Unions have endorsed two embattled Labor MPs, using the opportunity to take a swipe at Wollongong MP Noreen Hay’s popularity.
Five union leaders yesterday released a joint statement of support for Throsby MP Stephen Jones ahead of a likely preselection challenge by the party’s right wing, led by Ms Hay.
Ms Hay is also at odds with Shellharbour MP Anna Watson after Ms Watson sacked Ms Hay’s daughter, Alison Kelly, from a position in her electorate office earlier this year.
The internal unrest could come to a head at Labor’s annual state conference this weekend.
In a pre-emptive move, the Maritime Union of Australia, Australian Services Union, Australian Workers’ Union, Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union and United Services Union backed Mr Jones and Ms Watson yesterday.
In a statement, the unions’ respective representatives - Garry Keane, Narelle Clay, Wayne Phillips, Brad Hattenfels and Scott Peterson, took a swipe at Ms Hay’s recent narrow election win.
‘‘The results of the last state election should send a clear message to everyone that factional games result in the community punishing Labor at elections,’’ they said.
‘‘We need look no further than the seat of Wollongong itself, which was once the safest state seat in NSW, only to become Labor’s most marginal in just one term.’’
‘‘We believe that [Mr Jones and Ms Watson] are the best local candidates for this region and they should be allowed to get on with their jobs in representing working people and all people, without having to constantly watch out for attacks from their own side,’’ the officials said.
Ms Hay quickly hit back at the statement, as well as previous calls by Mr Phillips for her to resign.
‘‘Within the ALP we have democratic processes to resolve issues and I don’t doubt those processes will, from time to time, be tested,’’ she said. ‘‘[But] I’m confident I have very significant support from the rank and file within my electorate and within the ALP. I work very hard. No-one has ever questioned my work ethic in terms of representing the area.
‘‘I’m very grateful in a huge swing against Labor in NSW, I was able to retain Wollongong for the party.’’
The five union officials supported rank-and-file preselection but challenged any candidates for Throsby to identify themselves. Mr Jones could lose preselection should the Right stand a solid candidate.
When asked if the union support would translate to more preselection votes, Mr Jones said: ‘‘At the end of the day, if there is a preselection contest, decisions will be made by rank-and-file members of the party but ... the support that has been shown by union leaders reflects the messages I have received from other community members over the past few weeks.’’
Ms Watson also welcomed the union support.
Last week, Labor’s Dapto branch passed a motion of no confidence in Ms Watson. Ms Hay is a member of the branch and Ms Kelly is the secretary.