Progressive Labor forces are wondering whether The Australian has been anointed as the 105th member of federal caucus after an extraordinary front-page salvo this week left Julia Gillard and Simon Crean looking like dills and internal party bickering once again taking centre stage.

The unhinged decision of SDA groupers Don Farrell, John Hogg and Steve Hutchins (Hutchins is aligned with the Transport Workers Union but has a soft spot for the shoppies after they assisted with his pre-selection), to lob a pipe bomb in the PM's direction on gay marriage has been labelled in some circles as a pre-emptive strike before a showdown at December's national conference.