A.L.P. DISPUTE â€“ Noah Carroll v. Craig Langdon
Decision â€“ Tuesday, 17 May 2011
Charges were laid by Noah Carroll, ALP State Secretary, on behalf of the ALP Administrative Committee following a resolution adopted by the Committee on 16 December 2010.
Noah charged Craig Langdon, the ALP State MP for Ivanhoe 1996-2010 and a Party member of some 36 yearsâ€™ standing, with three offences, which are dealt with separately below. A written submission was presented by Noah, and given to Craig for his response.
Craig replied with a written statement on 23 March 2011. A supplementary statement supporting the charges was submitted by Anthony Carbines, the current MLA for Ivanhoe, on 10 May 2011, and Craig made a final written submission on 11 May 2011.
A hearing was convened at ALP Head Office on 12 May 2011, but Craig unfortunately indicated his unwillingness to attend (even though the date had been changed to accommodate his availability).
My findings on the three charges are as follows:
1. 20.5.1 (a) â€“ Disloyalty to the Party
This charge relates to Craigâ€™s resignation from Parliament 90 days before the scheduled general election, and in particular his letter of 25 August 2010, addressed to John Brumby, offering John so-called â€œadviceâ€. This letter generated media attention (e.g. Herald Sun â€œ$350,000 dummy spitâ€ and Age â€œGetting even at everyoneâ€™s expenseâ€). Craig intended that his resignation from Parliament would trigger a by-election in the seat of Ivanhoe, which he went on the public record as predicting Labor would not win.
In his letter to John, Craig apologises â€œfor the inconvenience I know this will cause you and the Government.â€ It is hard to accept that this apology is sincere. Craig resigned from Parliament in a way intended to inflict damage on the Party and specifically on the candidate the ALP had endorsed for his electorate of Ivanhoe. Craig attributes his decision to resign to unspecified â€œpersonal and family reasonsâ€, but has not provided any substance to allow any reasonable observer to conclude that his resignation was not motivated solely by spite and wounded pride.
If Craigâ€™s letter had been sent after the writs were issued on 2 November, there would be no charge. In fact, some party members may well agree with some elements of Craigâ€™s political commentary. However, in the context of an imminent general election where the ALP was obviously facing some difficulties, his resignation, letter and subsequent media comments would, to a reasonable person, be viewed as deluded, dangerously egotistic and treacherous towards the Party that had given him so much.
The evident glee with which Craig publicly anticipated the by-election as a â€œreferendumâ€ on the Labor Governmentâ€™s transport policies â€“ weeks before a fixed term general election â€“ is nothing short of shocking. Context is critical to assessing the seriousness of Craigâ€™s action in resigning from the State Parliamentary Labor Party, and I donâ€™t believe any reasonable person can doubt that Craig was completely aware of the consequences of his actions.
DECISION â€“ Craig Langdon is found guilty of gross and contemptible disloyalty to the Australian Labor Party, in attempting to trigger a by-election shortly before the scheduled 2010 general election.
2. 20.5.1 (b)(i) â€“ Publicly attacking the Party
This charge relates to various comments contained in leaflets and letters, that Craig circulated in the electorate of Ivanhoe, both before and after his resignation from Parliament. Noah tabled three issues in particular â€“ criticism of the State Governmentâ€™s decision-making process regarding a Special Development School at Banksia Secondary College, criticism of the State Governmentâ€™s policy on a new West Heidelberg Police Station, and criticism of a proposed Tunnel Link through the Viewbank/Heidelberg area to the Eastern Freeway.
I am sympathetic to the right of local ALP members to dissent from policies that a Labor Government adopts for the general good of the whole community, within comradely limits. We can speculate on Craigâ€™s motives in making these criticisms, but Iâ€™ve come to the conclusion that we should let these issues go. I understand if some Party members may criticise me for being too tolerant.
In his statement of 23 March, Craig relies on the ALPâ€™s â€œculture of robust debateâ€ â€“ which should tolerate members who have â€œthe courage to speak out on issues which concern the local communityâ€ â€“ to give him protection. This culture depends on good will and comradeship, and I think there is every likelihood that Craig is hiding behind this concept of civil liberties.
Despite this, I am not prepared to find against Craig on issues of public policy which he, and any other Party member, might reasonably be entitled to debate.
DECISION â€“ Craig Langdon is found not guilty of publicly attacking the Party on matters of public policy.
3. 20.5.1 (b)(ii) â€“ Publicly attacking any member of the Party
This charge relates to critical comments made by Craig to the media about the ALP endorsed candidate (and now MLA) for Ivanhoe, Anthony Carbines â€“ most obviously in the Age report â€œEx-MP says new boy â€˜not up to itâ€.
Craig Langdon and Anthony Carbines fought a tough pre-selection battle in 2009, which Anthony won. It is hardly surprising that Craig might hold some bitterness towards Anthony, to vent his bitterness around Party branches or in internal Party elections, and to not provide assistance during the election campaign. While we would hope that comrades put the Party first, itâ€™s in the nature of human frailty to feel anger or envy. If it is kept closely within Party ranks, this hostility might be accepted as not unreasonable, or at least understandable on a human level.
But to aid the ALPâ€™s opponents â€“ even to the almost-unbelievable extent of writing a letter to a local newspaper (Heidelberg Leader) â€œpraisingâ€ the Liberal Party for endorsing the â€œupfront and genuineâ€ Carl Ziebell as their partyâ€™s candidate for the seat against Anthony â€“ is unacceptable and profoundly disheartening. This behaviour from a Party member of 36 yearsâ€™ standing, a Parliamentary delegate of the ALP for 14 years, is utterly reprehensible.
DECISION â€“ Craig Langdon is found guilty of publicly attacking his endorsed successor as ALP candidate for the electorate of Ivanhoe, Anthony Carbines, in a pathetic and grotesque attempt to undermine the Partyâ€™s campaign to hold the seat at the November 2010 general election.
As previously advised to all parties, I held a meeting this morning (Tuesday, 17 May) at ALP Head Office to receive submissions regarding what penalties, if any, under Rule 20.5.5 may be appropriate to impose in view of these offences. Noah Carroll and Anthony Carbines attended, and made oral submissions. I regret that Craig neither attended nor sent any apology or written submission. I indicated to Noah & Anthony that I would have been sympathetic to any mitigating information, especially any that might have gone to the state of Craigâ€™s health at the time of his objectionable actions â€“ but no such submission has been received. I therefore have come to the following conclusions.
A. Penalty imposed on Craig Langdon
Under Rule 20.5.5, Craig Langdon is expelled from the Australian Labor Party indefinitely (for life). He is stripped of all offices and honours currently held within the Party, effective immediately.
No one takes any pleasure in the exp
ulsion of a Party member of some 36 yearsâ€™ standing, with the honour of serving 14 years in the Victorian Legislative Assembly. However, it would be impossible for the Party if this sort of behaviour was allowed to stand without it triggering severe consequences. Every member of the Party has a basic right to expect that the Rules of the Party are enforced fairly and impartially on all members, and the ALP Disputes Tribunal has a responsibility to support the enforcement of the Rules.
As part of this penalty, I would ask that the Administrative Committee send an appropriate summary of this decision to all ALP branch members in the Ivanhoe state electorate. I believe they must be informed about the impossible position their former State MP put the Party that had given him so much.
B. Recommendation on possible Rule Change
Under Rule 20.4, I recommend to State Conference and the Administrative Committee that the Rules regarding the resignation from any Labor Caucus (federal, state or municipal) be tightened to indicate strict and clear procedures for obtaining permission to resign.
Craig effectively resigned from the ALP on 25 August 2010, when he resigned from the State Parliamentary Labor Party. The problem remained active for the Party because he continued to hold local party office, and portray himself as an active and committed ALP member. There may be good reason for the Party to adopt a rule change that gives the Administrative Committee authority to determine that a resignation from a Labor Caucus is also legally a resignation from Party membership at large.
As part of this recommendation, I would ask that the Administrative Committee sent an appropriate summary to the SPLP, for their information and possible input into the Rules Revision process.
ALP Disputes Tribunal
17 May 2011