Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Labor preselections: the invisible candidate

Further to my earlier comments. The last meeting of the Warrnambool branch of the Labor Party (ALP) apparently resolved that:

That the Warrnambool branch of the ALP believes that the introduction of proportional representation for the Victorian Legislative Council has enabled country ALP members in areas traditionally safe for the conservative parties to look forward to ALP parliamentary representation for the first time in decades and for these ALP members to participate in the selection of ALP parliamentarians. The Warrnambool branch of the ALP therefore calls for Victorian Legislative Council candidates to be selected by a 50% vote of local ALP members and a 50% vote of the Public Office Selection Committee. The branch notes that this position was supported without opposition by the recent ALP state conference.

There is speculation that the local ballots will be scrapped and candidates selected by the ALP national executive (or the state executive) where the right-wing Labor Unity faction and its allies have the numbers. Some candidates for preselection have been travelling across the new Western Province (which includes Warrnambool, see map), such as Elaine Carbines and Gayle Tierney but it is puzzling however that Jaala Pulford from the National Union of Workers (NUW) has been reported as a likely candidate, but has made no local appearances. I have nothing against the NUW one of the few private sector outposts of unionism in south-western Victoria, and maybe Jaala is a great talent (she has many years of industrial experience) but it seems strange she has not sought the support of branch members. Presumably Jaala expects that Labor Unity will dump sitting MP Elaine Carbines (who has actively campaigned among local branch members to her credit) and that this factional decision alone will win her preselection. Does this indicate a confidence that they will be no rank and file ballot or that ALP members in Geelong are so 'stacked' that she can count on a sufficient bloc vote in Geelong to swamp the rest of the electorate? For all the talk of Bracks versus the factions, it is curious that he can't get his own faction to support Carbines.
NUW interesting union, its predecessor the Storemen & Packers leapt into prominence in the 1970s as politically moderate but industrially aggressive, and was viewed with fear by employers, see here for a case study where the NUW is described as 'one of the most powerful and reputedly militant Australian unions'(p. 189), but its officials in parliament have been bailiwicks of the modernising Labor right.


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