Labor branch stacking becomes an arms race, with Stability Pact a possible casualty of war
The Conroy-aligned Right faction and Carr-aligned Left faction have daggers drawn in Victorian Labor. And Kim Carr could be the first casualty. Labor insider Ben Chiefly gives a behind-the-curtain look at the machinations of Victorian Labor.
Victorian Labor is turning against itself, with factional deals crumbling and an arms race of branch stacking threatening fragile alliances.
The Victorian branch is currently undertaking another investigation -- I mean whitewash -- into claims of rampant branch stacking centred around the federal seats of Holt and Lalor.
Bill Shorten is shocked -- shocked! -- and disappointed that it is rumoured up to 8% of the Victorian Labor membership are stacks.
The stacking is happening both in the Labor Left (patron saint: Kim Carr) and the Labor Right (patron saint: Stephen Conroy). A well-placed little birdie with knowledge of Victorian Labor goings-on tells me there are at least three stackers based in Lalor branches, with two taking up the baton for Conroy's faction and one for Carr's.
Two of the branch stackers are said to be eyeing off runs for federal or state politics. All three have extensive experience within state Labor, working for, or in, state and local government.
Although current Victorian Labor rules require that you can’t pay for more than one membership with the same account or credit card, it appears the vampire is in charge of the blood bank so incidents aren’t “investigated” unless they hit the news.
There will more than likely be a symbolic purge of members and a secret report that never sees the light of day, like last time these issues unhelpfully embarrassed Shorten. Then back to business as usual. Nothing to see here.
Let’s see if the three stackers are among those thrown out -- or if they are rewarded for their service.
But allegations of branch stacking are not the Left's only problem. Carr has lost all his authority within the national Socialist Left, led by Anthony Albanese, and within Victorian Socialist Left.
[Former Labor candidate takes aim at party]
Carr was almost ousted from shadow cabinet by essentially every Left leader in the nation -- notably Penny Wong, Tanya Plibersek, Anthony Albanese, Catherine King, Andrew Giles, Mark Butler and Jenny Macklin wanted him gone. But he enjoys the support of overwhelming support of the Victorian Left unions.
Carr's recently split from the Victorian Socialist Left to form the Industrial Left along with a merry band of three members of Parliament closely aligned with the Victorian AMWU. The National Socialist Left have lost patience with Carr, who has been a staunch backer of the Right-aligned Bill Shorten and his policies, particularly at national conference on the issue of asylum seekers.
Carr voted for Shorten as leader and brought a few "Soft Left" members of caucus to sneak Shorten over the line. Carr was propped up in shadow cabinet by the national Right as a way of sandbagging Shorten's leadership and seeking to protect the "Stability Pact", rather than out of any loyalty or merit-based argument.
But there is another front to this internal battle.
Scullin MP Andrew Giles, a Victorian-based Left proxy for the NSW-based Albanese, and his group are said to be taking on Mat Hilakari, a Carr proxy, and his group within the Victorian Left for leadership of the faction and the Victorian Trades Hall (Mat's brother Luke is Victorian Trades Hall secretary).
If Albanese's forces take control of the Victorian Socialist Left and the Left union-dominated Victorian Trades Hall, Carr will be well and truly out in the cold.
There is said to be a long and bitter history between Carr and Albanese.
For those who haven’t played before, the Centre Unity/Socialist Left “Stability Pact” masterminded and kept in place by Conroy and Carr controls the Public Office Selection Committee (POSC) -- the committee of 100 that controls 50% of the preselection votes.
It's this pact that forces the Victorian Left and Right to back each other -- in awkward situations the rest of their national factions might not approve of -- in order to keep the peace.
It's a poison pill for both factions.
Each state and federal electorate in Victoria is sliced and diced between the two groups to avoid them mauling each other in preselection season.
Victorian Labor has elected a state conference with 35% Socialist Left and 24% Centre Unity -- though Centre Unity gets to 43% when you include their mates in the NUW and orphans who fled the wackos in the SDA last year to form the Moderate Right.
And what about the Shoppies? How did they lose so much power so quickly? They sit out in the cold, irrelevant, and they can thank state secretary Michael Donovan for that. He was a deep, throbbing headache for Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, according to what has been reported.
[What the Clements scandal means for NSW Labor’s factional war]According to the Herald Sun, the factional warlord's typically “cult-like” meetings with senior public servants and ministers at SDA headquarters are the thing of legend. He'd rant and rave uninterrupted while the rest just “sit there and listen to Michael’s views of the world and politics”. No more meetings for you, Michael.
This lack of a working majority for both sides essentially means neither faction can get their candidates through the POSC without the "Stability Pact", short of a Hunger Games-style model being implemented.
Local members get the other 50% of the vote but they rarely override the POSC by virtue of the overwhelming majority (80%) the “Stability Pact” controls.
The Lalor stackers appear to be trying to stack to the extent that one of them can override this huge majority in POSC and solely dictate who becomes the Lalor candidate.
It would create seriously major issues within the "Stability Pact" (potentially busting it up) if the Lalor preselection were overpowered by Left branch stacks, as Lalor is a "Centre Unity seat" under the agreement.
Looks like the NUW make-up session with the ShortCons (the Shorten-Conroy faction) might not be taking in Lalor, given NUW and ShortCons are individually stacking, seemingly against each other.
And the fact both Left and Right hacks are stacking just further complicates the whole mess.
What can I say? It’s a Labor sickness.
Plenty going on in New South Wales and Queensland Labor to report, but our time is up ... for now.
*Ben Chiefly is a Labor activist and Crikey's man in the room. Know something he should know? Get in touch or drop Crikey a line (you can stay anonymous)
It’s time, in fact it’s well past time, it may even be too late, for a reality check. Seen from the point of view of the hip pocket, things could hardly be rosier. And yet the voters are preparing to vote the government that has presided over this happy state and is at least partly responsible for it out of office after one truncated term.
When the Victorian press pack decides to focus on what did or didn't happen five years ago between consenting adults in an Adelaide golf club car park, you know it's been a quiet weekend in state politics.
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