What happens at a typical branch meeting? Perhaps you imagine a handful of political nerds trading gossip, or some minor union functionaries concluding their factional horse-trading. Perhaps a group of students in Che Guevara T-Shirts discussing Marx?
The reality is perhaps less interesting but more fun. Our branch is a very active one, and we have about 130 people as members. We generally have north of thirty locals attending the monthly meetings, many more if we have a high-profile speaker.
Our active membership is very diverse, and pretty representative of the area we live in. Many of our members were born overseas. Many of our stalwarts are from Greece, Italy or Malta, for example, or from a newer wave of immigration from countries such as Cambodia and Vietnam. Many others have parents who born overseas. We have a high percentage of retirees, but students, teachers, IT professionals and other workers are to be found at each of our meetings.
A typical meeting starts with a cup of tea and a hello. Once the meeting is officially started, we follow the prescribed format – the President opens the meeting up with a few remarks, we hear from the Secretary and Treasurer, new members are welcomed, and then we move on to “General Business”. When we have a speaker, usually they address the branch at this point. Often an MP will speak about current events in State or Federal Parliament, or perhaps someone from an NGO will talk to us about refugees or public housing. Usually there’s a flurry of questions.
In General Business, members make motions from the floor that we then discuss and vote on. Most of the motions take the form of “that the branch write a letter…” or “that the branch condemn…” in response to some current event. Although we often write to a Government minister, we also definitely keep the heat on the higher-ups in the party. Here are some example motions from the last meeting:
There are usually a good mix of national, state and local issues discussed, and plenty of people have their say on each one.
After the meeting we all tuck into the many treats that Voula and others have cooked up for us. I must admit, I think this has a lot to do with the popularity of our branch.
It’s a good thing about Australian politics that branches still matter. To move up in the party – or to retain preselection for your seat – you still need the support of rank-and-file party members. Factional blocs and (regrettably) stacks of course play their part these days, but a branch member, even at the individual level, can still get their voice heard.
(Originally from http://claytonsouthlabor.blogspot.com/)