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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. Christ on a bike, good for the historical record, but dull as dishwater to read.

  2. As noted by OGO, reports from the Cabbage Patch are tedious in the extreme but I hope that grundle has invested in an ice-pick proof beanie.

  3. Labor stands for nothing, along with unions they are about greed and power. both have failed working people and are fast becoming irrelevant to them.
    Who actually can stop the slide into casualisation of the work force and eroding of conditions.
    Welcome to the crap future of Asian type work / life balance.

  4. There are some pretty amazing criticisms of the recent articles in this series: that it is boring, that the format is wrong, that the ALP shouldn’t be criticised like this or they might loose the election, that Guy or Crikey are are some how on the same side as Labour and should show some loyalty.

    None of these make the facts presented in the articles are invalid or wrong. And none of them show an understanding of why this information is valuable. But it is only valuable if we understand the impact of the infighting. Therefore, what IS missing is how political infighting affects policy and outcomes for social justice, peace, environmental sustainability and economic equality.

    Maybe we can take it as read that eternal factional fights sap energy, time and focus from real world issues, but all this detailed description of who and what in Victorian ALP GoT would have greater impact if it was pointed out how in THIS campaign factional fighting meant that opportunities went begging to campaign hard on THIS particular issue.

    Without a clearer account of the cost of self centred power plays, what is communicated is less analysis and approaches the horse race political journalism that we get plenty of in the MSM. The information given is OK if we take it and go and do our own analysis, but would be vastly more useful if analysis of costs, how it was done better in the past (if it ever was) or by others, and how it might be done better in the future.

    Factionalism is in every party and will be in every party that has significant and sustained parliamentary representation. It is an unavoidable part of the system because it is a part of human nature. Improvements can be made to teach compromise, promote better internal arbitration and conflict resolution, and hammering home the point that the best hope of achieving the real world outcome that got you into politics in the first place is to give a little, take a little, know when to hold ’em, know when to….(etc), and above all, to have the introspection to know when you are becoming belligerent, intransigent, arrogant and deluded and how to stop yourself. Difficult and rare, but this is the strength of character we so desperately need now in politics.

    1. apologies for lack of proof reading.

    2. Campidg
      Oh come on, horse race journalism, that’s absurd. The articles spend a lot of time showing how these new factional arrangements arose, what they represent, what their historical ties are, the processes that are going wrong, and suggests ways to remedy that. There’s analysis aplenty. Silly to tar me with the same brush as MSM reports on this

  5. So, after ploughing through this tedious essay I gather that the ALP has factions that are continually having a go at each other.
    So what ?

  6. How about a report on factionalism within the Greens and the problems their Batman candidate now has with claims of inappropriate behaviour?
    Now, that would be interesting.

      1. That was over 2 weeks ago. What has happened since?

        1. “.. over 2 weeks ago”…, Gen Faaaa?

  7. Depressing stuff Guy. But still worth the price of entry, for that vision of Jane Garret as the Queen of Sheba. 🙂

  8. “… there seems a positive effort to put the most venal, discredited and erratic people at the centre of the action — people it is simply impossible to support.”

    That’s it. I could vote Labor despite the factional bullshit and some objectionable policies back when it still largely seemed to be run by people wanting to make Australia better. Now it seems to be 90% narcissistic hacks, no way.

  9. In the end the general public will vote for the party that is going to give them the least amount of personal hassle (financial and social), and they don’t want to have to listen to their squabbling. The lessons of the 2010-2013 disunity seem to be clear to the ALP factions, while the Coalition seem utterly incapable of learning the lessons of 2014-2015 on their side of the fence.

    Sans a metaphorical Tampa sailing over the horizon during the next 14 months, the ALP know they just have to stick fat, more or less, and the prize should be theirs.

  10. Guy .. we both know what is going 0n in labor .. bill is out the door next electiion.. KR is in the media every 5 minutes .. go figure

    1. KR = Kevin Rudd? Geez, I know he doesn’t have a strong hold on reality, but even he must know that is never gonna happen.

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