If “sleazy deals” seem set to catapult Bill Shorten into parliament,
perhaps we need to have a closer look at them.

Even the phrase “Making sleazy deals” seems to be an example of one of
those irregular verbs so beloved by Bernard from Yes Minister
at work – “I am a democratic organiser, you work the numbers, they make sleazy
deals…”

To be fair, some deals mightn’t be as sleazy as they look. Yes, there are
a high proportion of Labor Party members on concessional rates, but that’s not
always sign of a stack. It could just mean that members are either rusted on
pensioners who can’t bear to leave the party they’ve served for so long – or students
who are yet to become disillusioned.

Disillusioned,
because some people are very selective as to where and when they will cry “sleaze”.

Take
Simon Crean, the man who has never lived in his electorate and was parachuted
into Hotham by factional mates who have now decided his time is up. The same
Simon Crean who strove to ensure that Mark Latham was elected solely so that
his lifelong rival Kim Beazley would not become leader again. The same Simon
Crean who is only now on the front bench because Mark Latham rewarded him by
resisting Crean’s own factional mates who wanted him dropped after the 2004
disaster. The same Simon Crean demanding loyalty from the leader he actively and
openly campaigned against and white-anted during his previous terms in the top
job? Sleazy.

Then
there’s Martin Ferguson, who moved from NSW to Victoria because that’s where his
factional mates were able to do the numbers that would get him into Parliament.
The Martin Ferguson who was parachuted into his seat of Batman without the
inconvenience of having to contest a preselection. The Martin Ferguson who has
been at the forefront of all the major factional battles of the last ten and
more years. The Martin Ferguson who tapped Simon Crean on the shoulder to tell
him his number was up? Sleazy too.

Gavan
O’Connor is a different player altogether – always an “independent” and outside
the factional mainstream, a teacher and farmer and local councillor who only
spent a short stint in John Button’s office before entering Parliament. He held
on to preselection because he gained and held strong local support and had the
luck of dysfunctional factional groups to win Corio five elections in a row.

O’Connor might
well have retired last time around – except that the factions decided they’d
encircle and take him out. That got his back up and he beat them at their own
game. They have long memories, so he is buggered this time.

But if
he’s stroppy enough there might be a real fight. Some sources say he could
resign, force a by-election and run as an Independent.

In Labor
terms, that’s really sleazy.

Peter Fray

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