By Crikey political correspondent Christian Kerr

Labor branch stacking has dominated Victorian state political news for almost a fortnight. Two former premiers are calling for action and Steve Bracks is going to have to move. Everyone now knows the branch stacking rules implemented a few years back have failed, that MPs who were delivered seats by stacking simply can’t help themselves.

The Administrative Committee’s reaction to John Cain’s report – shelving it – comes as no surprise to party insiders. Labor Unity warlords Stephen Conroy, Bill Shorten and deputies Martin Pakula and Fiona Richardson have been foolish to think this issue will go away. Even Labor Unity members think they’ve fluffed this one. Too many of the rank and file, left and right, know stacking is out of control and want the premier to act.

Bracks, alas, is hamstrung by his own Labor Unity faction’s culture of promoting ethnic warlords. The last Newspoll confirmed his government is in a slump. Blaming Mark Latham won’t be much of an excuse soon. Bracks needs to use the authority of his office to implement Cain’s recommendations.

While media reports at first concentrated on the federal seat of Gorton, affairs in Issacs and Corio are now also under scrutiny. Corio mud is sticking to ACTU Assistant Secretary Richard Marles, and Labor insiders say Greg Combet or Sharon Burrow are not happy.

Will the grassroots revolt? Will the people named in the Cain report actually get charged? There’s talk that Bracks is about to receive an ultimatum from the unions – and when they’re able to hand out lessons in democracy, things must be bad indeed.

PS: Are there echoes of these antics in some of the recent goings-on in the Victorian Liberal Party? Probably not, according to party sources. Leader Robert Doyle isn’t all that good. Hawthorn MLA Ted Baillieu probably has the numbers to challenge him, but won’t. Louise Asher, from Brighton, would like to launch a spill but wouldn’t get the votes. Former leader Dennis Napthine entertains odd delusions of returning from time to time, but they’re just delusions. Kennett minister Robin Cooper simply likes lobbing the odd grenade. And Kim Wells is being challenged in Scoresby because for a very basic reason – he’s nothing special.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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