Victorian Labor’s factional troubles, which are national Labor’s troubles, have obtained the full status of an opera: it goes for ever, people die and reappear, and there is a duel involving butterknives. In the latest instalment, Bill Shorten and the AWU have partially broken with their new factional mates, Adem Somyurek’s SDA Mod-squad and the CFMMEU “Industrial Left” to co-operate with Socialist Left and National Left (the non-Victorian left) to kick the question of federal preselections up to the national executive and out of the hands of the Victorian party.
The move comes as the “Centre Unity-Industrial Left” (Mods, AWU, CFMEU, plus various tramps and thieves) roll their tanks onto the Socialist Left’s lawn. The pledge that the CU-IL made when it formed was that it would only contest preselections in vacant seats. With a new seat being created, and retirement announcements by Jenny Macklin from Jagajaga, and Michael Danby from the now renamed Macnamara (formerly Israel), there’s plenty to be going on with. But a shift in the boundaries of Billy Bob Shorten’s Maribynong making it less of a sure bet has the fearful leader looking to be elected in Fraser (a change, since Shorten usually marries into Liberal dynasties).
That is all creating a little too much uncertainty, and the CU-IL felt that the wind was in their sails — they have been buoyed by the sudden inexplicable enthusiasm of hundreds of people to join ALP branches previously controlled by the increasingly ragged Conroyite forces, marshalled by Johnny ‘The Butterdish’ Eren. So they would be tempted to push for a larger slice of the action.
To avoid all out war, a deal has been proposed that would see upper-house state member Daniel Mulino from Somyurek’s southern suzerainty, moved into Maribyrnong, as Shorten moves to Fraser. Mulino’s slam-dunk upper house place would be then be taken by … Jane Garrett, the non-contesting member for Brunswick, who is at the centre of the CU-IL alliance, but who seemingly is so toxic to rank-and-file Labor that she must be encased in an upper-house seat, like Chernobyl under concrete.
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Garrett is a political engine and she blossoms in such conflicts, especially with the lush support o the CU-IL alliance. But the outsized loyalty to a politician whose most public act was to go against a union on behalf of a volunteer force (the CFA) with command in suburbanized areas that should have long ago been handed over to professionals, is a measure of how cracked and tribal this has become — with Garrett acting as a conduit to Shorten’s office (via Shorten advisor Sharon McCrohan, a former housemate), and Emma Walters, ANU amigo, Slater and Gordon alumni and Mrs John Setka. Here’s to the ladies who lunge.
But now it’s the stability deal itself that’s causing instability. Mulino is, or was, SDA-aligned, and appears to have been detached from the faction — Somyurek and the Mods are ex-SDA – which is a further sign that it is crumbling at the edges. Now the SDA right who run the Andrews govern — sorry, who play an enthusiastic collegiate role within the Andrews government — is getting the wobbles about it. And Peter Marshall, and the United Firefighters Union has gone on the attack, pointing to some unexamined internal fundraising issues to do with various candidates, and the sudden enthusiasm to be a part of Labor which has seen, for example, the Heidelberg branch, experience a 4900% increase in membership (6 to 300 members).
Must be that gender-neutral traffic light policy which got em in. We’ll keep you posted, but in the meantime: could this put Matthew Guy into the premier’s office come November? You bet. Could it give Malcolm Turnbull a winning kick on the siren? You bet. The mighty Australian Labor Party, ladies and gentlemen.