Labor’s Right faction wrongfooted again

Premier Jay Weatherill
Premier Jay Weatherill

ANALYSIS | UPDATED: Labor has selected a new candidate for the ultra-safe seat of Napier – and it represents another assertion of Premier Jay Weatherill’s authority over the party’s dominant Right faction.

A short time ago, the party’s state executive endorsed a member of the Right, Jon Gee from the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union, but he’s not the candidate that the faction would have chosen in the normal run of things. But nothing is normal within Labor right now.

Gee is a local. Like his non-aligned rival for preselection, Dave Garland, he lives in the northern suburbs seat of Napier.

Garland told ABC radio this morning that he and Gee know each other well. They live five minutes apart, and go to the same pizza bar and video shop.

There won’t be a vote of party members on the preselection – there’s no time for that, with an election just over a month away. The executive will choose a candidate.

With the Right holding the numbers, Gee was nominated by the executive and the Right continues to hold the seat.

So what’s the problem?

The issue is that this seat has long been earmarked for a Right faction up-and-comer – a potential “star”. If not a candidate with leadership aspirations, then at least someone who would be expected to be a minister.

Gee, while respected, isn’t in this category, but the Right felt it had no choice but to nominate a local after Weatherill’s extraordinary intervention last Friday.

Readers will recall that sitting member Michael O’Brien, until Friday a Cabinet minister, had offered his seat to Right faction powerbroker and outgoing Senator Don Farrell – most definitely not a local.

Weatherill, the parliamentary leader of the Left faction, rightly figured that Farrell’s presence in state politics would bring with it the shadow of disastrous federal division. He threatened to quit. Farrell backed down, and party office went into overdrive trying to come up with a process to select a new candidate.

The Right felt totally snookered.

With Weatherill’s high stakes threat – and his inflammatory rhetoric about division and uncertainty – the faction knew that anyone but a local would be painted as a factional hack, no matter what their credentials.

So Gee, it is.

He might not quite be a “captain’s pick”, as The Advertiser put it, but Weatherill won’t be upset, particularly with Gee’s connections to the battle for Holden on which the Premier has focused so much of his political energy.

That he’s been able to put another scratch in the Right’s duco won’t upset him either.

The faction has been surprisingly calm – almost with an air of resignation – since Friday when Farrell’s political career was ended.

But these slights will not be forgotten – unless, of course, Weatherill manages to pull off an extraordinary and, now, widely unexpected victory.

Check back here this afternoon for updates on the preselection.

  • richard

    The events that unraveled across Friday 31st of January 2014 has revealed labor’s utter contemptible arrogance towards their voter base, especially in the state electorate of Napier.

    The electorate already represented by a labor member who resides in the Adelaide dress circle of leafy Springfield and now, just 6 weeks out from
    an election, labor decide to parachute in yet another out of seat resident,
    only this time with federal credentials.

    One must ask the question, had the sting in the deal finally emerged for allowing Penny Wong from labor’s left faction to lead labor’s SA senate ticket? Where in the then unlikely event that Farrell were not elected it was quietly agreed that he would be automatically given a safe state labor seat and also leadership of labor’s right faction in the SA parliament. Of course, given the right faction’s numbers, the leadership of parliamentary labor.

    Labor supporters across the state must see that the labor power broker Farrell was hardly the type of candidate that voters of Napier now warrant. The electorate deserves a local, earnest grass root candidate to attend to the needs arising from Holden’s eventual closure. To insure the voices of many local workers facing a life career change and small local businesses facing imminent financial hardship are represented in parliament. That said, the electorate must henceforth cease to be a safe house seat for rewarding “labor royalty” who enjoy a far removed lifestyle from those residing in Napier.

    Yes, labor has now brutally exposed the true roots of their power broking egotistic politics. Sensationally revealing that labor hierarchy actually have no genuine personal commitment for grass roots representation. Like all those candidates currently standing in marginal seats who have been keenly door knocking for years to understand the needs of their potential constituents in an endeavour to become a local elected representative.

    It is now time for all political parties to learn from last Friday and actually select candidates who reside in the electorate instead of parachuting candidates into safe seats as a ”reward”

    • George

      no, what was exposed was that Labor has a very strong leader, willing to stand up to the old faction bosses – and very successfully so. The kind of leader that could take on the far right Federal Coalition.

      • richard

        George, the right faction significantly control the parliamentary labor party and decided to put into the leadership position the left Weatherill, just as they have the numbers to tap him on the shoulder when ever they wish. Nothing to do with the incumbent demonstrating that he is a “strong leader”.

  • Andrew Lester Pratt

    The State President of the Australian Labor Party not a Ministerial possibility? what rubbish. it’s not a high bar…

  • scott

    Labour must restructure and evolve if it is to learn from these mistakes. The voting public expect and should demand that Labour, if it is to govern, must represent all constituents not just the vested interests of its Union owners. Unions have and can continue to play a valuable role in society, but with the hard won wins of the last century and now 21st century regulation in place, their relevance is less compelling and increasingly self serving – only 17 % of workers are Union members and an overwhelming number of these are Public servants. The percentage of the whole population is of cours even smaller. Any objective observer can see that such a situation is counter to democracy – labour must change or the electorate will do it for them………remember the democrats??

    • George

      umm, ok Scott. Lets have the Lib Nats do the same and dissassociate from their mates in the media and business. If you want to see just how relevant Unions are, wait till the Feds scrap loading rates, which is just the start to a return to workchoices. done be so gullible

  • Jack

    Yet another union person in parliament for Labor. O”Brien was the ONLY person with some prior business experience. Now we are left with ex unionists, ex staffers and a couple of sons of. No wonder we are in diabolical financial straights! None of the old quality Labor people, just hacks with no worldly experience.

  • MarkC

    So Jay4SA and co have chosen the state president of the ALP who also is a union leader – let’s hope his focus is actually on his electorate, rather than the interests of the party, as is too often the case in politics on both sides.

  • Sena

    It seems to me, there is no democracy within the J4all!-sorry-
    this time, there are not going to get my vote.

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