Crikey is slowly coming to the view that Cheryl Kernot was seriously shafted by the ALP with the ultimate assassination being the leaking of those emails. This Glen Wills account from inside the Queensland ALP is very revealing because Glen had plenty to do with Cheryl as member for Dickson.
The AWU faction always considered Dickson a seat for one of its own lackeys, and was mighty annoyed when national office plonked Cheryl in it. The Queensland State Office, controlled by the AWU faction, basically washed its hands of the 1998 campaign for Dickson and thereafter did the least it could to support her.
The AWU faction had the numbers under control when Michael Lavarch was the Member for Dickson and the Lavarch’s remain very powerful in the seat – wife Linda won the state seat of Kurwongbah in a 1997 by-election and has some very smart and ambitious footsoldiers on her staff. It was rumoured that Michael Lavarch was seriously considering running again for Dickson in 1998 when he received the tap on the shoulder from national office telling him that other plans were being made for Dickson. Presumably wife Linda – Michael’s backbone – went ballistic, because she openly despised Cheryl Kernot from then on and did very little to help her as the Member for Dickson even though their seats shared the same territory.
One of your subscribers mentioned the issue of Kernot’s staff and it was a fact that nearly all ALP members in Dickson were appalled at how her electorate office was run. Your correspondent is right in that the AWU successfully managed to stack her office. (It is well known that the AWU faction insists on having one of its own in every Ministerial office, and wherever else it can exert its pervasive influence). However, the failure of Cheryl’s office to operate effectively wasn’t all the AWU’s doing. For her chief electorate officer Cheryl chose life-long friend and long-time ALP members Clarrie White, a lay-preacher. Clarrie is a really nice bloke but he had no idea how to run an electorate office and how it could be used to consolidate an MPs position. Clarrie’s main focus was protecting Cheryl – a noble enough aim given the number of people out to get her – but it became impossible for branch members to get to Cheryl, even to offer support or suggestions (or even warn her about the people undermining her) without going through Clarrie, and Clarrie’s political radar was far from finely tuned.
The AWU faction succeeded in getting two of its own on Cheryl’s staff – Rosemary Hume, a pleasant enough lady who was chasing endorsement for the adjoining seat of Petrie, which she gained by selling her soul to the AWU faction. The other was a forklift truck driver named Dean “Doggo” Goding, son of a long-time AWU organiser with an unrealistic dose of ambition.
So there it was: a newly-elected federal member in a very marginal seat and without a support base in the ALP had as her electorate office staff three people who had never worked in an electorate office before. One of these people was preoccupied with her own political career and another was content to laze around the office and watch Clarrie answer the phones. It sure beat working for a living!
Recent media articles implying that it was someone from inside Cheryl’s office that accessed the allegedly incriminating email re Cheryl’s affair with Gareth Evans seems to be well founded. I am prepared to speculate that Rosemary Hume’s seduction by the AWU (“you either join us or we won’t support you in the preselection”) could easily have seen her do some dirty work on behalf of the faction known for its skullduggery (as crikey’s contributor Mickey Spillall noted – all the rorters uncovered in the Shepherdson inquiry were from the AWU faction). Of course, it could have been Doggo but it is hard to believe that he could have mastered the use of a computer in only the few short years that he worked for Cheryl.
However, although Cheryl had big problems with her electorate office staff, her biggest challenge was the Dickson Federal Division Executive (FDE), delegates from the group of ALP branches in the seat that runs election campaigns and associated matters. Who was the President of this group? None other than AWU faction heavyweight Jacki Byrne, former 2IC to Kevin Rudd in the much-feared Office of Cabinet under former Premier Wayne Goss. Jacki is also number 3 in the AWU faction hierarchy in Queensland, behind Bill Ludwig and Wayne Swan.
In a Labor-held seat, the role of the FDE is to support the sitting member and organise fundraisers and the like. The Dickson FDE was an exception, however, with Jacki Byrne’s husband Chris, long time member of the AWU (union and faction), using it as a forum for bagging the elected Labor member. Meetings of this body became almost unworkable and the conflicts were duly reported in the following day’s Courier-Mail newspaper, time after time. At one stage when the Executive of the FDE (with the exception of Jacki) called for a suspension of standing orders and took Chris Byrne aside to find out what his problem with Cheryl was, he told them about Cheryl’s affair with Gareth. This was February 2000. Of course, everyone who heard what Chris was alleging thought it was bullshit because why would the media sit on something like that? Anyway, it was only in about August 2001 when Cheryl threatened to take legal action against Chris Byrne for leaking information to the Courier-Mail that the leaking stopped and the FDE was able to gear up for the federal campaign.
The treatment of Cheryl by the Courier-Mail was consistently negative and unbalanced from the time she joined the ALP. Many people believe this was due to her being a “traitor” to the Democrats, but the real reason is much tackier. Soon after Cheryl announced her defection to Labor the Courier-Mail’s (then) editor, Chris Mitchell, rang her and asked if she would report (anonymously) on the internal going’s-on in the ALP. Cheryl refused, and like a lover spurned, Mitchell sought his revenge. It was also no coincidence that Mitchell is a great mate of Kevin Rudd.
Although I would be the first to acknowledge that in a lot of ways Cheryl Kernot was her own worst enemy, without doubt the Labor Party failed to provide her with the necessary support that she needed to come to terms with a lower house seat and a shadow ministry. Why did Beazley initially give her a portfolio as unsuitable as transport and regional development? Probably to hasten her demise. For the 2001 election, National Office deserted her just like Queensland State Office did three years before.
I know a lot of people are glad that it’s Cheryl hunting time again, but I’m not one of them.
I notice that Mickey Spillall has contributed again. Its good to see that another member of the ALP in Queensland is so thoroughly fed up with the antics of the AWU. By the way, an ALP organiser told me that the membership of the Qld branch is down to around 5000, which is less that Mickey thinks.
Thanks and best wishes, Glen Wills