The ALP’s bitterly contested round of federal preselections in Victoria wrapped up last night, with a third sitting member going down. Ann Corcoran, MP for Isaacs, had won 56% of the vote
in the local ballot but the numbers on the central panel, which
contributes half the votes, ran strongly enough against her to deliver
victory to her opponent, barrister Mark Dreyfus.

The two others under challenge, however – Harry Jenkins in Scullin and
Alan Griffin in Bruce – both survived, although by extremely narrow
margins (51% and 50.07% respectively, according to The Age).
Griffin was notable as the only one of the six MPs challenged who voted
for Mark Latham in the historic leadership ballot of December 2003.

So the final score on “renewal” is a tie, three-all. Corcoran, Gavan
O’Connor (Corio) and Bob Sercombe (Maribyrnong) will be replaced, while
Jenkins, Griffin and Simon Crean (Hotham) held on.

One obvious explanation for the results is in the quality of the
challengers. Dreyfus, a leading QC, will be a significant addition to
the parliamentary party, while Bill Shorten (Maribyrnong) and Richard
Marles (Corio), although both union officials, are at least
high-profile and talented ones. The other three challengers, all
political or union staffers, were virtual unknowns. That might have
made a difference.

It would be too much to say that “the system works”; it is clearly
dysfunctional. But the result is not a bad compromise between
rejuvenation and stability. If the ALP is serious about clearing out
dead wood, however, then there are plenty of targets elsewhere they
should be looking at. The Victorian party at least wins the majority of
federal seats, and most of its MPs are worth feeding; New South Wales
is the real basket case.

Peter Fray

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