By Christian Kerr

Former Victorian Premier Joan Kirner tells The Age today factionalism is out of control and threatens the survival of the ALP (More than half of state Labor members ‘bogus).

“Branch-rigging was so rife in safe Labor electorates such as Gorton and Scullin that up to 80% of financial members were the result of stacking,” the paper quotes an unnamed party official as saying. “You would expect a mix of people who are new members, but almost always they come in ethnically homogenous groups within a particular branch.”

Kirner’s predecessor, John Cain, the first Labor premier in Victoria in a generation warns of “the deterrent effect it [stacking] has on loyal, contributing members of the party. It affects morale in a big way.”

So given the report on Victorian ALP branch stacking leaked on the weekend, why aren’t the parties looking at the proposals Queensland University Emeritus and former federal electoral commissioner Professor Colin Hughes made to the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters inquiry into electoral fraud in 2001 to hand over preselections to independent electoral commissions?

Queensland Labor rorts sparked this investigation, and Premier Peter Beattie has moved in this direction. If Victorian Labor – or any other party – wants to stop the stacking, they can set an example and follow the path set by Hughes.

And they can take a look at Queensland and the story in waiting – how the local ALP is coping with its loss of direct control over pre-selections and if signs are appearing of improved candidate quality and a reduction in enrolment fraud and stacking.