The elevation of Kimberley Kitching to the No. 1 Senate position in Victoria is being scrutinised for its impact of the Victorian stability pact between Left and Right Labor factions. The pact relies on both factions giving consideration to the calibre of the person they’re putting up for the job.
The Kitching elevation would appear to say a lot about the style and priorities of Bill Shorten, who seems determined to gather around him a crowd of allies and people from Labor’s shadows. Whether he’s doing this for his own reassurance or to shore up his leadership position within the party remains to be seen.
Any sensible political process would exclude Kitching from consideration, on the grounds of political prudence. Kitching is under a shadow for allegations of misuse of right of entry permits, arising from her job as general manager of the Health Workers Union, formerly the HSU No.2. The Royal Commission Into Trade Union Governance and Corruption recommended criminal charges be considered. None as yet have.
Kitching of course has no case to answer if no charges have been laid, but anything connected with the HSU ain’t great for the brand — especially with the trial of Kathy Jackson on multiple charges of theft set to begin early next year.
The elevation of Kitching helps consolidate the position of her husband, Andrew Landeryou, within the leadership group. Landeryou acts as an informal adviser to Shorten, a role he’s played for years. Informal because he is excluded from the ALP, a party in which he was once set for a stellar career.
The son of Bill Landeryou, a minister in the Cain government for eight minutes before being sacked by premier John Cain, Andrew Landeryou was president of the Melbourne University Student Union before being sacked by a student recall vote. Later, he was involved with a housing investment venture that used the Student Union as collateral, driving it bankrupt — and sending the then student union president Darren Ray to prison for six months.
Subsequently, Landeryou established an online gambling venture that went bust, and he went to Costa Rica, allegedly without giving Kitching any notice of his departure (their Parkville mansion, used in the Phryne Fisher TV series, had to be sold from under Kitching). Returning on the basis of an arrest warrant, he was bankrupted, and used the bankruptcy as lawsuit-proof cover for a libelous blog, The OC and then Vexnews. The site was used as a conduit for information favourable to the sub-faction of the Right run by Shorten — and dissolved after he attained the leadership.
Any hope Landeryou had of being readmitted to the ALP appears to have been dashed, in the interim, after he was arrested for vandalising Greens posters in the Melbourne Ports electorate during this year’s election. Landeryou is fanatically and obsessively pro-Zionist and regards embattled Melbourne Ports MP Michael Danby as a sort of father figure.
But Landeryou isn’t the only crony dating back to student politics days that Shorten has gathered to him. In the lead-up to the election he appointed Cameron Milner as a special adviser. Milner, a peer of Andrew Landeryou and David Feeney in the Melbourne moshpit of the 1990s, moved to Queensland and eventually became ALP state secretary. Regarded as reliable, Milner left politics and became a lobbyist — for guess who, Adani. We’ll presume that the Queensland Labor government’s recent listing of the Carmichael mine as essential infrastructure is on the merits of the case itself.
Should Kitching be judged by the deeds of her husband (they were reconciled when he came from Costa Rica)? No, of course not. But when there are big questions as to whether she has the qualifications, clean sheet and party support to take the Senate slot, the question of the effects and appearance of Bill Shorten surrounding himself with mates becomes a live one.
Who’s left from the old crowd for Bill Shorten to gather round him? And why is he doing so when it’s clear that the public have lost patience with Labor cronyism and hypocrisy — campaigning against negative gearing and forgetting you own a house funded by it, for example?
Shorten scored a great election result against a first-term government. Malcolm Turnbull’s weak leadership has nothing much on Labor. Bill Shorten appears to be eager to give them a story by which they can paint Labor as hopelessly infected by cronyism and favours, and thus paint the Coalition as the natural party of government.
If you can’t stand the heat …