What will Conroy’s departure mean for Shorten’s leadership?
Stephen Conroy's shock departure from Parliament has left the Victorian Labor Party on the hop. Will the "Stability Pact" to placate Left and Right factions remain without the Right's "factional Dalek"? Labor insider Ben Chiefly gets the goss.
What will the Victorian Right do without factional Dalek Stephen Conroy? And can Opposition Leader Bill Shorten survive without his factional ally?
Victorian Labor is notoriously sectarian and driven by decades-long personality clashes, particularly in the Right.
Victorian Labor also has the unfortunate circumstance that neither the Socialist Left nor newly reconstituted Centre Unity Right grouping (ShortCons -- that is, allies of Bill Shorten and Stephen Conroy -- plus the National Union of Workers minus the right-wing Shop, Distributive & Allied Employees' Association, otherwise known as the SDA or the Shoppies) can rule their branch alone, as neither has the state conference numbers.
The result is the Socialist Left/Centre Unity “Stability Pact”, which lords over every element of party machinery due to its combined super majority. But the recent bizarre and slightly passive-aggressive resignation of Victorian Centre Unity powerbroker Stephen Conroy will have Bill Shorten and Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews anxious.
The recent inclusion of the Victorian NUW bloc into the Centre Unity fold (and the ousting of Michael Donovan’s wacko SDA bloc) had settled years of damaging instability and tension between the remnants of Bill Shorten’s former “Young Labor Network” grouping (NUW) and the old Richard Marles/David Feeney (Australian Workers' Union, SDA and Transport Workers Union) grouping.
This Right stability, however, relied largely on the leadership and enforcement of long-time Centre Unity convener Conroy. Now he’s gone from the end of the month, so expect a return to previous form.
Several factors will decide whether there will be a smooth transition after Conroy’s retirement.
Firstly, the personal working relationship between Victorian Treasurer Tim Pallas and Victorian Attorney-General Martin Pakula from the NUW grouping, and the dominant ShortCon (new name needed now?) grouping’s man, federal MP Richard Marles, is critical.
In the past, federal MP David Feeney might have been battling for Centre Unity leadership with the support of his SDA power base, but with the Shoppies out in the cold, so too is he. This is most clearly demonstrated by his recent ousting from federal shadow cabinet.
Federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten will, no question, back Richard Marles for the Victorian Centre Unity leadership. Given past Victorian Labor history there is plenty of water under the bridge between all these individuals.
[Why Stephen Conroy departed in such a hurry]
Conroy’s leadership and relationships with senior NUW sub-faction members clearly sealed the larger Centre Unity grouping, but his departure changes the whole dynamic within the Victorian Right.
Conroy is believed to control a majority, or nearly, within the ShortCon grouping, and it’s yet to be seen if his grouping will keep playing ball with Shorten. Could we be looking at a split between the Shorten and Conroy forces?
Secondly, the relationship between Labor Left "factional Dalek" Kim Carr and Conroy is very close, much to the chagrin of many members of the Socialist Left.
Will Carr and Marles be able to work together to keep continuity within the “Stability Pact” like Carr and Conroy did?
The federal opposition and Andrews government will be praying and begging for peace and tranquility within Victoria. Andrews is already trying to put out numerous fires within his caucus, so to speak.
All up, it equals one big mess that won’t end anytime soon, if recent history proves accurate.
It just goes to show what a house of cards, not to mention a liability, the unreformed Victorian Labor branch continues to be for the broader labour movement.
Meanwhile, Shorten’s leadership is much weaker for Conroy’s departure, and he’ll have to keep a close eye on his numbers -- and his back.
*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)
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