In 2014, Queensland Labor’s Left faction shocked the labour movement and a seemingly unsuspecting dominant Queensland Right (Labor Forum) faction by taking control of the party for the first time since federal intervention in the branch in the early ’80s. And Labor Forum is not going down without a fight, emailing every state member after the recent state conference with a plea to join the cause.

The Left’s coup might not have been a surprise to everyone in Labor Forum because several Shoppies-backed Labor Forum-aligned members (the Shoppies are the conservative shop assistants’ union) tried to infiltrate the more centrist NUW-backed Old Guard faction in order to secure their state conference and union delegates for their faction ahead of the state delegate elections.

It failed miserably when they were caught in the act and split the Old Guard faction.

The more right-wing elements went to Labor Forum and some went to Queensland Left, but most of the centrist elements stayed in what’s now called the Labor Unity faction.

Queensland Left’s very slim majority is stablised by a few dozen Labor Unity delegates to run Queensland Labor.

Predictably, the Australian Workers’ Union-dominated Labor Forum hasn’t taken the loss of control well, and its members make their displeasure known every year at state conference.

Well-placed party sources inform me the 2016 Queensland Labor state conference on the Gold Coast over the weekend was no exception.

Queensland Left had major wins by defeating a right-wing push to ban unions from donating to candidates that would support Labor federally from the Senate crossbench, securing a commitment to remove abortion from the Queensland Criminal Code, reaffirming Queensland Labor’s support for recognising Palestine and passing the policy of the Queensland Labor government moving towards a treaty with Queensland’s first nation’s people.

Labor Forum put up symbolic fights on union donations, Palestine and a few other motions as expected, but the Left/Unity alliance that forms the basis of the Palaszczuk government is solid.

The Right’s problems only got worse at the conclusion of state conference.

Every Queensland Labor member with an email registered with party office found an email titled “Take the first step” when they got home.

Labor Forum leadership, with trusted access to the party’s statewide member master list, thought it was a good idea to use privileged access to member information to try and recruit more faction members ahead of next year’s state delegate elections.

Under the rules, member lists are only able to be accessed by branch executives and officials for specific party-related purposes, and recruiting for a faction isn’t one of them.

The grumpy email says in part:

“As you may be aware, Labor Forum has been leading the charge against the increasingly common practice of affiliated unions making large financial contributions to our political opponents, such as The Greens, Glen Lazarus and Katter’s Australia Party.

“Specifically, Labor Forum proposed at Conference today that affiliated unions found to have supported Labor’s opponents shall be automatically suspended from sending delegates to State Conference and Electoral College for a period of 12 months.

“Why should affiliated Trade Unions be treated any differently to hard working rank-and-file Branch members who are the backbone of our local campaigns?”

The lecturing continues:

“Shamefully the Left voted this motion down which means in practice that the thousands of hours of volunteering and hard work of Branch members means nothing.

“We need your support to continue this proud tradition which has supported strong leaders like Wayne Goss and now Annastacia Palaszczuk — take the first step and join us today.”

The factions aren’t recognised officially under rules, and this stunt appears to be a serious breach of the tight rules surrounding the use of the master membership list.

We hear that the administrative committee will be investigating how this was allowed to occur.

Many members are unhappy their details have been used in this way without permission. Complaints have been lodged, but not before many Queensland Left members “joined” up to Labor Forum.

A coup in the making?

An entitlement culture clearly still pervades Labor Forum. They’ve learned nothing in minority.

If you have an anonymous tip-off don’t hesitate to get in touch regarding who authorised this use of the master list and whose idea it was, as well as the possible ramifications of the investigation. Or you can get in touch by email.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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