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Labour seeks to engage with voters

Saturday 17 Nov 2012 8:08 a.m.

By Laura McQuillan

The Labour Party is jumping on the coattails of US President Barack Obama's recent re-election and the rise of left-wing parties elsewhere as it opens its pitch for a return to government in 2014.

Kicking off the second day of the party's annual conference in Auckland, president Moira Coatsworth told hundreds of delegates at Auckland's Ellerslie Events Centre that the challenge next election will be getting out the vote - which Labour failed to do before its devastating defeat at last year's election.

"About two-thirds of our vote-loss was from people who didn't think it was worth voting at all," Ms Coatsworth said.

"That's our challenge. We must reach into the homes and communities of people who care about what's happening and build a strong movement for change."

When Ms Coatsworth became president last year, she promised to modernise the party's structure - and delegates will consider proposals for this today.

The changes include enabling MPs to spark a leadership challenge through a secret ballot with the support of between 50 and 55 percent of caucus members and splitting leadership votes between caucus, party members and affiliates.

A proposal for equal representation of men and women at all levels of the party is also being put and the party wants to allow new members to join through a koha, or customary gift.

The chance to vote on the changes has drawn the largest crowd of delegates - with 622 registered - to a Labour conference since 1984.

With the conference marking Labour's 96th year, Ms Coatsworth says it is timely for the party to modernise ahead of its centenary.

Setting the stage for leader David Shearer's address tomorrow, Ms Coatsworth said he will outline Labour's plan "for economic growth that's sustainable and inclusive".

Mr Shearer is expected to make a major housing announcement, with his speech potentially his last chance to convince party faithful to back him until at least 2014 amid rumblings of a potential leadership challenge if he fails to deliver tomorrow.

Watch the video for Natasha Smith's full report from TV3's The Nation

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