National union chief Bob Nanva has attacked the ALP's "broken" pre-selection process and has called for union bosses like himself to step aside and give ordinary members a say in the selection of local Labor candidates.
In a speech that has ruffled the feathers of the Labor party's right-wing faction, of which he is a member, Mr Nanva said pre-selection of ALP candidates should be opened up to rank and file union members.
The existing system in NSW only allows ALP branch members to vote on candidates, except in the case of intervention by the party's administrative committee, on which union leaders sit.
Mr Nanva said elected union representatives, such as himself, were involved in the inner workings of the Labor Party as proxies for rank and file union members.
"But we need to supplement the traditional top-down model with a bottom-up approach," he said.
"This is the first step to converting union members into true-blue Labor voters, and then into fully-fledged Labor members...and kick-starting the process of renewal in our local branches."
In a speech to the Fabian Society, Mr Nanva said the ALP needed better candidates who were able to win back the trust and respect of its political base.
He said opening pre-selection ballots up to a broader field of voters would mean that candidates "will genuinely be tested".
"Candidates will need to be articulate and will need to show they can prosecute policy arguments," he said.
"They will have to prove themselves as campaigners... they will have to prove themselves on the stump...and they will have to build coalitions of support beyond a core group of local party members."
Mr Nanva said this would mean candidates would have to talk to local train drivers, shop assistants and bar tenders.
"A candidate selected in this way is far more likely to have a stronger commitment to labor values than someone who has skated through the process...imposed on the party because of loyalty to a tribe, or fealty to a numbers cruncher."
Mr Nanva said union members could no longer be expected to join the Labor Party by default and the ALP needed to sharpen its sales pitch.
But the NSW ALP general secretary, Jamie Clements, of the Party's right-wing, said he would oppose any plan to give union members a say in local pre-selections, other than through community pre-selections. Not all members of affiliated unions are members of the ALP.
"I would never support replacing the rank and file pre-selection system," Mr Clements said.
"I think the balance is right.
"The rank and file pre-selection system in NSW is one of the strongest facets of the NSW Labor Party."
Mr Nanva said: "It would be deeply regrettable if this conversation ended before it began".
"The sensible evolution of the ALP remains a matter dear to the hearts of many supporters and members, particularly when faced with the prospect of wall to wall conservative governments across Australia."
Tony Sheldon, the national secretary of the Transport Workers Union of Australia, and senior vice president of the Australian Labor Party, recently called for affiliated trade union members to get one third of the vote in ALP leadership elections.
NSW Opposition leader John Robertson recently called for the direct election of the NSW parliamentary leader, following the party's decision to allow the direct election of the federal leader.