Bitter debate divides ALP

By Brett Cox
Updated November 5 2012 - 10:25am, first published November 7 2009 - 11:31pm

The Labor Party in the Illawarra is involved in an ugly internal war of words over the Federal seat of Throsby, with recent public speculation about the seat's future prompting infighting between the party's Left and Right factions.Behind the scenes, some of the party's big personalities in the region, who have a history of not getting along, have clashed once again.As revealed earlier this month, Community and Public Sector Union national secretary Stephen Jones is the very likely replacement for hard Left factional colleague Jennie George, who is expected to retire.

  • Will this man replace Jennie George in Throsby? There have been dozens of private phone calls between party figures who have been finger-pointing at factional enemies and accusing them of tipping off the Mercury to the detailed behind-the-scenes machinations for a feature story last Saturday.Mud-slinging continues even though both factions are involved in a deal that would see a hard Left candidate installed in Throsby and a Right candidate in the south-west Sydney seat of Fowler. The Right accuse the Left of being hypocrites, citing the Left's public rallying against Shellharbour State MP Lylea McMahon and other Right MPs when they were made candidates without a rank-and-file vote. "On the issue of Stephen Jones parachuting in, all of the Left and the unions are quite happy to stay quiet now," a Right identity said.A Left member said "nothing would be worse than the sort of person from the Right a rank and file would most likely throw up"."It's fine to want democracy but you can't ignore what democracy sometimes leads to, which in this case would be a worse candidate."It is worth noting that the senior power brokers from both factions - such as Anthony Albanese from the hard Left and Mark Arbib from the Right - are not pushing for a rank-and-file vote in Throsby, given the deal with Fowler.Grassroots members have a different view. A petition is being passed around defending rank-and-file preselections, while some branches have passed motions calling for a vote in recent months.Ms George, 62, is popular and well respected on the ground, but sits in a region with State and Federal Labor MPs from the Right.She maintains she has not made a final decision on her future after a career that included ACTU president and being voted a Living Treasure. Behind the scenes, however, her factional allies are planning the way for Mr Jones, who grew up in the Illawarra but has spent time in Sydney in several union roles in recent years.The redistributed Throsby would be a safe 16.5 per cent Labor seat, but that has not stopped the Liberal Party from passing judgment on the squabbling.NSW Liberal Party State Executive member Gareth Ward said residents deserved better than decisions based on "head office pay-offs"."Labor should be selecting local candidates on the basis of equity and local community merit - not what faction you're from and what deals you do to get there," he said.
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