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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. Elections are a marathon, one needs to loose any extra weight

  2. As someone who has never been, nor known a member of a political party, this skim-read was beyond unedifying. I’m not quite sure what I expected, but seriously people, WTF? : as the young people would say. So glad I’ll be dead soon, the world is truly going to hell. Hardly surprising when this is the quality of decision-makers we have steering our sinking ship.

    1. It might be sickening Margaret, but it’s nothing new. In the old days they turned up to meetings with knuckle dusters.

      1. Yes I don’t know why relentless egotistical pettiness depresses/horrifies me so much. I was a young middle class “civil society” nerd when I dragged my then boyfriend to an ALP meeting years ago – Ferguson et al was there. While I sat with wild-eyed indignation, my husband – who did his teen apprenticeship with the Painters and Dockers – literally fell asleep beside me:-)

  3. “The parasite takes over the host and works its limbs, and that is something of what one is seeing now.”

    This line describes the last 30 years of Labor pretty well, the LNP were only ever parasites anyway, and the Greens may have no immunity, and were certainly initially peopled by some of that genera/species.

    1. I’ll never forget a grundle description of gumBoil Shlernt as “an op-shop suit made mobile by a swarm of homeless moths which sought refuge in the vacant space“.
      I would only add the obvious, ‘bogan’ moths.

  4. I thought relentless hyping of Labor internal battles and overegged headlines like “Red Brotherhood at War!” were under patent from The Australian, but nope, here they are at Crikey. Dearie me.

    It’s like the story Katharine Murphy runs every 6 months claiming that Anthony Albanese is about to challenge for the leadership of the ALP. I’ve got no doubt there are internal battles or that Albo might quite like to be leader one day, but the claim that Labor is about to be “plunged into chaos” or Shorten’s leadership is actually under threat is just bizarre. These stories are trotted out with monotonous regularity and no-one ever gives a mea culpa when the collapse/challenge doesn’t happen.

  5. I’m tired, I think I’ll sleep on it and get back to you tomorrow, after the dust has settled on 4th March 2018. Good Luck Tasmania you’re going to need every morsel.

  6. ahem … CeaUcescus, please

  7. I like reading about factional stuff but this series was pretty disappointing. Actually not much insider info at all. Most of what was revealed you can find in the Australian or the Age. Likewise the background info was only really news for people who haven’t been paying attention (i.e. the references to Pledge, Newman issue, Robert Ray, I’m surprised Rundle didn’t mention Sword, etc. etc.). Also it could have been shortened into one article. Not sure why a series was needed. For a party with quite a lot of people, the ALP actually does quite a good job of keeping mum on the factional stuff.

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