Hard-working ALP Throsby MP Stephen Jones has demanded New South Wales Labor bring on a preselection ballot for his plum federal seat as forces loyal to state MP Noreen Hay prepare to throw their weight behind right-affiliated nurse John Rumble.
Jones, from the Left, told Crikey he was “extremely frustrated” in the delay in the vote promised last year by NSW general secretary Sam Dastyari with the federal election just four-and-a-half months away. “I just wish we could just get this f-cking thing over with so I can focus on fighting Liberals,” he said, adding he was “ready and confident of victory”.
NSW Left assistant secretary John Graham told Crikey last night a ballot in Throsby would occur “sooner rather than later” but that the party was currently “managing the atmospherics” in the Federal Electorate Council. Graham didn’t elaborate, but Crikey understands right-wing powerbrokers have been hitting the phones to demand Hay forces back down or face brutal retaliation in the form of damaging media leaks that could cut short the Wollongong MP’s controversial career.
There are about 300 members in Throsby, the slim majority of which are controlled by Hay and seem keen to round behind Rumble, the son of former Illawarra MP Terry Rumble. However, there is no way state or federal Labor will cop a Jones knifing at the hands of the local grouping, whose rotten tactics were exposed in a 2002 Liz Jackson Four Corners program.
In NSW, preselections are determined by a 100% grassroots vote, or, in the case of managed interventions, an “N40”, which allows the state branch to pick and choose its preferred candidates.
Under a 1997 deal between Grayndler MP Anthony Albanese and the NSW Right to squeeze out the soft Left in Fowler, Throsby is considered hard Left property. Previous member Jennie George and Jones, a former Community and Public Sector Union national secretary, were both parachuted into the seat. But his time around, a reform-minded Dastyari demanded ballots in the N40 fiefdoms of Reid, Chifley, Greenway, Fowler, Werriwa and — initially — Throsby. Throsby and Craig Thomson’s seat of Dobell are the only remaining NSW federal seats without a confirmed Labor candidate.
Last year, Hay convened an emergency meeting of her Dapto branch to massage a path for her preferred Throsby pick, which at that point included her son Mark Hay, who later withdrew. As late as 10 days ago, the failed state MP who allegedly mounted Hay’s breasts on a NSW Parliament couch, Matt Brown, confirmed he had been “asked to run” in the seat (presumably as a third candidate) because some locals “missed him”. However, that late-career bid for glory would now appear to be dead in the water.