Today is the sixth anniversary of Steve Bracks’s ascension to the Victorian ALP
leadership. 3AW shock jock Neil Mitchell celebrated by inviting Terri Bracks on
to share his weekly morning slot with the Premier, subjecting them to his usual
brand of hard-hitting questioning: “Have you changed much over the past six
years?” “Who makes the school lunch sandwiches for the boys,” etc, etc.

We’ll ask a different kind of question: who, or what, is driving the factional
warfare that’s spoiling Bracks’s sixth anniversary celebrations?

Over the past few weeks, sections of the media have been running a strident
campaign to “reform” the Victorian ALP against the rise of demonic factional
forces and branch stackers: Stop pretending all is well, Premier.

It’s a tale familiar to Crikey subscribers, who know all about the political
Byzantium that is the Victorian ALP thanks to our team of Labor insiders and
informers over the past five years: Delia Delegate dishes the dirt.

Certainly, the state Admin Committee’s non-reaction to John Cain’s report on
branch stacking is unsustainable. The issue will not go away. Particularly with
the recent discovery of the story by the mainstream media. The yarn grew legs
when ABC Melbourne’s Jon Faine got Joan Kirner on his morning show early this
month, and the former Premier and Left factional spear carrier obligingly
dropped a bucket on her right wing opponents.

Ho hum. Woman bites dog. These are the same sort of allegations Kirner was
making five years ago. The truth is that the Left has been comprehensively
outmanoeuvred in Victoria during the Bracks years and is now desperately
lashing around for outside help.

So why has the story gained currency in the media now? Enter, Andrew Jaspan,
new and excitable editor of The Age, fresh from a stint on a tabloid paper in the Outer Hebrides.

Jaspan has everyone on tenterhooks at Spencer St since his arrival late last
year. He’s made it known he doesn’t think much of Aussie hacks. Most recently,
his treatment of the paper’s respected deputy editor Simon Mann has sent the
place into fear and loathing.

That tension is driving a new culture. Hacks who once took a quietly balanced
view of news are engaging in a dogfight for big yarns. After years of dull “for
the record” reporting, championed by former editor Michael Gawenda, the
“exclusive” dinkus has been dusted off and used at The Age over the past six months as never before.

So the Victorian factional wars have gone off like a bushfire at the height of
summer, as The Age and The Sunday Age compete against each other for the latest hot political story. The effect is
that the Victorian Left have found a new ally in their fight against growing
irrelevance. They can’t believe their good luck.

For those citizens who’ve just arrived in Victoria, the Left legacy here is one
of political and economic chaos, exemplified by Joan Kirner’s own brief period
as Premier. Andrew Jaspan would do well to take a crash-course in political
history in his new home before he takes up arms for the likes of Kirner.

Factional warlords and newspaper editors should send their comments to [email protected]

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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