The Victorian secretary of
the Labor Party, Erik Locke, has quit, citing branch stacking in the
State party and claiming he is “embarrassed” by the party’s state of
affairs.

He must have a high embarrassment threshold. Locke should have
resigned red-faced last November after negotiating the disastrous
preference deal that gifted Family First a Senate seat with a miniscule
percentage of the vote — and allowed the Coalition to cobble together
its Upper House majority.

In
his resignation letter today, Locke says he can “no longer explain and
justify the actions going on within the party over branch stacking”.
It’s an interesting stand, as Locke has said nothing publicly about the
furore, prefering instead to help direct the battle from behind the
scenes through anonymous media briefings.

There are many in the
party who say Locke outstayed his wlecome by six months. His role in
the preference negotiations that got Family First up in the Senate will
long be remembered. Locke set himself the task of saving right wing
Senator Jacinta Collins. Instead of achieving that by brokering a deal
with the Family Firsters, Locke delivered the final Senate position to
the religious rightists — at the expense of Collins. Then he had the
gall to blame the Greens for “under-delivering” on their vote.

True
to form, Locke leaked his resignation letter to ABC Melbourne morning
shock jock, Jon Faine, before sending it to president Brian Daley.
Today’s parting shot is aimed at applying pressure on the party’s admin
committee to open an inquiry into branch stacking. If that happens over
Erik Locke’s political body, it’s not such a bad result.

Peter Fray

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