Crikey is getting vigorously sued by Labor Senator Nick Bolkus, but
despite being at war with some parts of the Labor Party, other ALP
insiders such as Delia Delegate continue to choose Crikey as their
preferred war propaganda machine. This piece just blows ’em all out of
the water.

Sword and Carr are still working out the fine print but the already agreed principles are:

1. Opposing Shorten for the Presidency (ballots in by Friday with the
triumphant count of Shorten’s first ever loss happening Friday night).

2. Sacking Feeney from Head Office and eliminating Feeneyites from Head Office staff, and

3. Protecting most MP’s federal and state. Delia definitely had it
wrong about a hit-list, the Sword-Carr Modernisation are now definitely
now committed to protecting all but one or two incumbent MP’s,
especially the one encircled by rightist sharks in Geelong. While there
are many favouring a comprehensive clean-out, Sword’s view is that such
talk is premature and not likely to help the strengthening of the
Alliance at the moment. Harry Jenkins is believed to be favouring
retirement, now that he can be certain he will be replaced in Scullin
by an SL comrade. So the Alliance is already achieving generational
change, according to its supporters.

With far more support from conservative media barons like Murdoch,
Packer and Fairfax than from the rank and file of the labour movement,
Feeney/Shorten continue to be on the ropes, more punch-drunk than Iron
Mike Tyson. Greg ‘Lennox Lewis’ Sword has cut them up early and they
show no sign of recovery despite their occasional attempt at low-blows
and ear-biting with anti-Kim Carr stories in the conservative press.
Sword’s forces though have counter-punched brilliantly, with the
Premier “brackstracking” quickly on his reckless defence of the
indefensible David Feeney.

Compounding Feeney/Shorten’s problems, master strategist Fortress Bob
Sercombe returned from overseas to announce his departure from Labor
Unity. Fortress Bob is as shrewd as Iron Mike’s former manager Don King
and would not switch without good reason. Bob can sniff a winner from a
stadium away. Bob’s supporters blame Steve Conroy for his move saying
he didn’t trust Conroy after years of Conroy undermining him.
Sercombe’s departure marks the end of Shorten’s attempts to get
re-elected with the Modernisation Alliance swinging somewhat
reluctantly behind Jim “No Name” Claven, the obscure researcher at the
Postal Workers Union, who has attracted most of his support for not
being Bill Shorten. Jim is so far in front that even Bill’s doorstops
and fancy juggling tricks at the back door of State Parliament House
can’t save him now.

Feeney/Shorten’s supporters are busy trying to sucker-punch Bracks into
supporting Feeney/Shorten by playing up the idea of Socialist Left
control of the Party. The Australian on Monday went too far, talking of
a Socialist Left list of public sector spending they want but hadn’t
got under the Bracks government. Sword has told Bracks and Crean he
will not be supporting mad left policies and has never done so but he
will not be pressured out of pursuing his reform agenda within the
Party. Equally Sword says the Party should not freeze out Carr and the
SL agenda because of conservative press barons, he says the ideological
structures behind factions are irrelevant since the end of the Cold
War. Both Left and Right, he says, are committed to being in government
now, with the Left producing some of the more effective campaigners,
such as Alan Griffin, Lindsay Tanner, Daniel Andrews, ministerial
adviser Andrew McKenzie and Jason Murray. Many in the NUW have said the
State Government has been obsessed with its AAA credit rating rather
being a reforming Labor Government and it needs shaking up. That view
has helped bind together the NUW with Carr and his union base.

Sword’s camp is committed to seeing the NUW reform agenda implemented
no matter how high the short-term cost. They say State Secretary Feeney
is living on borrowed time. A few months ago Feeney was riding high as
what he claims is “the greatest fund raising success ever” and was
leading up to a campaign where Bracks would achieve a great swing that
Feeney was going to claim credit for. Today as early as the 28th of
June, according to reports, he is facing a majority of Admin determined
to kill him.

The way the ALP works is that the State Secretary is chosen by the
Administrative Committee. He is appointed by Admin and can be sacked by
Admin. If it likes him, he stays. If not, he goes. Bracks does not get
a vote. Crean does not get a vote. They can talk and talk and talk but
they don’t have the numbers.

Up until the formation of the Modernisation Alliance, Feeney could rely
on the grudging support of the NUW and the Ferguson Left and the
Pledge. The NUW was part of Labor Unity so had to support Feeney and
the Fergusons and Pledge were in alliance so did the same.

Crikey can now reveal exclusively in this occasional series on the War
of the Right Wing, who lines up where on the all powerful but highly
secretive Victorian Administrative Committee of the ALP. None of them
have a big public profile but they are the ones who call the shots. The
names will change after Friday but the support bases remain the same.

Faction Codes:

NUW = formerley right wing National Union of Workers

SL = Socialist Left

Ferguson Left = Lefties loyal to Mar’n Ferguson

LRA = Labor Renewal Alliance founded by convict’s brother Theo
Theophanous to include stacks from Greek, South American and other
ethnic communities.
LU – Labor Unity faction

SDA – Shop Assistant union, run by conservative catholic elements

Will Vote to Impeach Feeney:

President Greg Sword NUW (Union Official)

Senior Vice President Brian Daley SL (Union official)

Vice President Julia Gillard Ferguson Left (Federal MP for Lalor)

Lily D’Ambrosio SL (Government Staffer candidate for Mill Park)

Rachel Dapiran NUW/Network (Government Adviser)

Steve Dargavel SL although takes orders from Craig Johnston (Former Federal MP)

Nazih El Asmar once loyal to Theophanous, now loyal to NUW/Ferguson (Government Adviser)

Kosmos Felekos SL (Government Adviser)

Andrew Giles SL (Lawyer)

Jill Hennessy SL (Government Adviser)

Lev Lafayette was Pledge, now SL (Government Adviser)

Andrew McKenzie SL (Government Adviser)

Jason Murray SL (Electorate Officer)

Dave Noonan SL (Union Official)

Martin Pakula NUW/Network (Union Official)

John Scheffer SL (Government Adviser)

Silvana Sgro SL (Union Official)

Brian Tee SL (Union Official)

Catherine van Vliet SL (Union Official)

Julie Warren NUW (Union Official)

Tony White Ferguson (Government Adviser)

Linda White Left (Union Official)

Robin Scott – Sercombe (Government Adviser)

Will Vote Against Impeachment of Feeney

Stephen Booth LU (Union Official)

Antony Burke SDA (Union Official)

Michael Donovan SDA (Union Official)

Luke Donnellan LU (Government Adviser)

Garth Head LU (Government Adviser)

Michelle MacDonald LU (Electorate Officer)

Nathan Niven LU (Trades Hall)

Fiona Richardson LU (Government Adviser)

Natalie Sykes LU (was Government Adviser)

Count the names, 21 votes to 9. In Sword’s defection, and bringing over
of Ferguson and Pledge forces loyal to him, Sword has the numbers very
clearly to replace Feeney.

So certain is the Modernisation Alliance of victory that it has already
sounded out replacements for Feeney. The most likely candidates are
Cabinet Secretary Gavin Jennings (Jennings was recently named by the
Herald Sun as one of the state’s laziest MP’s quite an honour
considering the competition) and adviser Andrew MacKenzie, a
Ministerial adviser who once served as Assistant Secretary and has long
craved the job. MacKenzie is on the public record boasting that at
least one-third of the membership fees of the Victorian ALP were paid
for by someone other than the member. Other candidates include Daniel
Andrews, current assistant secretary, the alleged brains and bagman
behind Alan “Privatisation” Griffin’s operation, but who is running for
the marginal seat of Mulgrave and is believed to have told his Supreme
Leader Griffin that the job is a “poisoned chalice” and he wants to
focus on winning Mulgrave. Believed to be backed by Socialist Left
Leader Senator Kim Carr is the respected Minister Lynn Kosky’s adviser
Eric Locke who has impressed many with his quiet efficiency. Griffin is
believed to want Blonde Bombshell and former Party President Jill
Hennessy to take on the role but she isn’t returning Alan’s calls at
the moment for much speculated upon reasons.

Some in the MA argue that the publicity given to the “Socialist Left
takeover” of the Victorian Party and the on-again, off-again support
from Bracks for Feeney means that it would be wise to appoint someone
not from the Socialist Left to the important Secretary position. There
are several excellent possibilities here including former adviser James
McGarvey, Martin Pakula of the NUW or Jeff Pulford, Senior Policy
Adviser to the Sports Minister. Sword apparently considered Conroy’s
request to put up Nathan Niven, of the Trades Hall to rebuild ties with
Labor Unity but didn’t think Niven was up to it. Sword though is no
mood to force his supporters on the Party, he realises that in order to
remove Feeney he will need the support of key stakeholders in the MA,
which means a Left State Secretary, for now. In the long term the job
belongs to the best campaigning talent though, which is someone like
McGarvey.

It is interesting that 3 of 3 Party officers would vote to sack Feeney,
including close ally of Crean’s Julia Gillard which proves the
difficulty of Crean getting involved in this spat. True, they would be
doing so for factional reasons but it doesn’t reflect well on someone
who has raised a lot of money from right-wing corporates but does not
enjoy the confidence of his superiors. Thwaites said he was doing a
very good job, as did Peter “Nunawading” Batchelor make positive
comments but they were hardly lavishing him with praise, as Bracks did
from his $3000 a night suite in London, (with Tiny Tim Pallas sipping
on $50 mini-bottles of cognac from the mini-bar trying to numb the pain
of their European junket being rudely interrupted with the petty
squabbles of faction-fighting). Pallas says Feeney-Shorten have tried
to bully the Premier into doing something he cannot do, direct Greg
Sword’s votes on an internal ALP dispute. It is absurd he says for the
Premier to stake his authority on the outcome of an Admin decision, the
Premier leads the Government, not the Party. He doesn’t even get a vote
on Admin, just one vote out of 450+ at the State Conference.

As of next week, a new Administrative Committee will be elected, but
the numbers will be mostly the same or even worse for Feeney as they
are on the current Admin. Instead of the rampaging run through squad at
the AMWU Workers First group having someone on Admin, the slightly
saner AMWU Doog Cameroonites will get an extra vote. It won’t change
the fact that Feeney needs to find around six votes to save himself, an
escape not even Houdini could have managed.

The key for the Modernisation Alliance from all this is that Sword,
Jones, Ferguson and Carr’s forces have swiftly and with a minimum of
dissent seized control of the Victorian branch of the ALP from the
conservative backed Feeney/Shorten. The Administrative Committee is the
ultimate seat of power in the Party, only answerable to the National
Executive and State Conference. Sword and his supporters throughout the
different factions have the will and the numbers to force through the
changes he wants, it’s only a matter of when. Sword’s supporters
believe they can put an early end to the uncertainty by quickly
removing Feeney and resuming focus on the election.

Another person who craves a low public profile but has exerted great
clout in the Victorian branch of the ALP is Senator Steven Conroy.
Conroy is the self-appointed leader of the Victorian Right is also the
Shadow Minister for Small Business and Finance and the Deputy Leader of
the Opposition in the Senate. Steve muscled out the competition for
this post in search of a 20% pay rise, bigger office and some juicy
perks. If you are surprised that such things matter in Canberra, you
haven’t spent much time in our nation’s capital or have forgotten about
Steve’s mate Mal Colston. Steve exercised his legendary brutality to
get the spot, spreading all sorts of tales about his competitors,
Senators Bishop and Hogg.

Many particularly Steve regard Conroy as a cunning political operator.
Some like Bishop think he’s a cunning stunt. Conroy’s critics say he
has been effective at convincing journalists he is the numbers-man for
the Victorian Right. Most ignorant Gallery journalists fall for this
sort of crap very easily as not many MP’s bother to spend the time
Conroy does with them. Conroy’s critics say he has failed to exercise
the same judgement of the quality of factional Titan Senator Robert
Ray. Ray balanced competing interests capably and honourably. Conroy by
contrast would not hold back in his anti-Sercombe headkicking and other
irrational games. Conroy’s parliamentary colleagues don’t like the way
he hogs the corporate hospitality offered by Philip Morris at the MCG,
being a regular in the PM box, taking back at least a few of their
generously stocked courtesy bags chock full of ciggys and confections.

The focus of Greg Sword’s wrath in the media has been Feeney and
Shorten. One who raises money from the Tory end of town, the other who
married into it. Shorten seems to think he’s the only person connected
with business in Melbourne. Sword has built very strong relationships
across business and is enjoying strong support for his re-election bid
at the NUW from employers across the state who are worried about
militants from NSW taking over.

Some think though that while Feeney and Shorten are the obvious targets
Senator Steve Conroy is just as big a casualty of recent skirmishes.
The NUW Network group has watched closely the performance of the
Transport Workers Union leadership and believes it is weak and
dispirited. A challenge is being considered depending on how the union
leadership line up over the next few months. The TWU are Conroy’s
support base in addition to the stacked electorate of Gellibrand. Aided
by his South Vietnamese lieutenant MLC Sang Nguyen, a former NUW
official who is loyal to Conroy not Sword, much to the disgust of the
union. Gellibrand includes hundreds of Vietnamese members. Many of
these members have been shown to be dead, non-existent, moved back to
Vietnam, living in another electorate when scrutinised. Conroy’s
opponents are hoping to tie him to Gellibrand in any branchstacking
inquiry conducted prior to the federal preselections.

It won’t be the first time Gellibrand has been controversial. This is
when the legend of Conroy crashed into the brick wall of reality
according to Conroy’s critics.

Ralph Wills the former Treasurer whose stupidity cost Keating the 1996
election when he released forged letters from Kennett to Costello full
of very unlikely statements was always a Sword ally. Their ties went
back to Ralph’s time at the ACTU and his close work with Sword on the
Accord. When Ralph said he wanted to retire, Sword assumed that it
would be a chance to promote a quality candidate of his own, possibly
himself. Conroy had other ideas.

Conroy had worked the area hard. Despite his northern English
background and growing up in Whites Only Canberra, Steve immersed
himself in the local community, particularly those who had historical
antipathies to the Left. He’d intended to take Gellibrand for himself.
He controlled the branches, the local council and most of the local
newspaper editors. Conroy was the King of the Inner-West, or so he said
to anyone listening. If Conroy had have been in Cabramatta, no doubt
Phong Ngo would have handed him the keys to the Mekong Club. Only
problem was that by the time Ralph was ready to retire Conroy was in
the Senate and enjoying life up there with his mentor Senator Robert
Ray.

So Conroy had to find someone else to ensure no else claimed his
expensive prize. He knew he should find a woman. Not easy in a Labor
Party dominated by homophobic white men. He looked everywhere. No
locals. He kept looking and found a senior Telstra executive Vicki
Corbett.

Vicki had some problems.

Problem 1: Sword wanted the seat. Initially for him. Because the NUW
needed him, he decided to stay. He then wanted now Chief of Staff Tiny
Tim Pallas who was working at the ACTU but was a loyal Sword supporter.

Problem 2: She’d only been in the ALP for a few weeks. This became quite important.

Problem 3: In her capacity as a Telstra executive, she had busted the
balls of many union officials and was regarded by them as a hostile
anti-worker manager. Such things matter less than you would think, for
example Jenny Mikakos a prominent member now of the Socialist Left was
once a “tax lawyer”, and not for the Tax Department but for clients
desperate to reduce their taxes as much as possible (all above board
I’m sure).

Problem 4: She lived in ritzy Clifton Hill miles from the impoverished
suburbs of Gellibrand, not greatly important but didn’t help her
credibility.

Aided by a well-briefed journalist Paul Molloy in the Herald Sun, Greg
decided to unleash war against Conroy over Gellibrand. Everyday, a new
story emerged about Conroy’s candidate, a new fact undermining her
credibility. Then Greg really taught Conroy a political lesson by
organising the National Executive of the Party to cast her aside as a
candidate for failing to qualify because she didn’t have twelve months
membership. Conroy was grief-stricken, years of stacking and tens of
thousands of dollars sunk into it had been a complete waste. Instead of
getting a supporter in the caucus he had been humiliated, very
publicly. He later paid Molloy back by lobbying successfully to get him
sacked by repeated lobbying trips to Sydney. (Crikey – this doesn’t
sound right. Herald Sun editor Peter Blunden told me Molloy was sacked
for sending an expletive-laden story down the wire about the suicide of
Michael Hutchence and then standing by it when he was sober.)

Tim Pallas was looking like the man most likely until a shocking
development occurred. Readers will recall the Isaacs preselection where
Feeney-Shorten organised to steal Isaacs from the NUW group using a
former NUW official they had won over. It wasn’t the first time.

Nicola Roxon, the former girlfriend of Bill Shorten, had once worked at
the NUW. While a highly respected young industrial lawyer, she was
receptive to Bill’s proposal that she run for the seat. The NUW Group
were outraged, Shorten-Feeney had used their own person to destabilise
carefully prepared arrangements for Gellibrand. Conroy was so unhappy
about being mugged in the press by Sword and Carr’s journalist that he
would have agreed to Bob Sercombe taking the seat rather than anyone
nominated by Sword. So Nicola mostly unknown in the murky world of
factional politics arose from obscurity to take the safest seat in the
country.

Even though a former NUW official, Nicola repaid the union by employing
enemies of the union in the form of some particularly nasty and brutal
Young Labor allies of Feeney and Conroy. Roxon’s actions have not been
forgotten or forgiven by the Sword camp, many angered by Crean’s
promotion of her to the shadow ministry last year.

Many of Sword’s supporters believed at the time that Sword should have
taken the seat. He was the only candidate of stature and experience
that could have undone Feeney-Shorten’s devious trick.

Conroy definitely recovered from his failure. Conroy’s opponents say he
would attempt to be the master negotiator, shuttling between the union
bosses and Feeney and Network and attempting to talk peace while always
carving things up nicely for himself. His friends and there aren’t many
(Crikey bumped into him at Andrew Bolt’s 40th) say he achieved growth
for the faction by negotiating deals with groups like the Labor Renewal
Alliance (Theo Theophanous), the Ferguson Left (based around the ASU
and the Tree-Cutters), the Pledge (a hard Left group expelled by Kim Il
Carr’s forces for being too left wing, meaning that most Pledge members
have pictures of Chairman Mao on the walls of their communes with the
possible exception of tax minimisation lawyer and now MP Jenny
Mikakos), the Independents (a strangle little group comprising mainly
lawyers and staffers who claim the tanned Minister John Thwaites, the
stunned Ann Corcoran MP and the retired Neil O’Keefe MP as their own
and once included the likes of Cain, Barry Jones).

Conroy’s critics say that except for the LRA, Sword has had to do all
the hard work on these deals. The alliance with Ferguson, Ian Jones of
the Pledge and the Independents is all due to the relationships and
credibility that Sword has as a respected union leader. Conroy’s
efforts in recruiting the brother of convict Andrew Theophanous, Theo
Theophanous Member for Jika Jika (an amusing title remembering that
Jika Jika was once the name of a prison) and fellow branchstackers
Keilor backbencher George Seitz, Sunshine MP Telmo Languiller, and
failed candidate Carlos Baldovino to the faction may have increased the
numbers, Network insiders believe, but they haven’t added to the
integrity or stability of the Victorian right. Many within the Network
group believe that an attack on these former LRA members is vital to
remove the cancer of branchstacking from the Victorian branch.
Representations are to made to Simon Crean and several Party forums
detailing the operations of the LRA, including the payment of
memberships by its leadership in breach of Party rules and many other
improprieties relating to fundraising. These are people of dubious
integrity that not even Kim Il Carr could tolerate. Those within the
Sword camp who want the state preselections re-opened believe that
Conroy’s mates Theophanous, Languiller and Seitz should be removed,
following the precedent of Tayfun Erun and Dimitri Dollis’ (best man at
the Bolkus wedding and whose wife was appointed by then Immigration
Minister Bolkus to the Immigration Review Tribunal on a $90,000 a year
package) removal prior to the last election. Sword, while sympathetic
to the concerns, is not willing to agree to this even though the Left
would totally support the move. It would be destabilising before an
election, Sword thinks. Others say it would be cleaning up the Party in
time for the election. Some think Bracks might favour the move,
especially Seitz.

Conroy’s shuttle diplomacy is not necessary now, Sword has replaced him
as the peace-maker between the warring clans. While to Conroy’s credit
he maintained friendships within the NUW, those friends regard his
efforts to negotiate with them in recent times as self-serving and
attempting to rebuild something that is now a distant memory.

Conroy’s one-time leadership is now finished, his critics say.
Shorten-Feeney don’t need him and Sword is committed to freezing him
out, not talking to him or wasting time on his games until Greg has had
a chance to establish new relations with the Left to shape the Party
for tomorrow. Sword suspects Conroy of leaking against the NUW to the
media, which Conroy denies. The NUW has no problem with Conroy being in
the Senate, with his nice payrise and big office, but his days of
manipulating results at their expense is over, according to those close
to Sword. Despite Shorten’s desperate spin that the numbers are fluid
and the outcome close, he knows he has already lost the Presidency.
Conroy knows he is permanently weakened. And Feeney knows that now
Bracks has given him up that there’s no turning back. The Modernisation
Alliance has arrived.

Love to all my fans, Delia

Peter Fray

Fetch your first 12 weeks for $12

Here at Crikey, we saw a mighty surge in subscribers throughout 2020. Your support has been nothing short of amazing — we couldn’t have got through this year like no other without you, our readers.

If you haven’t joined us yet, fetch your first 12 weeks for $12 and start 2021 with the journalism you need to navigate whatever lies ahead.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

JOIN NOW