THE secretary of the NSW ALP, Sam Dastyari, says there must never be a repeat of the present Labor leadership debacle and has renewed his call for the party to adopt a new and more stable method of choosing its leaders.
''I think there is a large section of the ALP membership that would welcome an opportunity to put an end to the culture of rotating leaders and have a say in who leads their party,'' he told the Herald yesterday. ''The party never wants to go through something like this again. Recent events have shown the current model is unstable.''
Mr Dastyari said he favoured a system similar to that used by the parties in Britain, which allows ordinary party members direct input into the election of the leader.
He likes the British Conservative model, which provides for members to choose between two options put forward by the parliamentary party. But he says ''there are lots of models out there''.
The main challenge is to find a way to include party members and then ''create a very high threshold for removing a leader within a parliamentary term''.
This would mean holding a leadership contest generally only after an election, if the incumbent had lost.
''If we had a mass membership model now, I have no doubt Julia [Gillard] would win and win big'' because she had been ''bold on substantive policy'', he said.
Mr Dastyari criticised the role party officials had played in creating a syndrome of revolving door leadership, particularly in NSW, which had three premiers in the last term of Labor government.
''Leaders should not go to bed at night worried about whether or not they have the support of the party machine,'' he said, in an apparent swipe at his predecessors, now-Senator Mark Arbib and Karl Bitar, both of whom had a hand in decapitating a succession of Labor leaders.
''We saw in this state what happens when the party stops supporting incumbent leaders.''
Mr Dastyari is from the party's Right faction but its state upper house leader, Luke Foley, who has a background in the Left, yesterday supported greater grassroots participation in leadership contests.
''The leadership of the party, state or federal, should never be the plaything of Labor Party powerbrokers,'' Mr Foley told the Herald.
''Providing a role for members in the election of leaders would help bring stability and make membership meaningful again.''
Mr Dastyari first floated a proposal for broadening participation in party leadership ballots before December's national ALP conference.
It has had little support from party powerbrokers thus far but the spectacle of open civil war within the federal caucus could lend it fresh momentum.
Mr Dastyari also wants to press on with other reforms, including trialling primary-style preselections that would give local branch members a say in choosing candidates.
Mr Dastyari has invited the NSW Farmers Federation and Tim Flannery to make presentations to Labor's country conference in Maitland this weekend, in an effort to bring in ''fresh voices''.