Labor leader Bill Shorten has signalled a review of union power within the party as it seeks to broaden its support and double its membership.
Mr Shorten used a speech to the National Press Club in Canberra on Wednesday to call for a new target of 100,000 members – up from the current 45,000 – and build links with small business and the science community.
The former Australian Workers Union boss said the introduction of a ballot for the federal leader last year had gone some way to boosting interest in Labor but more reform was needed.
“I do think we have to modernise our relationship with the unions and I will have more to say about that in coming weeks and months,” Mr Shorten said.
Mr Shorten said state branches should consider the direct election of leaders, and that policy processes should be opened up to the wider community.
“I think we have an opportunity to really make the Labor party as confident, as broad-based, as democratic and as outward-looking as we want this nation to be.”
It is understood an internal review of Labor’s performance at the 2013 election and improvements to boost its support will go to the party’s national executive by mid-year.
Mr Shorten said in his speech he wanted Labor to focus on four issues: small business, science and innovation, equal pay for women and support for regions.
The Liberal Party had laid claim to the small business and corporate sector, he said, but Labor should not “let the tax act of Australia define who votes for what party”.
The Right faction powerbroker, who switched support from Julia Gillard to Kevin Rudd before Labor’s 2013 election loss, accepted the party had paid the price for its disunity.
Taking aim at Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Mr Shorten described him as a “political brawler”.
“He’s an ideological bruiser who relentlessly crusades to divide Australian society into goodies and baddies.”