches. Our sub-branches meet every month to discuss and debate political issues, organise campaigns or events, and make decisions to be considered by the Branch Conference or other groups within the Party. New members are placed into their local sub-branch which is determined by the suburb they are living in.

Campaign Phrases

Canvassing is a campaign’s systemic process of engaging with voters and constituents. This can include doorknocking, calling and having conversations with people in the electorate.
Door knocking is a campaign activity where candidates and volunteers go from door to door in a set neighbourhood. Doorknocking is a great way of having face to face conversations with voters. Doorknocking can be focused on different campaign issues, policy reforms, or it can just be an opportunity to hear directly from constituents.
Phone banking is an organised time for volunteers, candidates, and/or incumbents to call and have conversations with constituents. Often these sessions are organised around particular issues or topics.
This is where a group of people organised by a candidate or incumbent will go around a specific neighbourhood to distribute materials relevant to that area. An example would be distributing information about the tram to residents in Gungahlin and the city.
Street stalls are where incumbents or candidates will set up a stall in a high traffic public space where they have the opportunity to interact with people who may not have the time to speak to a member of parliament normally.
Hare-Clark is a type of electoral system that is used in both the ACT and Tasmania. Hare-Clark is a type of proportional representation system known as the single transferable vote method. Electors vote by showing preferences for individual candidates. To be elected, a candidate needs to receive a quota of votes. Each elector has a single vote, which can be transferred from candidate to candidate according to the preferences shown until all the vacancies are filled (Elections ACT, 2016). ACT Labor preselects 25 candidates to contest the election who each run their own individual campaigns in collaboration with the central Labor campaign. As a party member, you can volunteer to be part of any candidate’s campaign. You can find out more about the Hare-Clark system on the Elections ACT Website.

Other

ACTnow is our weekly newsletter. It is sent to all ACT Labor members on a Friday afternoon. It will include party notices, upcoming events, campaign notices, community events, and other information about what’s happening in the Party.
Pre-selection is the process by which ACT Labor members are nominated and elected by each other to stand for election ballots.
Affirmative Action (AA) is an ACT Labor Policy that is in place to ensure equal representation of women in elected positions. You can find the details of how and when AA is applied in our Party Rules.
A delegate is someone who is elected to represent a party body at a conference or council.
Executive is the term we give to our leadership teams. This includes the convenors, treasurers, secretaries, and presidents of sub-branches, and policy committees.
Members of the Legislative Assembly are our elected representatives. They are our state politicians. You may hear them referred to as members of parliament (MPs) or public officeholders.
Quorum is the minimum number of members needed to be present at a party meeting in order to conduct valid proceedings.