A former senior West Australian Carpenter government adviser has emerged as a compromise candidate in the race for the position of Victorian ALP State Secretary.
Luke Walladge, currently working for the Australian Communications and Media Authority in Victoria, is being talked up in right-wing circles as a replacement for departing state secretary Stephen Newnham, who avoided the axe in farcical circumstances at last Thursday’s meeting of the ALP’s Administrative Committee.
Yesterday, Mr Walladge was overheard proclaiming his interest in being parachuted into the state secretary role. His appointment as a peacemaker would make sense, insiders say, as it would inject fresh blood into a party struggling to overcome the factional fights threatening to derail next year’s crucial state election campaign.
Mr Walladge refused to rule out his interest in the position when contacted by Crikey this morning.
Last Thursday’s meeting ended in farce after forces aligned to Senator Stephen Conroy unexpectedly backed former Sang Nguyen electorate officer Mehmet Tillem, in a savage rebuff to Premier John Brumby, who was pushing for staffer and confident Nick Reece to be immediately installed in the role. Shorten’s forces backed Reece, in defiance of their factional allies.
Walladge, who has also worked for the WA branch of the Shop Assistants Union, is believed to be formally unattached to the brawling Shorten or Conroy camps. Sources say he represents a solid compromise candidate to competently run the state branch, without the internecine baggage attached to many of names spruiked to date.
Under a stability pact signed in January with the party’s left, the position of state secretary is decided by Shorten and Conroy-aligned delegates. But neither Reece, Tillem, right-faction powerbroker Noah Carroll nor other potential names including George Droutsas are believed to be in the running.
Walladge previously worked as senior adviser to WA premiers Geoff Gallop and Alan Carpenter, before leaving state Labor in 2007 to work for Shop Assistants’ Union. Six months ago, he moved to Victoria to work in a strategic communications role in the Victorian Department of Justice. He is currently based in Melbourne administering the ACMA Do Not Call Register.
The issue of the appointment of State Secretary is expected to be formally revisited when the party’s Administrative Committee meets again in three weeks’ time. However, under party rules, a special emergency meeting can be convened at any time. There is now mounting pressure to resolve the state secretary spat so early preparations for next year’s state and federal elections can properly begin.
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Mr Newnham, who asked to be sacked at last Thursday’s meeting, is not expected to see out the rest of the week.