Crikey’s heard the voices wailing in the Labor bunkers in the wake of Robert Ray’s address. “Hypocrisy, thy name is Labor hack!” they cry. We managed to run the tape recorder over one of them. Here’s the transcript:

Robert Ray is like John Faulkner. Both are in sinecures as a result of factional deals. I haven’t noticed either of them offering to stand aside for new blood or generational change and renewal.

There’s one funny thing about this argument from Ray et al federally. They all ignore a fundamental fact. The safe seats in which they claim renewal is needed were won and held by the incumbent – however hopeless and incompetent they might be – when to get into government Labor must run candidates in seats it does not now hold and win.

Swapping deckchairs will not win Labor government. In most cases the seats have been held successfully many times over. The research evidence suggests that personal votes are minimal. This might be an issue in marginals such as those Labor has to win and perhaps some it needs to retain, but it is not a deciding factor in safe seats usually targeted by factions to parachute in their favourite sons and daughters.

For Labor to win it needs candidates with a strong profile, especially locally, in the 18 or more seats it needs to win government. That requires hard work, persistence and perseverance in the electorate, the like of which is not clearly evident when looking at Marles, Dreyfus and Shorten in Victoria and others elsewhere, with a few exceptions.

To achieve the required profile the identified candidate needs to have time in the electorate. This means preselections should be held as early as possible. Preselections should be done within six months of an election with full party support given to those brave souls who give up their lives for the cause. That is what politics entails. Such a notion is antithetical to the factions, or at least the tribal warlords who run the various HQs, and think that regular ALP members are rank and ought to be filed away.

Better a head-office process to choose like-minded and compliant candidates so that even if all one is doing is divvying up the vastly inferior spoils of opposition, head office still maintains control.

The selection of factional players as candidates might well result in fine additions to the gene pool of ministerial and backbench talent in a Labor government, but will make absolutely no contribution to getting one elected.

Peter Fray

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