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Labor pain continues as factional ‘deal’ claimed

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SA Labor’s troubled preselection in its safest federal electorate has erupted in fresh controversy, amid claims of a factional “done deal” that would see an incumbent MP dumped and a rising senate star parachuted into his lower house seat.

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Preselection hopeful Alice Dawkins has stunned her party with a series of legal challenges to the way the preselection in the northern seat of Spence is being handled, after incumbent Nick Champion opted to switch to state parliament with the retirement of Jon Gee in Taylor.

The ‘Labor Unity’ Right faction that controls the Spence sub-branch has already endorsed Transport Workers Union official Matt Burnell for the plum preselection.

But Dawkins has forced a contested ballot by nominating, and has threatened to take the state party to the Supreme Court over a preselection process she alleges is “oppressive, anti-democratic, and inconsistent with the stated objectives of the ALP of encouraging rank and file participation in the preselection of candidates”.

Dawkins yesterday told ABC Radio Adelaide there had been “weeks of dishonesty and misinformation circulating about me coming from powerful corners of the party”.

“How can you really push against that?” she said.

“I don’t feel safe right now… how can you possibly stand up for yourself in conditions like this, when you’ve got your own party backgrounding against you?

“It’s incredibly undermining.”

That statement appears to have been the catalyst for a Facebook post by her mother, Maggie Dawkins, a respected whistleblowers’ advocate whose campaigning for sexual abuse victims helped trigger the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sex Abuse.

“Alice innocently exercised her right as an ordinary member of the Labor Party to nominate for Spence – what she may inadvertently have stumbled upon is a done deal agreed to by faceless power brokers of the Left and Right factions,” the post reads.

“Ordinary members have not been consulted, but it is all leaking out as Alice calls the SA Party office to account.

“It appears that many members may not be comfortable with this done deal, as they are contacting me, not only as Alice’s mum, but also as a board member of Whistle Blowers Australia.”

Dawkins wrote that while she could not verify the deal, aspects of it – including Champion’s move to Taylor – were already playing out.

She went on to claim that a move was underway to shift fledgling SA senator Marielle Smith from the Senate to the Lower House.

“Marielle, I am informed, wants to move to the federal seat of Adelaide,” Maggie Dawkins wrote.

“This will mean that the sitting member, Steve Georganas will need to conveniently retire… Who knows, will Steve go quietly?

“If he does, and Marielle Smith moves to Adelaide, that will create a Senate vacancy, and it’ll be Left powerbroker Karen Grogan or Victoria Fielding for that, so the rumour goes.”

InDaily has sought comment from Grogan – a senior figure at the United Workers Union, former Labor staffer and current convenor of the PLUS [Progressive Left Unions and Sub-branches] faction – but did not receive a response.

Fielding, an academic and grassroots party member with a strong social media following for her outspoken ‘Queen Victoria’ Twitter handle, said she had “absolutely no idea what [Dawkins] is talking about”.

“All brand new information to me,” she told InDaily.

Smith said today: “I’ve got four years left of my Senate term and I intend to use it continuing to be a strong, progressive voice for South Australian families.”

However, well-placed insiders told InDaily if the opportunity for such a move presented it would be “considered” and was “not beyond the realms of possibility”.

But another senior source branded the claim “bullshit”, saying Georganas was a “valued local member who lifted our vote there last time”.

It’s likely the federal Adelaide preselection will be opened in the next month, with factional insiders arguing there was no commitment given to Georganas, who defected from the Left to the Right faction after shifting to the seat before the last election, about him running again.

Georganas told InDaily: “I will be running again for the seat of Adelaide through the democratic process of the party structure.”

In her post, Maggie Dawkins – the wife of former federal Treasurer John Dawkins – cited her daughter’s claim to not “feel safe having to deal with the onslaught of a well-orchestrated smear campaign”, and calling on “the women of the Party [to] break their silence”.

“Labor women are held to higher standards because they represent higher standards. Penny Wong, Marielle Smith and Amanda Rishworth where are you?…

“None have checked to see if Alice is OK?” she wrote.

“Here’s your chance, Marielle! After all, Alice worked in your office. You know Alice. You encouraged her…

“Where is Penny Wong?”

In a statement to InDaily, Wong said: “All candidates have a right to feel safe.”

“I’ve spoken to the Party Secretary and confirmed that candidates are urged to come forward with concerns which will be addressed through the established code of conduct process,” she said.

Rishworth was unavailable for comment this morning, but a spokesperson told InDaily: “At no point has Alice contacted Amanda, sought her support in preselection or raised any issues with her.”

“If any candidate has a complaint about how they’re being treated they should of course raise it through the party processes,” they said.

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