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Crikey correspondent-at-large Guy Rundle uncovers a seething, intra-factional skirmish that threatens to tear the ALP apart.

Part One

Inside Labor’s impending factional collapse

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.

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Part Three

The cult of Garrett

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.

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Part Four

The rise and rise of Adem Somyurek

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.

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Part Five

Feel the electricity, Bill: Shorten’s dicey dealings with the new warlords

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.

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Part Six

Factional nihilism is killing the Labor Party. But can it be reversed?

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.

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78 thoughts on “Red brotherhood at war!

  1. Come on Crikey – shitting in your own nest?

    1. Huh? You think we’re all Labor hacks here, desperately holding the party line against any external critique? I think you may have Crikey mixed up with Vex News.

  2. Thanks for the insight. We’re bound to hear all sorts of drivel from the MSM about this so it’s good you have published first. The ALP have a long way to go before they can claim to be democratic.

  3. The MSM will dive on this like seagulls on a crumb, grateful to remove Cousin Jethro from the spotlight now there’s some actual news to report.

  4. Good grief! Not sure what’s worse. The sheer insanity of the ALP deciding that now is the perfect time for a factional shit fight.
    Or the hamsters in the Crikey bunker resurrecting this god awful PoC long form, multi-part article format.
    It truly sucks. 🙁

    1. I like the article series idea. Many subjects deserve it.

    2. Agree on both points – typical suicidal Labor and this appalling device crashing format.

    3. What is PoC?

    4. What is PoC?

  5. It is for this reason that I quit the ALP in the eighties.

    An unknown union heavyweight would be imposed upon our branch and we would have to work to support his election.

    Never saw him before at any branch meeting or anywhere else for that matter. He never door-knocked like we did. He never raised any funds with us. We never really met him prior to his turning up nor did we have any idea about his character nor his personal politics. It was all back room deals, baby.

    And some commentators here blame Crikey for shining light upon the factional sausage factory?

    1. What shining of light?
      Know you, of a party that is otherwise (beyond the fact that the ALP shits outdoors)?
      No, not the Greens – they’re worse And secretive as balls.

      1. Nope, you are right, all parties are faction riven. Some are worse than others, tho. In any case, this insider shit should be published each and every time it is discovered.

        PS: Please, the ALP hardly “shits outdoors”. It does generally leak against itself as part of the faction wars a lot more. Though this Lib rag-tag mob is giving it a run for its money.

        1. A view that’s totally not informed by bitterness I’m sure, but do some work for the Greens, THEN tell me I’m wrong

          1. Hi Lykurgus. You apparently think that I either work for them, or in some way denying that factionalism doesn’t happen in the Greens. If so, you couldn’t be more wrong.

            That said, your insistence on some sort of moral equivalency is a strange one. This isn’t a competition about which party is more faction rivin. This is a sad statement to where Australian politics now stands. I remember a better day where people stood for something. There was never a fantasy period where factions never existed, but there was a day when people believed in something. That the Greens also have factions is besides the point. That factions are now epidemic is the primary point. The Batman by election is neither here nor there.

  6. I think that anything such as this published by Green Party supporters which is much less than honest about their own internal brawling and lack of democracy should just be considered electioneering. More Labor bad, hence Greens good propaganda in other words. The factional squabbles in Victoria are nothing new and certainly don’t surprise anyone either inside that state or outside.

    1. And we shouldn’t know about this because … why?

      I’m not sure it counts as propaganda if it’s factual.

  7. Let me guess – Crikey didn’t want to fill a story-shaped hole with a giant Sudoku or a cat-in-a-tree “awwww” moment because they thought that would be cheating.
    I mean, come on – we hear the impending-factional-collapse story every 2-3yrs, and nothing more dramatic than a reshuffle ever comes of it. Which never surprises anybody who lacks a MEAA card, because the ALP has all its brawls in public.
    Remember when the Shoppies were totally gonna walk out if gay marriage became ALP policy? It became policy; Shoppies didn’t walk.

    1. Yeah, that Joe de Bastard who sold out his members. That scumbag who’s virulent anti Gay position may have been good old Homophobia based on his Catholicism, but his damnable undermining of his workers pay and conditions places him at the bottom of the barrel IMO. This was the person who also supported Julias’ ascendancy, where she shed a lifelong support of Gay rights including marriage to get the Throne. It was however ok for her unmarried “partnership” to be thrust upon us all.

  8. Isn’t Guy’s revelation just another symptom of what many of Crikey subscribers have focussed upon since at least Abbott’s dismissal and his replacement, the far more dangerous Malcolm Turnbull?
    It is Australian parliamentary democracy under attack.
    And who is responsible? Well, choose which ever slice of the pie best fits your individual circumstance. Are you a factional warlord, or an alienated worker. An inept public servant who doesn’t give a shit. A grasping developer mogul. A ‘shudder’ politician who’s ego or aspiration is sans any commitment whatsoever in actually serving their electorate. Or; a simple, uncomplicated member of the public who begrudges having to both inform themselves about governance and vote once every three or four years.
    The world around and within our nation is preparing for war . . . again. And it is the political and corporate classes that will determine if, and when, the slaughter begins. An informed electorate can address and forestall. But to do so, must actively engage, voice our will.
    There is a need to reinstate parliamentary accountability, transparency and respect of and to the electorate. There is a need to smite right and left; corporate or union; black or white; christian or muslim; gay or straight. We are either one . . . or we are nothing.

    1. Of course it is – it sells papers, it gets names on TV, faces on radio, makes subscribers feel that they’re getting something for their hard-earned, and makes the players (the reps, the party staffers, the press-packers, the dancing bears or however the fuck else they choose to self-identify these days) feel that they’re making a valuable contribution to their species.
      And you know full f*ckin’ well that not a single f*ckin’ one of them – not the members, not the ex-members, not the party lifers, not the MEAA hacks, not the talking heads, not the not-MEAA-but-secretly-wish-they-were hacks, none of them – is talking to US.
      If this circus procession is talking to ANYONE other than themselves, it’s the owner of whatever thigh they’re trying to grab under the table at this or that correspondents dinner. While they bid on auction lots like a night at an unlicensed strip-joint or a plastic-surgery booking for the missus (“Spice Up Your Wife”) while gently crunching their breakfast ortalans.
      Unless they took a phone call from the National Council of Civil Liberties in their school days – then it’s a ham steak and dinner roll in the OTHER room, yelling at clouds between gulps of cheap plonk that they learned to pass in a direction that they now forget, and hoping that they’re being loud enough for passers-by to realise that they didn’t just die of anaphylactic shock.

    2. There was a time when Labour really believed its future was to be a (US) Democrat style party, embracing individualism, capitalism, even trickle down economics. This included indulging Howard’s union bashing crusade.
      If I wanted to nominate one single cause of the deteriorating plight of the average worker, it would be the loss of genuine and compassionate union representation.
      If Labour really wants to redefine itself, instead of considering (and fighting) the unions as just another factional group, work on improving their status and role in modern working Australia.
      Worldwide there seems to be shift to the left, mainly caused by wealth disparity, and deception of big business and their political cronies.
      But the solution is not about simply restoring union power, but a functional makeover. Actually believe McManus can deliver this, seems less the career politician, although so don’t want to be proven wrong about that.

  9. As Nudie notes, the exodus of local party members in the 80s was a direct result of the poisons lurking in the muck in the bowels of the Black Lubyanka of SussexSt hatching out when the Mogul’s cur won in 1983.
    Having transposed cause & effect, possibly through stupidity but more likely due to the Baldwin Bashing mentality, they thought that disgust with Frazer meant enthusiasm for a sclerotic party which was already well overdue for demolition.
    Of course, it is pure coincidence that first the Dems then the Greens evolved to fill the vacant space in democracy.

  10. Crikey…you are a bunch of bastards! ANYTHING to deny Labor at the next election. How on doG’s earth you all think the Talcum lot will be superior to Bill Shorten and Labor is totally beyond me! Haven’t they done enough damage for you yet?
    Get it through your scerotic brains…only the coalition or labor can form government…NOT THE BLOODY GREENS or any other less than 10% crowd.
    Those of you who think this article is okay, at this time, just make me want to throw up!!!!!

    1. CML, if you want to throw up, then throw up. It won’t change the facts – like that cretin Feeney and his stupid child-like lies about how the dog ate his homework. Surely you are not defending this idiocy in the ALP?

      1. What is the point of Labor gaining government if they also reject transparency, accountability and defecate on the electorate? Far better the backroom boys and their ‘minders’ have a mirror whacked right in front of their eyes. Charlie’s right.

      2. Feeney’s gone…full stop.
        Are you suggesting that the LN/P (and others) have no ‘cretins’ in the parliament? And what are the others doing to rid us of their idiots? NOTHING!

        1. Perhaps other news organisations can take this and run with it. Chris Kenny would love this one, ‘Screaming Red Brotherhood’. I don’t know, if you can’t have Royal Commission underway, your stolen document leak gets you sued for making up half your story and you have to apologise a week later, then a Five part in depth discussion into those reds under the bed in inner city Melbourne, (5 parts, must be serious) telling us what’s been happening with Jane and her friends since uni should get us the moral panic we so thoroughly deserve. As for the Greens for me contempt is on a good day.

    2. CML this is just reporting.
      Even if Crikey was influential beyond a minority of politically engaged readers, reporting on this would hardly make any difference to the election.
      This isn’t conspiracy, it’s just good bread and butter reporting, what I subscribe to Crikey for, not the increasing dross of ID politics and ‘best ofs’ (the best of political turncoats being the last irrelevant example).
      It’s not as if Crikey hasn’t reported on Greens factional brawls.

      1. Having stimulated such passionate responses, tells me that this reporting is probably on the money. Personally, it shows the gaps in my knowledge about these types of influences more broadly and I genuinely would like to understand more… the list of questions it’s raising is getting longer when I consider linkages, influences, accountability and the annual reporting to their members. I do wonder what the minimal wage earners would think of their c1.5% fees going into these types of efforts, as against staying in their pay packets. Maybe it’s my naivety.

    3. CML, I remember now that you are a South Australian voter and are facing a state election where each of the major parties is in desperation because a third party might just come up under their collective necks and snatch the keys of office from them – either one of them. This is a smirkingly delicious scenario for an ex-party local branch member of one of those parties. Suck it up.

      1. Charlie…the latest polling in SA shows that Xenophony is now on around 16.5%. Good…can’t go down quick enough for me.
        Or do you want a situation like Germany where is has taken months to even form a ‘coalition’ government, and the pundits are now saying the various parties are in such conflict that nothing will get done.
        We are talking about running a country/state here…not some local community sports club!!

    4. CML – last time I looked it wasn’t Crikey’s job to promote a particular political party. If there is a bad smell, it needs to be reported. Labor, the Greens or the conservatives need to clean up their house. It is silly attacking the press for reporting it.

      1. Well…if it isn’t Crikey’s job to promote a particular political party, why do we get the Greens shoved down our necks at every opportunity?
        I REPEAT…the bloody Greens cannot EVER form government…so why aren’t we having a discussion about the pros and cons of the ONLY two parties who can do so?????
        Not a biased, fake news diatribe, which even the author states is mostly rumour.

        1. Mmmm…., yummy Kool-Aid.

        2. CML – could you post that arcane bit of our Constitution wot sez only TWO parties can form government?
          If only we had known!

          1. AR…I’m talking about the REALITY of Oz politics as of today…and for the foreseeable future.
            Anyone with half a brain knows that a party with less than 10% of the national vote is not going to form government anytime soon.
            Constitutional issues do not come into it…as you well know!

        3. In recent history ALP has delivered good policy only when under pressure from Greens. They also depend on Greens preferences in many seats. Primary vote not going up. Working together only real prospect for urgently required change especially in environment policy. This is reality.

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