In the long lazy days of summer you can always count on the Victorian ALP to provide some drama for political watchers as Canberra goes gaga over Prince William.
The resignation of transport minister Lynne Kosky on Monday has set in train a sequence of events that began with the media pre-emptively flaying her Cabinet successor, former National Union of Workers kingpin and Simon Crean-hater Martin Pakula, and ended with the state party tearing itself apart over a replacement for her very safe seat of Altona.
Following an unwavering, year-long, campaign against Kosky, The Age and the Herald Sun immediately splashed a clammy Pakula across front pages this week, with the nation’s top selling tabloid strong-arming the minister into a live-chat yesterday that appeared to feature several dorothy-dixers from the Labor spin machine. The appointment looks like more cruel and unusual punishment at the hands of premier John Brumby, who was famously forced to promote Pakula following Evan Thornley’s departure 12 months ago.
State government insiders say that Pakula will almost certainly crumble at the hands of the beleaguered Myki ticketing system, with the “touch-off” requirement on trams set to render peak-hour CBD travel inoperable. Meanwhile, it seems the Transport Ticketing Authority has resorted to using Google Ad-Words to “inform” the public over the system that doesn’t look like succeeding any time soon.
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This means someone in Kosky and now Pakula’s team is paying Google for the privilege of making the word appear at the top of a search result even though as a proprietary word, there is no competition. The Myki website appears at the top of the list organically, for free.
In theory, under Google’s “pay per click” rules, another government (or the opposition) peeved over water allocation issues in the Murray Darling Basin could repeatedly click on the Myki link and drain state government coffers.
Meanwhile, nominations for Altona opened this morning with socialist left powerbrokers hitting the phones to ensure the candidacy of former Port Phillip council fixer and Western Health board member Jill Hennessy, who has waited patiently from the sidelines after failed pre-selection bids for Holt in 1999 and Isaacs in 2000 following Greg Wilton’s tragic suicide. In Isaacs, Hennessy was dudded after she won the initial vote but was overruled by party heavyweights.
But Hennessy could encounter opposition from a peeved CFMEU, who finally abandoned Hennessy’s socialist left faction last night following months of tension.
CFMEU rebel Lisa Zanatta, who challenged Kosky last June, is on maternity leave from her job at construction worker super fund C-Bus and is unlikely to run. Emma Walters from CFMEU headquarters, another perennial bomb-thrower, ruled out her candidacy when contacted by Crikey. CFMEU state secretary Bill Oliver said he would be reserving the union’s decision on a candidate until nominations close on Monday.
Oliver confirmed to Crikey he had junked his formal alliance with the socialist left, saying his union was never in the stability pact and that the arrangement had been imposed on the party by factional warlords.
“We’ve been against the stability pact from the beginning because it locks in sitting members for the next 12 years without any possibility of them being challenged. The pact was done by factional warlords, even [Socialist Left Secretary] Andrew Giles knew nothing about it.”
Oliver was dismissive when asked whether he could reprise a mooted rebel alliance with the shop assistants and NUW. “We haven’t walked away from the left unions but we will sit down and talk about industrial and political matters with anyone who’s willing.”
Left sources told Crikey that the CFMEU has been hung out to dry by the NUW and the SDA and they are looking instead to re-connect with their base. Crikey understands that the union had been offered state seats and policy influence under the stability pact in the past, but that those opportunities had been passed up.
In truth, the CFMEU have been on the fringe of the pact, which it voted against, following its initial negotiation 12 months ago. At the last pre-selection round in June, it and fellow rebels the AMWU ran a number of candidates to challenge the agreement, which because it includes the Labor right, is believed to be too accommodating towards Canberra’s continued support of the Australian Building and Construction Commission.
In Altona, while Hennessy is generally considered safe, there remains enormous instability over the logistics with just 55 ALP members eligible to attend ALP headquarters on Monday to cast a vote.
Disclosure: Andrew Crook worked under Martin Pakula for three months in 2004 as part of the NUW’s “union summer” program.