Two different insiders from Labor Unity have filed interesting accounts of Thursday’s night’s faction meeting in Port Melbourne ahead of Friday’s vote that saw their candidate, Bill Shorten, defeated in his tilt at the Presidency of the Victorian ALP. First, let’s read what Eunice Unity has to say.

Labor Unity meetings can usually be held in a phone box. But this one saw a turn out larger than expected. Most were there to show their solidarity and to see who among them had crossed over to the other side. A few names bothered to turn up. Sherryl Garbutt, Marsha Thomson and Theo “not in jail” Theophanous were there. Bill Shorten even turned up along with David Feeney. But most of those in attendance were the usuals – political wanna-bes, political has-beens and political never-will-bes who can’t stay away from a faction hack meeting.

The leader of the gutted Labor Unity faction, Senator Stephen Conroy, tried to put a positive spin on the events of the past 4 weeks. But no one was hoodwinked. Everyone present knew that Conroy had been out manoeuvred by a superior political opponent in Greg Sword. Conroy has been severely damaged by the shrewd political manoeuvrings of Sword and the NUW/Network group. Conroy has been taught a political lesson by Sword and those present at the Labor Unity meeting knew their leader had arrogantly underestimated Sword’s abilities and paid the price.

Bill Shorten made it clear that Sword was going to give him the chop in the ballot for ALP President. Sure enough, that prediction came true. And David Feeney made it clear that he was next on the chopping block. His fate will be the same as Shorten’s – just a week later. While there was some support for the Labor Unity leadership, it was clear that the broad feeling was that the leadership had let the members down.

You see the problem with Conroy is that he has runs Labor Unity more like the Branch Davidian Sect than a political movement. Conroy (aka David Koresh) sees himself as a political overlord who demands total commitment and loyalty from Labor Unity members. This can work in a faction based on communist principles ie the Social Left under Paramount Leader Kim Il Carr, but in a faction like Labor Unity this method is fraught with danger. Ultimately this resulted in the splitting from the faction by Sword and Network.

But now the Branch Davidians are turning on their leader Koresh. And we all know what happened at Waco when this happened. Now Labor Unity looks like suffering the same fate. Conroy has also been undermined by his witless, troubled, accident prone offsider, Fiona Richardson. Richardson has been out of her depth in political and factional circles from some time and her inability to negotiate a way through recent events will come back to haunt her. At the TWU headquarters she was clearly showing the strain and became defensive when questions were asked. The smell of death surrounded her.

Richardson is set to be the first to be outed in a push to control the smaller Labor Unity faction by remanent members of the former Labor Renewal Alliance. Theo “not in jail” Theophanous is a seasoned political operator and has sensed weakness. He is at the moment marshalling his forces to take a more powerful role within Labor Unity. Theophanous doesn’t take any baggage with him on his political journeys and Richardson is set to be the first off. Some speculate that she will be gone as the faction’s secretary within a month.

Theophanous along with fellow LRA members George Seitz and Telmo Languillar are set to demand a larger share of control over Labor Unity. At a time when the faction is on the point of total disintegration, Conroy will have little option but to pay the price Theophanous wants for his support. And what will Theophanous demand of Conroy and Labor Unity? Well one deal floating around Labor Unity circles is that Theophanous hopes to strike a deal with now exiled Labor Unity powerbroker Bob Sercome. Sercome is being hunted by Labor Unity. Its no secret that Bill Shorten wants to enter Federal Parliament and sees Sercome’s seat of Maribynong as his to take. But to Theophanous, Sercome is an opportunity to build a bridge with a powerful ally in the northern suburbs.

But with Kim Il Carr and Greg Sword now in control of the Victorian Branch of the ALP, its clear to all that Labor Unity has become irrelevant. And typically when one group goes from power to out of power, heads will roll. Give it a little time, then the Labor Unity blood letting will begin!

Yours truly, Eunice Unity

ends

Invective night at the TWU

By Ursula Unity

Crikey’s second spy at the Labor Unity faction meeting

Hell broke loose tonight at the Transport Workers Unions bunker in Rouse Street, Port Melbourne. It was the best attended Right faction meeting in years, a surprise given that about half the people who previously attended, Sword and the NUW and the Networkers, were visibly and obviously absent. They may never be welcome again. The faction in recent years has rarely met, and this may have been because the tensions under the surface were simmering and no one wanted to bring them to the boil, until the last two weeks.

Labor Unity heavyweight Stephen Conroy looked smart and dapper in his tailor made Parisian outfit, blending very uneasily in working class surroundings. Perhaps he looked more suited to the yuppified town houses next door. Leaking is out, said Conroy. Reg the Representative and Harry the Hack please stop it. You are encouraging Delia, whose cryptic comments enable the Liberals in the Senate to give me hell. Erica Betz quotes Delia regularly in the chamber, and even went so far as to tell me that my faction had been Shortened and Sercombecised. Really. Yet Conroy looked happy, unlike the faction secretary who was definitely suffering under the pressure. Conroy, having previously lost control of the Labor Unity Executive, now stands to regain that control, and perhaps win the title Kim Il from Kim Carr, in Conroy’s case as the Commissar of the Right.

Invective was predictably aimed at Greg Sword, but was a little restrained. Who ratted was the question on everyone’s mind. The main cuss language was directed to the Networkers, the former youth group now found as staffers in ministerial offices all over Spring Street and beyond, and some have even been elected to the parliamentary chambers themselves. The Networkers are Swords key supporters. But there is hope. Joe Helper, Parliamentary head honcho for the faction, was in a reconciliatory mood. All are in so far. We don’t want any out. He refused to name the Network parliamentarians, in the hope that some will come over. Tim Holding was named as a person who did not think it appropriate to attend parliamentary faction meetings at this time. Perhaps he can be won back. Only one MP has resigned from the faction, and that is Conroy’s arch enemy and federal MHR for Maribyrnong Bob Sercombe. Sword and Sercombe are strange bedfellows. So are Sercombe and the Networkers. Sercombe knows Bill Shorten is after his seat, and is out to protect himself in the ways of ALP factional politics he knows best. The wiley old beneficiary of branchstacking will almost certainly outsmarten his new allies as he has Conroy in the past.

What else happened? Nothing of note. Plenty of motherhood statements. Even an explanation by Theo Theophanous as to why he left the Socialist Left to now be a major player in the Victorian Right. Bill Shorten was philosophical and sounded every bit the Prime Ministerial material he certainly is. I might not win the Presidency, but at least I’ll be Vice President if everyone follows the ticket. And I might even win. Phar Lap won once at 50-1, he added. He expects upwards of 200 votes, and the election will go down to the wire. And David Feeney was equally on top of it. He’ll defend his position to the last. He means to win the next election for Labor as he did the last. Labor had no money to run campaigns when the Socialist Left misspent it. A Labor Unity Secretary in the party office is necessary to ensure a party win. He is probably correct. One point overlooked by almost everyone is the fact that the faction is now increasingly Catholic. Gene technology is a definite no no, and so too is any support for euthanasia. But these positions are also held by many non-Catholics. A faction of believers need not be a bad thing, certainly if religious belief has an ethical basis and believers do not try to force their views on others. The Labor Unity faction will be liberal in its outlook. Its parliamentarians will not be taking the socially conservative positions now held by a minority of Liberal MP’s who in a previous life might have been members of the DLP.”

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