Bill Shorten called for unity at the Queensland Labor conference, but there are deep divisions over proposals to give the rank-and-file more power.

Federal leader Bill Shorten has likened the prospect of a Labor Party comeback to the form reversal of the Australian cricket team.

He told the Queensland party conference that Labor had been written off since the election like fast bowler Mitchell Johnson before the Ashes.

“But then something happened, Mitchell started running in hard, he started running in very hard and bowling very fast,” he told the cheering crowd of Labor faithful in Brisbane on Saturday.

“Now no one knows what’s going to happen in this Ashes series.

“It’s wide open and anyone can win.

“And what’s true in sport is true in politics.”

Mr Shorten called for unity, but there were deep divisions over proposals to give the rank-and-file more power.

Motions called for ordinary members have an input in voting for Queensland senate candidates, the state parliamentary leader, the Brisbane lord mayoral candidate and the state party’s three vice presidents.

But the powerful delegates dug in their heels.

A motion for the branch members and unions to each get 30 per cent of the vote to choose who held the state parliamentary leader was passed.

But only after a delegate’s suggested amendment to give the rank-and-file 50 per cent of the vote, with the other 50 per cent split between unions and caucus, was shouted down by outraged union delegates.

Later a motion to democratise senate preselections was fiercely challenged by regional delegates, who thought it would give too much power to the southeast.

In the end there was a division, which was likely to see the motion deferred.

Another motion for branch members to have a say in choosing the state party’s three vice presidents was also set to be deferred, with one delegate telling delegates that democracy would destroy their power.

“You’re voting yourselves out of existence,” he warned.

In the end the delegates’ hardball tactics resulted in only one motion giving branch members more power being passed, with the rest set to be deferred.

But a motion to reintroduce a ban on mining uranium in Queensland was easily passed.