A Labor insider calling himself Glen Wills has responded to the various people who have taken issue with his original piece revealing how the Queensland factions unfairly shafted poor old Cheryl Kernot.

Thanks for publishing the piece I wrote about Cheryl Kernot under the name of “Glen Wills” and I thought I’d take this opportunity to respond to some of your subscribers:

“Sydney Subscriber” is correct to say that preselection nominations were open when Cheryl Kernot defected to the ALP and that several people were vying for Dickson. However preselections hadn’t closed so it does remain a possibility that Michael Lavarch may have lodged a nomination afterall. The truth is that Lavarch was very unlucky to lose Dickson to the disgraceful Tony Smith in 1996, and would have been a shoo-in to win it again.

Your correspondent is right in that I also recall Michael Lavarch saying that he would not seek a return to politics while his wife was an MP (for the kids’ sake), but I also recall chatting to a member of the AWU faction who was with Michael when Cheryl made her first visit to Dickson. My colleague said he could clearly see the expression on Michael Lavarch’s face as Cheryl was led around a fawning throng that indicated Michael Lavarch was seeing any chance he had of reviving his political career going down the drain.

However, given that I have found Michael Lavarch to be sincere in my dealings with him, I am happy to stand corrected on this one.

What I am not wrong about, however, is the ill feeling between Linda Lavarch and Cheryl Kernot. Nobody who had any involvement in the campaign (and how much work did “Sydney subscriber” do in Dickson in 1998 and 2001?) could deny the tension between Linda and Cheryl. Sure they attended some functions together (as State MP and Federal MP), such as the occasional citizenship ceremonies, but to suggest that Linda Lavarch did anything more than the bare minimum to help Cheryl Kernot is a complete lie.

To say that the Lavarch’s are not AWU players is a furphy. Your correspondent is probably correct in that privately Michael Lavarch hates the factions but he is a real softie and was never prepared to stand up to the faction leaders of the AWU. For example, Michael Lavarch never stood up to Bill Ludwig when big bad Bill threatened all Labor’s Qld Federal MPs with loss of endorsement if they backed Paul Keating against Bob Hawke in 1991, even though Lavarch was a Keating supporter. Linda Lavarch was always a real factional player and she really does wear the pants. To his credit, Michael Lavarch was very supportive of Cheryl and was lined up to be heavily involved in her 2001 campaign until he took a job that took him out of Brisbane regularly (but how does this equate with staying home to look after the kiddies while wifey is in parliament?)

From my experience, over his career, Michael Lavarch has been more than prepared to do the AWUs bidding for them. A recent example was the post-election meeting of the Dickson FDE (the group of branches that lie within the electorate and who elect delegates to oversee the running of party matters in the electorate) held in December 2001 that was attended by none other than Queensland ALP State Secretary, Cameron Milner (also AWU), the Lavarch’s and a gaggle of other AWU operatives who had rarely been sighted in Dickson when work was needed to be done during the campaign. Indeed, there were a number of people present that had spent most of the time that Kernot was MP actively undermining her.

At this meeting the Lavarch’s stood by while Milner unleashed a blistering personal attack on Cheryl Kernot and blamed her for “deliberately sabotaging Kim Beazley’s campaign”.

Milner, aided by Michael Lavarch, then swung the meeting around to focus on “winning Dickson back”. Whilst on the face of it an understandable approach, it became obvious that this was at the expense of trying to learn from Kernot’s campaign and asking some hard questions of why Labor lost. It soon became apparent to the unaligned members in the FDE that the AWU was not interested in an in-depth examination of a number of critical issues, namely:

* The continual undermining of Cheryl Kernot by elements within the Labor Party, who were obviously prepared to sacrifice Dickson in order to get rid of Kernot. (Whereas it is expected that party members offer total loyalty and support to endorsed Labor candidates and MP’s – especially when they belong to the AWU faction – it appears that members of the AWU faction can pick and choose which endorsed Labor candidates are worthy of their support);

* The failure of State Office to honour commitments made to the campaign committee to regularly letterbox flyers throughout the electorate on behalf of Cheryl Kernot;

* The failure of the organiser appointed by National Office to attend meetings of the campaign committee and FDE during the campaign;

* National office taking money from the Dickson campaign and using it on less marginal seats (with AWU candidates) that ultimately were not won by Labor (such as Petrie, where former Cheryl staffer Rosemary Hume was the candidate);

* The unwillingness of State Office to negotiate a preference deal with the Democrats for Dickson, whilst at the same time having all seats with AWU candidates, whether marginal or safe, included in the preference deal arrangements; and

* The failure of the Labor Womens’ Organisation and senior Labor women to publicly defend and support Cheryl Kernot in the face of the vindictive campaign waged against her by the Coalition and the press. (Of course, the reason for this lack of support is because the LWO is merely an extension of the faction system, and the “sisterhood” only comprises female faction hacks).

Finally, I have heard that quite a few of Cheryl’s former staffers are very keen for their names to be cleared of the accusation that one of them may have accessed her emails illegally, given that this matter has been referred to the police . To this end, former staffer Dean “Doggo” Goding has apparently admitted to other staffers that he knew it was Rosemary Hume who accessed Kernot’s emails and passed them onto Wayne Swan.

Crikey, not only was my hunch correct, but this story has still has a long way to run! Maybe Mickey Spillall might know if there is panic in Peel Street (Qld ALP HQ)?

Thanks for the opportunity to contribute.

Peter Fray

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