John Faulkner took his moment in the limelight well. His strong,
well-measured speech didn’t just gently bury Mark Latham, it was a cry
for culture change in the factions. Faulkner throws the book at Labor.

Check out his speech here:
“Those of us on the inside of the gladiatorial NSW culture
underestimate the difference between our own experience and
expectations and those of the community,” bemoans the Labor historian.
“That cost us. And it cost Mark. Both Mark Latham and the Party he led
were hurt by our own culture.”

As Faulkner points out, he’s not just a bystander. He’s Labor’s
senior NSW Senator, and a factional power lord in his own right. So
what is he doing about the problems he rightly highlights?

This is particularly relevant since there seems to be a bit of “Muggeridging” going on.
Subscribers will recall Malcolm Muggeridge espoused a somewhat
licentious and free lifestyle until he got too old and past it – and
then became the worst sort of self-righteous convert on matters sensual.

The sight of factional warriors from either side whining about how
others should do something when they simply stand back and point the
finger seems just a little precious. Sure, Faulkner has felt the
factional blowtorch himself: the NSW Right machine has tried, and
failed, to have Faulkner dropped to an unwinnable spot on the Senate

Faulkner still maintains respect and credibility, and could work inside
to dismantle or at least mitigate the worst effects of factionalism –
even in just his own faction. He has to show signs he is doing so. He
could even join with others who eschew factions, but still know how to
organise and count to move around factions and make them less
relevant. But there’s no sign he’s doing that either.

The need to play the numbers game is an important distinction not often
recognised by those bemoaning factional power. If you get the votes you
can beat the factions; but you have to work harder than the factions,
not just talk about it. John Faulkner has a chance to seize the moment,
and do more than deliver a powerful speech. Over to you, Senator.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey