Party says it wants to keep much of the debate at annual conference ‘in the family’

The Labour Party has closed the doors on vast tracts of its 99th annual conference this weekend, saying it wants to keep debate "in the family".

The programme for its Palmerston North talkfest shows debate on policy proposals is closed to the media - a session that has been open in the past.

Party president Nigel Haworth said the media had been allowed in in 2013 because the party was introducing a new policy platform structure. "We felt at the time it was important for media to see that process.

"When we go into the revisions of it, these are debates we want to keep in the family. We want people to be able to speak freely and frankly and be reported appropriately." Media were welcome to open sessions - most of which are set-piece speeches by MPs and panels by guest experts.


It will be Andrew Little's first annual conference as party leader and policies expected to be up for discussion include raising the retirement age and the capital gains tax.

Those are the two policies Mr Little has suggested the party reconsider because he believed they damaged its electoral chances. It is likely the Trans Pacific Partnership will also be raised - an issue which has raised conflicting views in Labour.

In the non-election years of 2012 and 2013, media were able to sit in on policy remit debates but excluded for voting. The lead-up to the 2012 conference was overshadowed by the controversial proposal to allow electorates to hold female-only selections - a remit dropped after then-leader David Shearer intervened.

A related remit setting a quota of 45 per cent women by 2014 and 50 per cent by 2017 passed.

In 2012, media could also sit in on the voting on Labour's changes to its leadership election rules to give members a vote.

At this year's conference, small policy announcements are expected from health spokeswoman Annette King and Mr Little but the party is not expected to start revealing its big policies until well into next year.

Mr Haworth said many of the changes a post-election review had recommended had already been made. The delegates will also vote on a rewrite of the party's constitution which has been modernised and simplified by a panel led by former Prime Minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer. Dubbed the "no changes constitutional change", it has been described by Sir Geoffrey as "a spring clean".