The son of Australia’s most powerful unionist says he is poised to snare the glittering prize of president of Victorian Young Labor as the intra-Right stoush heads to the ALP’s supreme governing body.

Michael de Bruyn, whose father is federal Shop Assistants’ chief Joe de Bruyn, has been embroiled in a bitter 10 week war for the top job following a disputed ballot at Young Labor’s now notorious April conference.

But his rival, the sprightly Bill Shorten-aligned Australian Workers Union organiser Shannon Threlfall-Clarke, is still keen to snare an unlikely victory for her part of the Right, and deny what some Young Labor insiders consider as de Bruyn’s birthright.

The proxy war for control of Victorian Young Labor is now resting on a ruling of the party’s National Executive, following referrals from the Victorian party’s disputes tribunal overseen by the impressive and impartial Esmond Curnow.

While declining to be quoted extensively on the record, de Bruyn did say that that the national disputes tribunal had ruled in his favour and said the National Executive generally accepts the tribunal’s recommendation. Curnow confirmed that he had examined three disputed ballots and issued a ruling, which was then appealed.

The spat mirrors the division in state Labor as a whole, where the ‘ShortCons’ share power with an ascendant Socialist Left and the Shop Assistants are out on a limb with the National Union of Workers and parts of the Health Services Union. Until this year, the Young Labor portion of the Right had pledged to stick together.

The dispute between Threlfall-Clarke and de Bruyn’s troops exploded into acrimony three weeks ago following a controversial meeting of the Young Labor Executive chaired by outgoing president Grant Poulter.

The colourful back-and-forth, obtained by Crikey (read Threlfall-Clarke’s opening salvo here and de Bruyn’s 1500-word response here), illustrates the bad blood that continues to flow inside the divided right. According to de Bruyn, the meeting failed to reach quorum and a move to re-run the ballot was an attempt to “whitewash a democratic election”.

“This is not Super Mario Brothers or Call of Duty — a game where if you stuff up or things don’t go your way you can restart the level. This is democracy, and about allowing those who bothered to turn out on the fateful day in April having their voice heard,” wrote de Bruyn.

One de Bruyn-aligned acolyte continued the vitriol yesterday, branding the meeting an “absolutely shameless last ditch attempt to re-gain some authority and turn things around.”

“I’ve been around Young Labor for years and I’ve never seen anything quite as outrageous as this. Grant was pushed into it by Jesse Overton-Skinner and Ella George.”

De Bruyn’s allies maintain that some votes for President were sourced from delegates living interstate and that at least one person had signed a statutory delegation claiming their signature had been forged on a form that proxied their vote to someone else. He wanted the “enveloped” votes struck out.

Threlfall-Clarke loyalist and one-time state secretary candidate Mehmet Tillem, 37, has asked the Victorian ALP’s powerful administrative committee to intervene to declare the vote invalid, on which their faction controls the numbers in league with the Left. However this week’s scheduled Admin meeting will now not be held until July 11. In the event of an adverse ruling, de Bruyn’s forces say they are planning to push the dispute through state courts.

Young Labor has long been considered a kindergarten for young MPs on the make, with many of the current crop expecting to secure preselection for state and federal seats over the coming decade.

Peter Fray

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