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May 14, 2012

Labor state bosses stare down PM on primaries

At least four state Labor branches have junked Julia Gillard's urgings to hold primary preselections before the 2013 federal election, with NSW general secretary Sam Dastyari failing to rule out a series of feared National Executive interventions to protect incumbent MPs.


At least four state Labor branches have junked Julia Gillard’s urgings to hold primary preselections before the 2013 federal election, with NSW general secretary Sam Dastyari failing to rule out a series of feared national executive interventions to protect incumbent MPs.

The ALP’s December national conference inserted key clauses in the party platform encouraging state and territory branches to hold trial preselections, with the results to be communicated back to the federal party. Labor’s updated guiding document now states boldly that “state and territory branches may trial community selection ballots when selecting lower house candidates” and that the party will support “state and territory branches that undertake a trial of community selection ballots when selecting candidates”.

The prime minister has firmly backed the US-style experiments, which were a key recommendation of the Bracks-Carr-Faulkner review.

But this morning on Radio National’s Breakfast, James Carleton managed to extract a confession from Dastyari that there would be no primaries held in NSW federal seats before the next election and that the hung parliament meant Australians could be forced to the ballot box at any moment.

Dastyari said instead he was “committed to holding five primaries for the 2015 state election”. Labor would move to primaries for federal seats “in time”, but the initial findings would have to be referred first to the ALP national conference.

When pressed on whether the party would act to ring-fence NSW federal MPs that could be turfed out in a rank-and-file vote, Dastyari — who is engaged in a bitter debate with union bosses keen to preserve their heft on the issue — declined to rule out an imminent national executive-led protection racket, saying only that “the days of intervention should come to an end”.

NSW was the site of a bitter series of brutal knifings in the lead-up to the 2010 poll, with Michelle Rowland in Greenway, Stephen Jones in Throsby, and Laurie Ferguson in Werriwa shoehorned into their seats because they would have lost a local ballot. Manoeuvring among local branches to ditch the Left’s Jones has already begun at the behest of the Right’s Noreen Hay.

The NSW branch is currently undertaking a consolation primary to finger its candidate for the unwinnable Sydney Lord Mayor gig, attracting high-profile Australian columnist Cassandra Wilkinson and NSW Council for Civil Liberties’ chief Cameron Murphy. General public voting opens today.

But other state secretaries were hesitant on rolling out their own trials when contacted by Crikey this morning.

ALP Victorian State secretary Noah Carroll said the state branch had not committed to any primary preselections either at state or federal level, but would re-assess the possibility at state level after the Victorian Electoral Commission rules on final redistributions in mid-2013.

Tasmanian state secretary John Dowling said that with the state conference due to finalise federal preselections in August, the party “would have to get cracking” if it was going to give a preselection “serious consideration”. One possibility for a preselection was in a non-held seat such as Dennison, currently occupied by independent Andrew Wilkie. Labor had previously attempted a preselection for the state seat of Hobart, but the failed experiment attracted only one candidate, Dowling said.

North of the Tweed, Queensland state secretary Anthony Chisholm announced 10 days ago that selecting future ALP candidates for the Brisbane City Council was an option but has ruled out primaries at state and federal level.

Western Australia ALP boss Simon Mead and South Australian secretary Kyam Maher did not respond by deadline, but Crikey understands plans for federal primaries are rapidly receding from view in those states.

If state branches eventually go down the primary path, they may have to refine their approach.

Alan Griffin’s impressive review of the 2010 Victorian campaign questioned the efficacy of the state branch’s April 2010 primary experiment in Kilsyth — in which just 136 non-members voted, noting no significant bounce in ALP membership (Vicki Setches was smashed in the seat with an outsized swing against her). Crikey understands that of those 136, just two went on to become Labor members.

Other Bracks-Carr-Faulkner reforms have also been left stillborn. A swingeing Socialist Left summary, obtained by Crikey in the aftermath of last December’s conference, showed that just 13 of the 31 BCF recommendations were fully adopted. A majority were adopted only in part (30%) or rejected wholesale (26%).

Meanwhile, the Sydney lord mayor race  — decided 50/50 between local residents and party members — has started to get interesting with Wilkinson taking to her Tumblr over the weekend to slam Chinatown restaurateur rival Jonathan Yee for a recent bout of concessional ethnic recruitment. But a senior Labor source told Crikey this morning that her decision to preference Murphy may end up backfiring at the hands of Yee, Linda Scott and Damian Spruce, who could gang up to force their common enemies to the wall.

UPDATE 2:35PM: Yee, Scott and Spruce have a done a three-way preference deal that substantially increases Scott’s chances of sewing up the nomination. Inspect the evidence here.


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28 thoughts on “Labor state bosses stare down PM on primaries

  1. Peter Ormonde

    Geez… now there’s a surprise … incumbents say no to change!

    Democratic reform for the ALP will not happen from begging the incumbents – nor will it come from below (who cares what the dwindling rank and file actually think?) It’s like that old Irish joke – “Oh no you can’t get there from here”.

    It will only come when there are so few incumbents left that there is no option but to change. Or start afresh without them.

    Obviously from the look of the ALP in NSW the current skeleton crew of MPs and incumbents-in-waiting are still too many. Collapse is not yet complete. How sad. How trashed do they want to leave this once great organisation?

    If Gillard and others seeking reform are serious, they will – at the first opportunity – use the Craig Thomson affair to drive home a few hard lessons about how Labor treats careerists who rat on their party and on their union members. Not that I’d be prejudging the issue at all. Lay their own charges and offer full co-operation with his prosecutors.

    They should restore responsibility and accountability – even if democracy will be some way off. Or somewhere else entirely.

  2. Suzanne Blake

    The Union want people they can control and direct, not grass roots candidates they have no control over. Expect lots of landmines

  3. Jenny Haines

    Is Gillard (or her advisers more like it)mad? In the current context she is only going to get very conservative results from community preselections for Federal seats, not people who are likely to be loyal to her agenda. I’m with Dastyari. Lets see how the current City of Sydney community preselection goes.

  4. Matt

    I was a delegate to the 2011 State Conference which approved the community preselection trial and it was made quite clear at the time that it would only be used in the preselection for the City of Sydney Lord Mayor and 5 state seats and that federal preselections were specifically excluded.

    Hence it being called a “trial”.

    I am commenting on the merits of the proposal (I voted in favour of the trial), rather I submit the assertion that James Carleton “managed to extract a confession” from Sam Dastyari on RN this morning as though it was some shocking revelation is simply not true.

  5. Matt

    Typo: I meant to say “I am not commenting on the merits of the proposal etc.”

  6. Suzanne Blake

    @ Jenny Haines

    Thank you, you have just encapsulated everything that is wrong with the Labor Party

    “Is Gillard (or her advisers more like it)mad? In the current context she is only going to get very conservative results from community preselections for Federal seats, not people who are likely to be loyal to her agenda. I’m with Dastyari. Lets see how the current City of Sydney community preselection goes”

    Typical Green Left view point, do as I say or else

  7. michael crook

    The ALP, like the Liberal party, is incapable of changing from a system of warlord control to a democratic system. It just wont happen, these warlordsd are seriously flawed individuals who follow the Richo, “whatever it takes” mantra. Objectives and policies have no place in their world, the words inclusion and consultation are not in their dictionary. I suggest to the person who wants to get involved in a progressive and sustainable society, that they join the Greens or Socialist Alliance (who do do democracy) or start their own party. It is too late for Labor, they have morphed into Liberals.

  8. Suzanne Blake

    @ michael crook

    You have it the wrong way around

    The Labor nd Liberals are more democratic that the Socialists / Communists / Greens.

    Look at the totalitarian control in USSR, China, East Germany, North Korea etc? Two of which continue today.

  9. GeeWizz

    Craig “Thommo” Thomson shall be gone from the parliament shortly.

    Kathy Jackson, the NSW Government administrators who are going to take over HSU East and the members of the HSU want their money back Mr Thomson.

    I hope your bank account is large and well topped up because you will need the funds to pay your legal fee’s and settlement. A bankrupcy maybe on the cards and that means he can no longer serve in Parliament… unless of course the Red Light on the Hill Labor Party bail him out yet again.

  10. Suzanne Blake

    @ GeeWizz

    It will take over 18 months for that to pan out, so that wont be an election trigger

    Labor have done a great job, dragging this out and pleading for FWA and Police Union go slows

  11. GeeWizz


    Depends on whether the lawyers want their money upfront… and seeing how the last couple of CT episodes panned out(he tried suing Fairfax for defamation and ended up having to fork out $200K in legal fee’s because he bailed out of the case after Fairfax got their hands on some brothel records) I don’t doubt they will.

    It will be interesting to see what happens behind the scenes and whether Labor try and fund his legal fee’s while pretending he has been suspended from the Labor Party. Can’t wait to see them explain away that one…

  12. michael crook

    Suzanne, You have obviously never been to a Socialists or Greens meeting. Should you do so you will find a spirit of mutual cooperation and inclusion and a strong respect for diverging points of view, this does not happen at ALP meetings, I admit that I have never been to a Liberal meeting.

    Democracy, as practiced by them, is something that members participate in.

    The Socialists base their success on the Venezuelan model under the Chavez’ reforms, which have taken his country from 70% poverty levels to less than 20% and vastly improved literacy, health and economic conditions. Venezuela is a current Socialist state unlike those states that you named. China has become a very capitalist one party dictatorship, and North Korea can only be described as dynastic monarchy.

    Also I note that, in Venezuela, political power comes from the people, not from the top down. Power from the bottom is the true definition of Socialism, anything esle is not Socialism.

  13. Suzanne Blake

    @ GeeWizz

    Looks like the credit card manual vouchers used in the Brothels are great evidence.

    They are the old ones, that were imprinted on a manual machines, the old bankcard unit. Anyway, the thermal carbon less paper that those old use used, has a chemical that is designed to retain the finger print or palm imprint of the signer.

    So there may indeed be proof as to who came in contact with that voucher.

    Lucky business records are retained for 7 years!!

  14. Suzanne Blake

    @ GeeWizz

    Labor will have to fund Thomson.

    They last thing they need is an election this winter.


    I actually believe Swan believes there will be an election, hence his hopeless surplus, that he will cling to into a 2012 election.

    He cannpt go to August 2013 with the hopless surplus as he will be found out, so they will have to be an early election.

  15. GeeWizz

    Suzanne I would have thought the scanned Drivers License(aka Photo ID) was the smoking gun in this case.

    So apparantly Thommo was setup, they stole his credit cards, stole his drivers license, booked in the brothel appointments on his mobile phone, went to the premises in question, were wearing a Mission Impossible latex mask to look exactly like Craig Thommo, used his credit card, drivers license, signed with perfect accuracy CT’s signature did the deed and then returned all these items back into CT’s possesion all without his knowledge.

    But they didn’t do this once, they did this multiple times spread out over a multiple year period… and CT didn’t bother to once mention any of the transactions made with his card to the police.

    These HSU Ninja’s are quite simply the most amazing double agents in the history of Australia and after CT smears their names using parliamentry priveledge where he can’t be touched for defmation, I hope ASIO contacts them to make use of their incredible services.

  16. Suzanne Blake

    @ GeeWizz

    I think Thomson was ill advised to do the interview on Saturday.

    He said on Saturday that his drivers licence was kept in the HSU office and everyone had access to it. Unsure why. That all he can say, as its a smoking gun when used as ID at the brothel.

    I think Gillard and Co would have been unimpressed with his interview. They perfer he says nothing and it drags on for 18 months.

  17. Harry Rogers

    Are Greens conferences open to the public ?

  18. Peter Ormonde

    As if some sort of “community primaries” go anywhere near opening the Labor Party to democratic process and control…. bit like handing preselection over to focus groups isn’t it? Maybe the ALP will get more electable candidates… better haircuts and more teeth. Is that all it’s about? Apparently.

    Seems they don’t even understand the question let alone the answer.

  19. John Bennetts

    Was that the actual driver’s licence which was kept in the union office, or a photocopy?

    In the past 3 years, for various purposes connected to employment either directly as an employee or as a consultant, I have been required to submit copies of my licence along with copies of training qualifications and university degrees. This appears to be absolutely normal industrial practice, so I find it quite unexceptional that the Honourable Mr Thompson’s driver’s licence might be on file in the union office.

    If, however, his actual licence was retained in the office, that would be remarkable, because he is obliged by law to carry it on his person whenever he is behind the wheel of a car.

    So quit the amateur detective work and character assassinations for a while if you can. This is serious and is certainly not about your personal assessment, from afar, of what may or may not be relevant.



    That said, the whole Thompson saga does expose a need for at least one item in the parliamentarians’ code of conduct – the need for respect of the laws of evidence and of defamation. That won’t happen any time soon, not with Phony Tony at the helm of a ship with no policies. It is policies which provide the changes and actions of political parties. Without policies, political parties are merely drifting.

    Consider, SB, the repudiation of the libs for the costing reviews which they promised to obtain from Treasury and the shocking fraud which followed their charade of an audit by a private firm which subsequently denied that thier review was anything even close to an audit. Is there a need for a code of conduct which covers outright bald-faced lies during an election campaign?

    Yes, by all means let us have a federal parliamentary code of conduct, but let’s do the job properly.

  20. GocomSys

    As I previously stated on various occasions the writer of this article has a unique topic selection ability.
    This magically attracts mostly out-of touch, misinformed, misguided and/or undiscerning readers with a severe case of tunnel-vision! What’s the purpose, I ask myself? It helps off course to keep up the relentless pressure on the current government who incidentally is doing an admirable job in policy areas that matter. But then good news does not sell! MSM sleeze and slime works well in OZ here and everywhere!

    TEST: Have you noticed that if relevant, serious issues are highlighted in an article the likes of SB and Geewhizz are conspicuously absent? They are either not interested, its beyond their capacity to grasp the meanings or it does not fit their unsavoury simple minded denigration agenda.

    Very sad, really!

  21. GocomSys

    Hey, did you see the latest “newspoll”? That’s Crikey diversity for you! I thought they had exclusive contractual obligations to publish only the “essential” rubbish. Sorry about that, my fault.
    Some writers here really love their statistics but what really turns them on are their beloved opinion polls! Nice hobby, it certainly assists at very effectively at present to destabilise the current government. These polls obviously, as we all know by now, are highly manipulative, massaged and frequently inaccurate. Inadvertently or by design they are guiding public opinion and are subversively re-enforcing conceptions in the electorate. Indoctrination at its finest! These polls have helped to unseat a sitting prime minister and to remove opposition leaders from office. Dangerous stuff indeed and the abysmal MSM just can’t get enough of them!

    Again very sad indeed!

  22. GeeWizz

    [“Was that the actual driver’s licence which was kept in the union office, or a photocopy?”]

    No it was scanned in at a brothel before that license holder did the dirty deed in one of the brothel rooms to make sure you don’t get a bit rough or do something one of the girls don’t like.

    [“In the past 3 years, for various purposes connected to employment either directly as an employee or as a consultant, I have been required to submit copies of my licence along with copies of training qualifications and university degrees. This appears to be absolutely normal industrial practice, so I find it quite unexceptional that the Honourable Mr Thompson’s driver’s licence might be on file in the union office.”]

    Did you actually hand your drivers license over for a few months and let people go rooting around with it? And did you have a stunt double who looks exactly like you who could actually use this photo ID?

    The excuses from the Labor knitting circle are getting more and more desperate as the undeniable evidence of the events unfold.

    But what we really need for that final nail in the coffin moment is some CCTV footage of ol’ Craig boy walking into said brothels…. the spin from the Labor lackeys will then be that he was just doing health checkups!

  23. John Bennetts

    And, Geewizz, I take it that you were standing right there when the licence was scanned. Your ability to trust your own guesswork is remarkable.

    If there is film of Thomson entering said establishment, then you have either been very priveleged to have seen it or are simply spouting nonsense.

    Those with slow but optimistic brains should consider the difference between evidence, guesswork and hearsay. Till the evidence is produced, there is certainty about nothing.

    That said, I am glad that he is not my local member. I don’t like the look of this, either.

    CT is by no means the only politician ever to have been called to answer an allegation of wrong-doing. Remember Fraser’s inability to explain the loss of his trousers in Dallas whilst PM? Perhaps, in the interests of fairness, Crikey could publish another of its celebrated lists, this time focussed on politician’s peccadillos.

  24. Suzanne Blake

    @ John Bennetts

    You forgot Bob Hawkes lost Trousers in Sydney in the mid 80’s.

    The brothel owner or girls won’t talk. Its bad for business and the girls I suspect if they do talk, would never get a job elsewhere. They may be out of the industry and married with kids now, and the ast thing they woud want is that in the media, with unspuspecting hubby or family

  25. Suzanne Blake

    Gee Labor identity in Scotland, unloaded in Gillard’s new Spin Doctor John McTernan today.

    I wonder why she employed him?

  26. John Bennetts

    Yes, SB, Bob Hawke’s missing duds.


    Billy Mackie Sneddon, whose life ended whilst “on the job” in a hotel with a lady of the night.

    It might be a very long list.

  27. Suzanne Blake

    @ John Bennetts

    Thanks did not know the Sneddon tale

  28. Peter Ormonde

    The only moment I found the bloke remotely tolerable actually.


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