THE ALP has made virtually no progress on its most important promise for internal reform: finding a way for party members to elect delegates to its national conference.
As Labor comes under fire for ''losing its purpose'' and fights to reverse its declining membership, the party's president, Jenny McAllister, conceded the national executive, which was charged with agreeing on a method for direct election, has not done much.
So far it has set up a subcommittee, chaired by the general secretary of NSW Labor, Sam Dastyari, which has met just once, in May.
A proposal for direct election, rather than allowing state branches to appoint mainly unionists, politicians and staffers to the supreme organisational decision-making body, was scuttled at last year's conference meeting by factional leaders concerned it would dilute their power.
But, after a last-minute intervention by the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, it was agreed the national executive would thrash out a plan in time for the next conference in 2013.
Direct election was a recommendation of the party review by Steve Bracks, Bob Carr and John Faulkner. It was seen as a way to give people a reason to join and was strongly advocated by former prime minister Kevin Rudd.
Ms McAllister said Labor could not allow the promise to be ''let go''.
''We have to make this happen. We need the leadership of the party organisation to get engaged with it and I think they are now starting to do that, after a slow start,'' she said.
Ms McAllister said Labor has had more than 5000 new members over the past year, putting it on track to meet the target of 8000 new recruits by next year that was nominated by Ms Gillard at the conference last December.
But with many still leaving the party, this represented a net increase of 2000 members, which sources said took total membership to just over 40,000.
''We are cautiously optimistic we can make 8000,'' she said.
A progress report to be sent to party members this week gives a positive assessment of other recommendations from last year's conference - a new national policy forum to give members input is due to start meeting by early next year and the first ''community dialogue'' with interested groups and experts in particular fields was held last month.
A recent survey of members and supporters found 55 per cent wanted a greater say in policy.
Ms McAllister said Labor had made some progress but ''the truth is, making progress on reforms is tough … Change is tough and it's slow and it takes a lot of effort''.