Putting aside the CFMEU for a while, what’s become of the other members of the old Centre Unity and Industrial Left Alliance — Labor’s “buddy movie” partner of times past?
Well, we hear the AWU, Bill Shorten’s old base, is in full retreat, but there is good news from Victoria and the office of Premier and Cabinet: Daniel Andrews’ incoming chief of staff is said to be none other than Clare Burns, who was formerly aligned with Adem Somyurek’s “Mods” (Moderates) faction.
Remember Burns? She was the Labor candidate for the state seat of Northcote who lost to the Greens’ Lidia Thorpe, after an admirably muscular Greens campaign, in which Burns’ long-time association with Labor Right factions was communicated to the voters inside the city’s “hummus curtain”. Labor subsequently decided that it couldn’t beat the Greens in Northcote with this old factional preferment and instead selected Kat Theophanous to run — ultimately winning back the seat.
But why would the Andrews government — an ostensibly Socialist Left outfit, who gained a 58% two-party-preferred vote — be considering Burns for a chief of staff role rather than promoting one of their own? Doubtless because Burns is the best candidate for the job. But the decision would be smiled on by Somyurek, who has rebuilt his rag-and-bone act from the jackal-chewed remains of the Conroyites. As top face of the Mods squad, he is once again a power in the state.
The Conroyites have been losing branches to the Mods willy-nilly — not least because former Conroy CoS, Philip “the risible dirigible” Dalidakis, landed Andrews with the Fed Square Apple project, which took the government 18 months to shake off.
With Dalidakis went Johnny “Butterdish” Eren — member for Lara, and factional deputy to the member for Corio, Richard Marles. The Conroyites are gone, but the Mods and the SDA live on, lobbing in dumb policies — such as SDA-aligned education minister James Merlino’s crackpot plan to make kids’ NAPLAN results available to employers.
As it stands, Daniel Andrews remains the King of Spring Street, for as long as they let him.
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Sam Rae had been Andrews’ chief of staff. It also failed to state that Clare Burns has recently been appointed as Labor’s state secretary.