It’s been all one way traffic in favour of Greg Sword on Crikey – until now. The Shorten-Feeney forces have produced “Reg the Representative” to balance the ledger and he’s hit back hard and strong. But make sure you get to the bottom because Delia has had a swing back responding to the direct allegations.
Her spin about Greg’s “brilliant coup” is a not very convincing explanation for a bizarre act of treachery, designed to deliver the Victorian ALP back into the hands of the currently side-lined Socialist Left faction.
The prevailing view around the ALP at the moment is that Greg has “lost it”. How else can one explain the actions of a veteran union boss who now appears to be betraying every idea he has ever argued? Why would a union leader in the middle of his very own re-election campaign trigger an ALP civil war? It’s crazy.
Nominations for this year’s NUW elections closed on Friday May 31. Greg’s position as national secretary is under siege from his old union enemies up in Sydney, and his Victorian powerbase faces its first half-way serious challenge since the 60s. Time for the NUW to concentrate on bread and butter industrial issues? No way, according to Greg time to start a political factional brawl inside the ALP!
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NUW members out at Pacific Dunlop, Bonlac or Nylex must be scratching their heads. Only a special breed of union leader would be vain enough to make his own union election a national media yarn.
Greg now declares that he was motivated (the day after NUW nominations closed!) to leave the Labor Unity faction because he was angry that most of it voted to expel the left-wing AMWU delegation at the ALP State Conference on 18-19 May.
Yup. Weird. A bunch of Labor right-wingers taking the opportunity to prevent 33 Doug Cameron (AMWU national secretary) worshipping delegates from voting inside the ALP should not have merited more than a chuckle. Yet so angry is Greg about this farce that he has been motivated to abandon right-wing Labor Unity and now work in alliance with the Socialist Left.
The Socialist Left is of course the very same faction that those crazy AMWU Workers’ First types are members of. Hang on, aren’t they the very ones Greg hates in the first place?
For everyone who attended the LU caucus at ALP conference on May 17 out the back of the convention centre, the meeting’s decision was clear and moved by Sword himself because of unresolved disagreements, LU delegates were free on any votes about either the Metal Workers or the HSUA delegations in dispute. Repeat no binding position, free conscience.
Or so we thought . A number of union officials particularly from the TWU that saw itself a close NUW ally are mightily pissed off that the vote on the AMWU Cameron delegation was, unknown to anyone else, some sort of litmus test for Greg on their continued factional loyalty. One federal senator believes that the NUW decision to split was made in principle months, if not years, ago the vote on May 18 just a convenient trigger.
Why is the National President of the ALP blowing up a stable factional system in Victoria? Why is an old union boss like Sword dumping long time alliances and trading them in for new ones? There’s that old line about Vince Gair it’s a classy rat who can sink the ship as it swims away. Vince Gair and Greg Sword, kindred spirits odd but not impossible.
There may be an industrial agenda the NUW and AMWU, despite ALP factional differences, agreed in principle many years ago to pursue amalgamation talks. Inside gossip has it that Greg sees himself as the first boss of a monster NUW-AMWU conglomerate, with Scottish shop steward Cameron as his successor (which fits in with Greg’s opinion of his juniors inside NUW national office).
What is really going on? No surprise its about power and prestige. Greg Sword collects titles in the labour movement in much the same way as oriental potentates collect concubines. Greg is general secretary of the NUW, senior vice president at the ACTU, the ALP’s national president, still (of course) state ALP president, and until last Monday LU convenor, as well as enjoying a couple of NUW and Victorian Government board positions into the bargain. Next possies? Boss of Australia’s largest union, a combined NUW-AMWU, and then slipping into retirement in the Senate, filling out old mate Robert Ray’s term of office?
As you might have gathered, Sword loves a little bit of pomp. Nothing like a bit of ceremony to make Sword happy. Sword is the kind of guy who gets oil paintings of himself done. For real. It’s very important to Greg that everyone believes that Greg Sword is a very, very important man. Just ask the Melbourne Football Club, after his ill-fated Gutnick rescue mission.
Greg is not anxious about an absence of power sharing in Labor Unity; he’s panicked that a period of power sharing has arrived. As long as LU kept electing Greg to things, it was OK. Now that it has started electing some other people to positions who don’t properly acknowledge Greg as a living legend, it’s time to tear the faction up.
The important thing for Greg Sword out of any factional re-alignment that occurs in Victoria is that Greg Sword is perceived to be the kingmaker. Every other consideration is secondary, and that includes Bracks, stability for the Victorian Government and Simon Crean. This is truly unusual behaviour for an ALP national president, and titular head of the ALP Right nationally. Besides, Sword still hasn’t forgiven Premier Bracks for having the temerity to reshuffle his cabinet without first asking Sword’s permission.
Delia Delegate is poisonously mischievous. Feeney and Shorten are tight with Bracks and Crean. Feeney’s many sins with Sword include his apparent capacity to work well and productively with his own former enemies at Treasury Place. He has good friends there. Shorten is a quick-witted wildcat union leader with some ability and charm; he counts Bill Kelty, Dennis Lennen, Richard Pratt, Sharan Burrow and Lindsay Fox amongst his eclectic bunch of mates. Shorten will be a tough opponent.
Greg Sword hates ALP secretary David Feeney. Feeney’s principal sin appears to be that he is interfering in a union contest that Greg Sword is also interfering in. While Feeney’s involvement in this union contest has certainly raised some eyebrows, it is also now ancient history. The far more recent, dramatic and high profile involvement of the ALP National President in union elections has astonished all. The NUW has always prided itself of staying out of any other unions business; that NUW tradition has clearly been ripped up by Sword. When was the last time an ALP National President started organising his own personal ALP Industrial Group to run union elections?
But given that Malcolm Sword (Greg’s brother) is a candidate for leadership in one of the various Health Workers’ Divisions, maybe Greg’s hostile behaviour can be understood. Greg’s turning union politics into a family business.
So now the 56-year old union boss Greg Sword has embarked on a jihad aimed as nothing more than wounding the careers of a couple of 30 year olds who he doesn’t like. Unable to terminate their careers inside the Labor Unity faction, Sword has abandoned his thirty-year allegiance to his own faction and now started talking to some interesting old factional players.
Curiously, Sword and the NUW have split from LU in a manner that leaves their old faction united against them. There are unlikely to be any further major defections from the faction. Senators Robert Ray and Stephen Conroy, faction secretary Fiona Richardson, Theo Theophanous, Premier Bracks and State Ministers like Marsha Thomson, John Brumby and John Lenders are all staying put and backing Shorten & Feeney. The wily Bob Sercombe is uncertain, but then he always is. That’s Sercombe. All this can’t be part of Sword’s plan. What’s gone wrong? Other right-wing unions like the AWU, TWU, CEPU and SDA aren’t about to follow Sword into a socialist paradise.
Although Sword can now only depend upon a small number of followers, the NUW alone still has enough votes to wreak havoc. The Socialist Left are interested in an alliance with Sword’s NUW. All Greg wants is David Feeney and Bill Shorten carried off the political stage in blood soaked stretchers. All the Socialist Left want is total control of the Victorian ALP machine and lots more MP’s. The two goals are mutually compatible happy days.
Greg Sword can’t attack Feeney and Shorten on the basis that they’re poor performers. Shorten’s AWU has never been stronger. It’s united nationally which is, even for Shorten critics, an amazing feat. Meanwhile, ALP Head Office under Feeney ticked over quietly and reasonably effectively. It was a feather in the cap for Victorian Labor that the feds ran their campaign out of King St last year (even though the results outside Victoria were pretty ordinary that’s another story!). So instead, Greg Sword is quietly attacking the integrity of Feeney and Shorten. He accuses them of treachery and ‘sinister dealings’ (none of which he can detail except for rumours of some “silver bullet” e-mail on Feeney. More on that later).
Now is perhaps SL strongman Senator Kim Carr’s last opportunity to resume the iron rule he once enjoyed over Victorian Labor in the 1980s. With various union bosses (and accomplished headkickers) like Greg Sword, Doug Cameron and Ian Jones underpinning his regime (with veteran meatworker boss Wally Curran as a hard-nosed godfather overseeing the operation), Senator Carr is looking forward to Victorian Labor again becoming the Albania of the southern hemisphere (to quote another veteran ALP godfather Senator Ray, as Greg did at state conference).
How Steve Bracks and Simon Crean feel about living in a Kim Carr collective is pretty clear to insiders. They’re not happy. But this is where Delia is no dill the positioning of the pollies is critical to how things will turn out. And, while you wouldn’t necessarily want state or federal caucus with you on the Normandy beaches on D-Day, it’s clear despite Delia clutching at straws that a majority of LU MPs are naturally pissed with this weird and unwelcome turn of events. No matter how you stack it up rocking the ALP boat at this stage is good news for Dr. Denis, and not an unwelcome development for the Abbott & Costello show up in Canberra.
Just as interesting is the question of how the NUW-Network foot-soldiers feel about Greg’s kamikaze “stand of principle”? A long civil war through the branches and unions with their erstwhile LU colleagues cannot be a pleasant thought. Sword’s Network operatives are going to spend the next few years delivering up LU seats in parliament to the Socialist Left, rather than climbing the greasy pole themselves.
At least part of the sting here is that Senator Carr and his new union enforcers have to keep a bizarre political coalition together. The parliamentarians at Spring Street will not like the new order. Many of them are going to have to fight for their political lives (hell hath no fury like a caucus MP scorned!). The anti-Workers First and pro-Workers First unionists will all be serving in the one factional alliance. That will be interesting! Greg Sword and Craig Johnston in the same faction! Helping the AMWU national leadership destroy the militant Workers First group here in Victoria while at the same time keeping Craig Johnston and co in the factional cart is Kim Carr’s goal. It is going to be a tricky performance to pull off. If he manages it then Carr is a political genius rather than the clipboard-clutching, resolution-reading robot of old, when he was trying to undermine Hawkie up in Wills FEA. The Socialist Left will have to kiss and make up with characters like Greg Sword and Ian Jones who have spent the last ten years persecuting them.
Oh, to be a fly on the wall .
Delia Delegate responds to Reg’s attack
Previously in the Right wing, one of Feeney-Shorten’s agents posted an anonymous, stinging and vicious attack on Greg Sword, the National President of the ALP on Crikey.
Delia has tried to be balanced in her reporting on the war of the Right wing but in response to Reg the Representative’s sickening attack on Greg Sword, I am taking the gloves off. In future, I will be more balanced, presenting both sides of the argument where possible.
Sword is clearly not a left winger and has only offered an alliance with Kim Il Carr of the Socialist Left because he has no alternative. The SL will deal with him ahead of the young egos Feeney/Shorten because he has a history of honouring deals. The Labor Unity faction have consistently opposed candidates endorsed by Sword/NUW/Network. Their role in the south-east where conservative catholics with no history of involvement in the Party have been preselected ahead of quality candidates has been disgraceful, they say.
For the opponents of Sword to presume that Greg Sword has “lost it” seems to be a dangerous and foolhardy presumption. Sword is playing a chess game and in the first move or so looks like taking the Queen (Feeney), launching an inquiry into the activities of the Bishop (Marles), replacing several backbencher pawns and has at the very least put the King (in his own mind) Bye Bye Bill Shorten in check. Checkmate is not out of the question if the Left hold their nerve.
The NUW election is a non-issue. Aside from the interventions of Feeney, Shorten, Conroy and other unions under suspicion, the NUW is as safe as houses. Under Sword’s leadership, the NUW is financially strong with quality industrial staff and enjoys respect in the business community as an honest but firm negotiator. Sword is not just a young wanker with an MBA and a chambray shirt, Sword has respect, built over decades.
Sword is not making the re-positioning of the NUW an election issue. The issue is whether Victorian members want the NSW branch, with its history of wrongdoing, interfering in the Victorian branch. Every other state leadership of the union is totally supporting Sword, all have been elected again without opposition so can focus on supporting Sword in the national election.
Sword is willing to accept the votes of the AMWU but obviously prefers to deal with Doug Cameron than Craig Johnston, currently charged with riot, affray, threat to kill, criminal damage, burglary etc. Earlier in the year Johnston when talking about the federal election: “For the first time in my life I voted against the ALP”, he explained. “I voted Socialist Alliance first, the Greens second and put Labor third. How could I vote for a party that was supporting racism and had very right-wing policies? ”
How could we vote for such a person to decide who is going to lead the Labor Party’s organisation?
It absolutely not true that the NUW and the AMWU are seeking amalgamation. While there is some logic for it in theory, it would be impossible to do with a Liberal government. Amalgamations under Kelty only happened with Government assistance for amalgamation ballots. Tony Abbott isn’t interested in building bigger unions.
As for getting a portrait painted, what’s the big deal. The NUW proudly supports the arts and was delighted that Kim Beazley and Steve Bracks launched the portrait which was in fact entered into the Archibald Prize and nearly won. Greg is a very appropriate subject of a painting being an important person in the history of Australia. Bell Securities, Joe Gutnick’s stockbroker, sponsored the event, meaning that it cost members nothing at all.
And to imply that Sword was the cause of Joe Gutnick’s failure in the Melbourne Football Club is wrong too. Gutnick was beaten by the conservatism and lack of vision of the Club. Sword was willing to stand beside a friend, as he always does.
Reg the Representative fails to understand that Sword as an elder statesman of the Labor Right, President of the federal and state ALP and leader of the most effective union in the country is entitled to play a leadership role in any faction he is in. It’s not unreasonable. Instead what he got was Jacinta Collins, Kelvin Thomson, Michael Danby, Anthony Byrne and Steve Conroy and was looking like getting Bill Shorten, Richard Marles and David Feeney served up as well. If you look at the list previously supplied of NUW friends in Club Fed, there are very few. That’s because Sword has copped many of his quality candidates going down and tolerated SDA hacks and over-ambitious, MBA types getting their way at his expense.
However the factional situation unfolds, there is no going back to that situation. The conservative catholics are greatly over-represented, in Party office, in Club Fed and elsewhere. Feeney-Shorten have strut around like preening peacocks and are now learning what it’s like to be firmly plucked.
Feeney should not delude himself that he has friends at Treachery Place, he has very few. The position of the NUW-Network group is for his severed head to be shoved on a pole outside the King Street office of the ALP for all to see.
With no powerbase of his own, once sacked, he will be the Nowhere Man. The Network view is that while it has brought through dozens of potential high quality, highly trained and seasoned electoral stars that it will wait its time. There is no rush. The NUW group would rather give a majority of seats in the caucus to SL members it can negotiate with rather than LU members who habitually freeze them out.
This does not mean Kim Il Carr would run Victoria. There’s nothing wrong with him having a say over events though, he is an important and respected figure in the Victorian branch and he’s entitled to an opinion. Carr, like Sword, has played a soothing role in his faction, keeping warring parties from tearing each other apart. He recruited Jenny Mikakos, a former Pledge faction member, known for branchstacking and being one of the laziest MP’s in the history of Parliaments. She came back to the SL with the promise of next Cabinet vacancy, a promise that wisely Carr won’t be honouring.
Gavin Jennings has far greater claim on it. Carr while affectionately called Kim Il Carr has moderated since being in Canberra. He has focused on policy issues, particularly in education and has caused chaos in Government offices with the volume of his inquiries. Carr’s nemesis, MHR for Bruce and fierce branchstacker Alan Griffin, is believed to be less likely to stab him from behind than at any other time for years. They have even sipped cafe51 lattes together at Ozzies in recent times much to the shock of comrades. Griffin has even given thought to removing the photo of Kim Carr with the crosshair symbols of a gun target on his face from his once family home. However, Carr has a file of Griffin’s bad deeds buried deep in his Soviet Archives.
Branchstacking, close friendships with property developers (a very bad thing in the world of the SL), personal problems beyond description, fundraising issues to name a few. Carr hates Griffin and Melbourne MP Lindsay Tanner but will get over that in order to seize control of the branch. Griffin and Tanner despise Carr but are pleased with idea of necking some rightwingers, promoting some of their people into Head Office, taking back Holt etc. The only complication is that NUW/Network has found Griffin very unco-operative in Holt and expects him to lift his game if he wants to get any benefit from the new arrangements.
The position of the New Majority is that we will accept votes from the AMWU leadership but we won’t defend their actions that led to criminal charges. We won’t go to see the Premier of Victoria on Craig Johnston’s behalf to persuade Bracks to interfere in the course of justice. But we’ll do what we have to do to clean up the Victorian branch from rightwingers and miscreants. Feeney/Shorten will find that while the differences in the New Majority are great on many issues, there is heated agreement on whether Feeney should continue as State Secretary and Shorten becomes President.
From the slick economic rationalists of the Network group to the socialists of the industrial left, the New Majority has reached its verdict. And while Conroy’s mate Andrew Theophanous got six years, Conroy’s mates Shorten and Feeney have been sentenced to political death.