Labor’s at war over our future, our children’s future, their children’s children’s, right? Bill Shorten has laid down the law on the Adani coal mine during the early days of the Batman byelection to say that it had to be looked at it. Then he looked at it, and went up to Townsville to parrot the CFMEU mining division line that it’s “just another coalmine to be considered on a case-by-case basis”.

Then climate change spokesperson Mark Butler piped up to say that not only was Adani a potentially disastrous polluter, but would also displace jobs and economic activity in the region, for a small gain of mining jobs and outsourced subcontracting. The battle of ideas, fearless and furious, etc.

Well not exactly. This is all part of the factional war that is currently transfixing Labor, with an overlay of striving for party reform. National Labor President Mark Butler came out swinging in January, in a speech to the Fabian Society about the now-urgent need to tame the factions. Some more than others. Butler, from the Left, targeted the proposed new Centre Unity-Industrial Left (CU-IL) alliance in Victoria, which is currently hooking up Bill Shorten’s AWU base with the CFMEU and RTBU on the left outside the Socialist Left.

Bill Shorten’s reaction to this was fury. Sources close to Shorten accused Butler of using the speech as a factional play under the cover of reform. One suspects Butler’s sentiments about Adani are genuine; but they also serve factional purpose in the proxy-war battleground of Batman. One suspects Shorten would say that Adani was made of ice-cream, if he needed to.

Meanwhile, a separate skirmish broke out in Victorian state parliament, with Moderates leader Adem Somyurek getting into a huge stoush with rocker John Eren in the parliamentary bar. Witnesses say no blows were exchanged — but it was a toe-to-toe shirtfront, the yelling conducted in Turkish. Somyurek’s Mods are, at the moment, taking apart what remains of the suburban network of the Conroy faction (they got three Western ‘burbs seats off him last year). Eren is in Lara, near the Conroy/Richard Marles base.

Control of Turkish members of the ALP — a few of whom are actually aware of being members of the ALP — has been essential to suburban factional control for more than a decade. The factional shakeout means that members are being grabbed branch-by-branch. Looks like [insert six oppressively Orientalist jokes about 40 thieves here]. More as it turns up …

Peter Fray

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