Rosie Batty, Kim Carr and Sally McManus (Images: AAP)

Scotty From Marketing doesn’t know how many Chinas there are that we will be going to war with; it is now sometimes illegal to be Australian; an election may be looming and Labor is up for the challenge… of having the mother of all preselection fights and factional brawls.

Yes, it’s that’s time again…

The action is all in Victoria, as always. Factions of the left and right calling themselves “Socialist Left” and “Labor Unity” have signed a new “stability pact”, part of a process of minimising internal conflict for the gruelling year ahead. How stable? Well, unions and microfactions locked out of it went to court in Melbourne yesterday, to challenge the deal’s first fruit, a fast-track preselection for the new safe seat of Hawke. The selection of yet another bloke for the gig has prompted a pushback from Labor women’s groups, a principled rallying cry for equality organised by, erm, the sub-faction that didn’t get a look in on the new deal. Confused? You won’t be… actually, you still will be… How did we get here again?

The self-styled Socialist Left and Labor Unity who have signed the pact are mere shards of those actual factions, their enemies claim. The current Labor Unity is a new alliance between the large and socially conservative Shoppies (SDA) and the Transport Workers Union (TWU), the latter a former power base for Stephen Conroy and the “Con” sub-faction, now run by political failson Richard Marles. That alliance is a new thing. For two decades, the Cons were in alliance with Bill Shorten and the AWU, the “Shorts”, locking the SDA out to a degree.

In come ‘the Mods’

But then swooping through the south-east like Saladin with a falcon on his wrist cometh Adem Somyurek, Victorian MLC, ex-SDA, who cobbled together a new sub-faction called the “Mods” — claiming themselves to be the SDA without the Christian baggage, anti-abortion, anti-same-sex marriage, dominated for decades by Joe de Bruyn (“the Dutchman who doesn’t like dykes” in Gough’s peerless phrase).

Somyurek put together all those the Anglo-Celtic faction leadership had used for branch stacking and then excluded — Turks, Lebanese, Indians, latterly Africans — and took over branches largely controlled by the Cons. When Stephen Conroy left Labor to represent the gaming industry and fight for the working class from over there, faction control passed to Marles and Lara MLA Johnny “Butterdish” Eren. They stuffed it, and Somyurek began taking their branches apart. He managed to put together a new faction including the whole Short-Con apparatus, but favouring the Shorts.

Somyurek’s Jerusalem was the SDA. If he could march on them, and persuade them into his new Centre-Unity grouping, he would run the party. Tensions ran high. He had an altercation with wavering Conroyite John Eren in the parliamentary dining room, in Turkish, and allegedly involving a butterknife (Somyurek denies there was cutlery involved).

He had already made an alliance with the “Industrial Left”, a break-off group from the Socialist Left headed by the CFMEU, and the Railways and Trams (RTBU), and run as a faction by the people who choose Victorian CFMEU head John Setka’s amazing shirts for press conferences (the ‘industrial left’ is not Kim Carr’s sub-faction, as James Massola asserted in The Age a couple of months ago. That was a label for that group about 15 years ago. Ha, the poor old Age always gets the Labor factions wrong).

Somyurek’s plan came unstuck when hours of suspiciously high-quality (“espionage grade” someone has said) secret videotapes of him appeared in a Nine TV-Age investigation, discoursing in his office about the joys of branch stacking, and the quality of his recruits (“passive aggressive gay boys”) among other things. Within a fortnight he was gone, and the Cons were back in the game.

Deals are made

Federal intervention destacked the branches (to a degree) and took back control of preselection. The Cons made a deal with the “National Left” headed by Albanese, and began a pincer movement towards the Victorian Socialist Left, led by Red Panda Father Kim Il-Carr.

Look, if you’re still reading, you can’t get enough of this shit, and I’ve started so I’ll finish. Red Panda Father, Great Waistcoat, is much loved by everyone except, of course, his own faction, elements of which have been trying to knock him off for ages. He had already largely seen off a major challenge from the Industrial Left, whose one aim appears to have been getting former Brunswick MLA, and now MLC, Jane Garrett a safe seat.

A more recent challenge putting up lawyer-hero Josh Bornstein was defeated by @joshbornstein, as Twitter naughties came to the surface. But now, with no teenage guard around him, Red Panda Father Carr has come under attack from a group whom, it is alleged, are de facto led by Scullin MP Andrew Giles, and which traces its lineage back to former Melbourne MP Lindsay Tanner’s sub-faction built out of his takeover of the old Federated Clerks Union from the DLP in the 1990s. (Giles’s office did not return our calls for comment.)

There is a politics involved: Kim Carr’s sub-group believes in a national economic plan, renewed protection walls, and the revival of Australian heavy industry, and the rest of the Victorian Socialist Left believes in rainbow street crossings, euthanasia for children and the right to call yourself a “sparklehorse” on your birth certificate.

So, much to discuss. But it’s mainly about ambition, and age, and whose turn it is. The anti-Panda Father group have thus done a deal with the Albanese’s “National Left”, and these two together have done a deal with the Right’s SDA-TWU alliance, and that is what is laughably called the new “stability pact”.

That puts Carr’s number one Senate spot up for grabs, and with Bornstein out of the running, there is a strong push to get a woman in the spot, with ACTU big-hairs Michele O’Neil and Sally McManus spoken of as possibilities and, in what must be a dose of political cabin-fever, Rosie Batty (there is no indication Batty has been consulted on this).

But that struggle has been less visible than the stoush over the seat of Hawke. With the new stability pact in place, Albo wanted that preselection wrapped up this week, with ex-state secretary Sam Rae imposed on the true believers of Sunbury and surrounds, with whom he has so much in common. Those locked out of the stability pact — which is, let’s face it, almost everyone — have gone to court to reopen the preselection, on the grounds that the federal takeover of the ALP lacks powers to direct such matters.

All-women protests

The leading edge is being taken by a women’s movement, led by Vic MP Natalie Hutchins, and Health Workers Union head Diana Asmar, who have been assembling all-women protests against this iniquitous move. They are principled and brave … and aligned with the Shorten-AWU Shorts faction, which has been the biggest loser out of all this. The HWU leadership is sort of a gully trap for the Victorian right, clogged with Asmar, former leader Kimberley Kitching, and her husband, Shorten mate, notorious former blogger and ex-bankrupt Andrew Landeryou. Shorten keeps them all verrrrry close. Above them all hovers the political ghost of Kathy Jackson, now the heiress.

The resort to the courts by this ad-hoc alliance — everyone from the United Firefighters Union to Emily’s List — gives the lie to the title. It’s no stability pact at all. Rather it’s the least unstable alliance Albo can cobble together, based on the leadership’s belief — probably justified — that Morrison and co are still considering an early election, sometime after June, based on the failure of Labor to break through, and because the Coalition’s stuff-ups appear to have made no dent in their polling outside the progressive class.

This week’s court appearance is just the start. Confused? You won’t be after… actually, you still will be…

This article was updated on May 8. The original referenced Christian Porter as the current attorney general.