Queensland Health Minister Cameron Dick and Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk
When Queensland Labor Left took a two-delegate State Conference majority in their own right as a result of a strong branch delegate election result in 2014, the AWU-dominated Labor Forum Right faction didn’t know what to do with themselves.
They didn’t take this democratic outcome well.
They’d enjoyed majority control, or shared control, of Queensland Labor since the days when a young Peter Beattie was advocating federal opposition leader Bill Hayden and the Australian Labor Party national executive intervene in the Queensland branch in the late ’70s and early ’80s.
They’d become arrogant, comfortable, complacent and, many would say, out of touch with rank-and-file members.
Now Queensland Labor is in government, we hear Labor Forum are seriously displeased with the Palaszczuk government’s policy agenda — mainly that they don’t control it.
Queensland Left also controls almost 50% of the parliamentary caucus.
Due to the Queensland Left/Labor Unity alliance that has been in place since 2014, State Conference Labor Forum are completely sidelined.
During the 2015 State Conference debate about the Left’s motion for the cessation of sand-mining on Stradbroke Island, Queensland AWU secretary Ben Swan unleashed an uncontrolled spray from the floor.
It was epic, memorable and quite entertaining.
Labor Forum lost the vote — and then lost it.
This brings us to 2016 and a month or so out from the 2016 State Conference.
There has been increased chatter in the Murdoch media about “factional strife”.
The talk around Queensland Labor circles is that Health Minister Cameron Dick and his cabal of Labor Forum backers in Parliament and the AWU are mischief-making, leaking like a sieve to their favourite rag, The Courier-Mail.
It’s common knowledge Labor Forum figures have Courier-Mail journalists Steve Wardill and Jason Tin on speed dial for when they want to have a whinge, vent or create havoc.
Labor Forum never thought they’d be in government and in a minority position within the party.
According to sources, Cameron Dick fully expected he’d be opposition leader after Queensland Labor’s 2012 loss.
One small problem: he lost his seat of Greenslopes.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk was never on track to be leader until Labor was reduced to a rump of seven MPs after that electoral rout.
Let’s be clear: there isn’t “chaos” within the Palaszczuk government, other than what Labor Forum are creating.
There have been some shaky moments since they lost both Rob Pyne and Billy Gordon but, on the whole, the Palaszczuk government has been a reforming, steady government — delivering on the agenda they were elected on.
Rank-and-file members support the agenda, as does the community. Labor Forum, on the other hand, hates the agenda and the fact that it led to a thumping election win.
Despite this fact, they still purport to represent the “sensible centre” and claim the Queensland Left agenda makes the party “unelectable”.
It’s not dissimilar to what we’ve seen in the battles within the US Democratic Party and UK Labour Party recently.
The 2015 result wrecked their mantra.
It is believed Dick is working to organise the numbers for himself within Labor Forum as well as working feverishly to cut unions out of the process of electing the Queensland Labor leader.
Labor Forum control the two largest unions, the AWU and the infamous SDA, but that’s all they control, other than the smaller Transport Workers Union and Plumbers Union.
Queensland Left control the overwhelming majority of affiliated Queensland unions, and sources say Dick sees this as an existential threat to his supposed destiny to be premier.
The Premier is reportedly not a fan of the Health Minister, and that’s to her credit.
Dick and his allies are reportedly sick of waiting for his destiny to materialise, and not even the risk of destabilising a popular and successful Queensland government to achieve this will stop them.
[Not-so-civil unions: CFMEU likely to turn on Queensland MP]
There are also murmurs that Queensland Left’s ally Labor Unity is in talks with Labor Forum ahead of 2016 State Conference.
Labor Forum have been working feverishly and desperately to build their branch numbers to take back State Conference in the branch delegate elections in mid-2017 as the planned stage two of Dick’s accession to the premiership, following revised leadership election rules.
A split between Queensland Left and Labor Unity before the 2017 State Conference would have enormous ramifications for internal stability of Queensland Labor and the Palaszczuk government. It also poses a serious electoral risk leading up to the next state election at a time when the voting public are sick of ugly public factional party battles.
It should be noted that no Labor Forum candidate can win the party leadership under current rules, as the rank-and-file members and unions are predominantly supporters of Queensland Left values.
Queensland Left still have a State Conference majority, but only just.
Forum and Unity combined would have the numbers in caucus and cabinet. It would lead to an ugly division between the organisational party and the parliamentary party.