Stephen Conroy

I need to place some historical context around Labor’s “Stability Pact” rort.

If Stephen Conroy’s departure from the Senate results in his withdrawal from involvement in future factional deals in Victoria, it would a welcome and positive change. Especially for those who still believe in democracy in the Victorian branch.

People should remember the so-called “Stability Pact” we hear about from time to time was created by Stephen Conroy, Bill Shorten, David Feeney, Richard Marles and Kim Carr after a massive factional bloodbath (that they themselves initiated) that resulted in several non-aligned sitting MPs dumped from preselection and a major assault on former Labor leader Simon Crean’s preselection during the run-up to the 2007 federal election.

This so called Stability Pact superseded all other cross-factional arrangements (i.e. grubby deals) that were in place before the 1998 federal election.

In what can only be described as breathtaking hypocrisy, the bloodbath resulted (as intended) with Shorten and Marles gaining safe seats at the expense of non-aligned senior and well-performing sitting members, including Bob Sercombe and Gavin O’Connor.

[Stability? Shorten throws an uneasy Labor pact into chaos]

Shorten was preselected for Sercombe’s safe seat of Maribyrnong; Marles was preselected for O’Connor’s safe seat of Corio (there were allegations of branch stacking in both).

Feeney gained a winnable spot on the Senate ticket before replacing Martin Ferguson in Batman. Senator Kim “Mal” Carr apparently sat by and watched — as none of this impacted on his position,  why should he care?

So the movers and shakers in Labor factional politics in Victoria during those days were more than happy to create total havoc and chaos in the Victorian branch in order to secure absolute power, as in Carr and Conroy’s case, or to secure preselection for safe seats, always after somebody else’s hard work over many years, as in Shorten and Marles’ case.

The fact that this brawl was extremely damaging to both federal and state Labor was completely ignored by the perpetrators during this arrogant and blatant grab for power.

In another unprecedented display of arrogance, seats Labor already retains are allocated to the Left and Right factions, i.e. the Left would support Right candidates in seats allocated to the Right, and the Right would support Left candidates in seats allocated to the Left.

This results in Stability Pact control of around 80% of the central numbers on the Public Office Selection Committee (POSC) and effectively locks out any meaningful input from local rank-and-file members in those electorates manipulated by the organisers of the Stability Pact.

[Victoria’s new senator could be a ticking time bomb for Labor]

Of course the Shorten, Conroy and Carr faction have held and continue to hold veto over all candidates’ preselections in those seats, at the exclusion of local rank-and-file party members.

In yet another display of absolute arrogance, several safe or winnable electorates have been allocated to various trade unions in return for numbers for either faction on the floor of the Victorian state conferences.

This means any seat allocated to a union usually results in local rank-and-file party members being totally excluded from any worthwhile input or influence as to who gets to be their candidate and, therefore, their parliamentary representative should the seat be won.

However, these rank-and-file local branch members are always required to provide organisational support, including financial support, for the imposed candidates during election campaigns.

[What will Conroy’s departure mean for Shorten’s leadership?]

The main problem with this type of rort (apart from the obvious principle) suggests that while there are plenty of good and dedicated union officials (and rank-and-file members) that would make outstanding contributions to the nation, they are almost certainly overlooked.

The factional warlords prefer mostly uninspiring and unemployable union and factional hacks, promoted by (usually self-appointed) factional leaders in return for a pledge of total loyalty to the individual factional warlord rather than the party.

The question remains: will Conroy still remain active in Victorian branch affairs? Or will his departure from the Senate mean the end of the Stability Pact and a return to some form of basic fairness in future party activities and preselections?

I doubt it.