Richard Di Natale

Ever since the mainstream media splashed the story of an internal Greens’ complaint against Batman candidate Alex Bhathal (a month after Crikey broke the story), rumours have been running wild of a Labor “mole” within the Greens in the Darebin branch.

The story doesn’t check out, per se, and appears to have been a ghost meme from that time, long ago, when former Batman member David Feeney was seen as a wily factional operator rather than a hopeless booby who almost lost Labor the inner city.

But an examination of the list of the 16 signatories to the 101-page complaint against Bhathal shows that the Greens don’t need outside interference to implement effective sabotage. The names near the top of the list of signatories indicate what we suggested earlier: that the two key leaks to News Corp and the ABC, in the lead-up to the byelection, were made by a longtime Greens member and state office-bearer, who had previously worked for both media organisations.

Further down the list, however, there is someone interesting: a Northcote community worker, who was a Greens’ member about 15 years ago, but subsequently drifted to Labor. She currently works at Trades Hall Victoria, in close contact with failed Labor Northcote candidate Clare Burns, and other people who are part of Labor’s inner-city network.

This complainant not only actively campaigned for Ged Kearney in the Batman byelection, she was photographed with her on the campaign trail. The content of her contribution to the complaint against Bhathal is almost zero. She complains that, in the 2004 campaign, Bhathal was not “consistent and respectful” in her manner, and “bullied the campaign manager”, but:

“Although I can’t recollect the specifics I know I did witness it …”

Why on earth did those organising the complaint against Bhathal — which included a specific threat to go to the media, if she was not extraordinarily deselected — include a zero-content complaint from a one-time Greens supporter, now working at Trades Hall? At the very least this was a reckless indication to Labor that an internal complaint was underway, months before it was reported.

At worst, it was a deliberate tip-off to Labor, the establishment of a back-channel. Interestingly, the Labor loyalist’s name is one of two out of the 16 that is absent from the cover letter to the complaint, in which the threat to go to the media, or to run an “independent Green” candidate, is made clear. Unless you diligently compared the cover letter signatories list, and the complaint list proper, you might not even notice she was there.

The question is whether such a back-channel played a role in Labor’s decision around the Batman byelection — to deploy an A-list candidate such as Kearney in the seat, rather than regard it as gone, and pivot away from the inner-city. If so, the inclusion of the Laborista was a pretty significant act by the leaders of the complaint.

All the more reason for the Greens’ leadership to undertake a series of expulsions (though not gahhhhhhhhh, announcing that, as Richard Di Natale did — you just expel people quietly, for god’s sake) — though since the 16 complainants include all four Darebin councillors, they would have to be spared, and the backroom organisers picked off. Expulsion is simply a tool a mature political party should employ. Since all signatories to the letter threatened explicit party sabotage, the case is open and shut.

Sooner, rather than later, drop them down a lift-shaft.

Figuratively speaking.

Peter Fray

A lot can happen in 3 months.

3 months is a long time in 2020. Join us to make sense of it all.

Get you first 12 weeks of Crikey for just $12. Cancel anytime.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

12 weeks for $12