Crikey correspondent-at-large Guy Rundle uncovers a seething, intra-factional skirmish that threatens to tear the ALP apart.
Bill Shorten’s Labor Party is being plunged into chaos at the worst possible moment and in the worst possible way – with a massive factional collapse and realignment in Victoria, Shorten’s power base, and the de facto seat of federal ALP power.
The factional war within and between Left and Right subfactions is being led by the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) on the left, and the Adem Somyurek-fronted “Mods” (Moderates) faction on the Right. But it has been supercharged by personal rivalries, score-settling, ancient alliances and sheer pique. At its worst, it could draw in Shorten and much of the shadow frontbench, confronting them with a nightmare scenario: sustained intra-factional warfare, which the public loathes, and which they punish at the ballot box.
This is the document that will make or break the Labor Party, as it heads towards the “unlosable” election due in 2019 or this year.
The late autumn night will glitter with stars, the lights will play from the mantled roof of the Melbourne Town Hall, at the top of the stairs the heavy copper doors will swing open, as the city welcomes its latest leader … Mayor Jane Garrett.
Could it be? That’s the word on the street. For days, since the resignation announcement of Robert Doyle, a whispering campaign has been gathering, suggesting Garrett as a Labor candidate for the byelection scheduled for May — and aired this morning in Garrett’s regular spot on the high-rating ABC Jon Faine morning show on ABC Radio Melbourne.
On a warm spring Melbourne night in October 2009, the great and the good of the Victorian Labor Party Right gathered at the Dragon Boat on the Yarra, a restaurant in a now demolished brutalist building near the World Trade Centre on Spencer Street bridge.
The crowd came in in dribs and drabs — some numbskull had put the Dragon Boat’s nominal Spencer Street address on the invite, so groupers and shoppies were wandering around the Hoddle Grid for half an hour — and the guest of honour party baron, outgoing state secretary Stephen Newnham, must have looked around nervously. But also with relief.
When, in late 2017, it was revealed in the press that Opposition Leader Bill Shorten had sat down with Adem Somyurek, the leader of Labor’s right-wing Moderates faction, there was widespread dismay and bewilderment.
Sources within the Mods have been claiming that the Shorten sit-down marked the turning point: the moment at which the purported new Centre Unity-Industrial Left (CU-IL) alliance got on the road to becoming the dominant alliance.
Practically the first issue I ever read of the magazine Australian Left Review in the 1980s had an article in it by Socialist Left (SL) leader Lindsay Tanner, arguing for the abolition of the factional system — and the next issue had a reply by Robert Ray, behemoth of the Right, defending it, and arguing that, in any case, there was nothing you could do about them. The Australian Left Review is long gone from the public stage, as are Tanner and Ray. The factions march on.
State by state, the constellations vary. Victoria matters at the moment because the Stability Pact, the decade-long deal that its two major groupings managed to maintain, allowed an enormous amount of political energy to be directed outwards, towards the actual enemy: Labor New South W-, sorry, the Coalition.