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‘Arrogant, out of touch’: Labor’s internal ructions escalate

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State Labor is dealing with dissent on multiple fronts, with Premier Peter Malinauskas facing a mutiny from the ALP state executive on which he sits, while grassroots members have been urged to speak up in “no uncertain terms” about the party’s preselection pick for the Bragg by-election, which has been likened to the federal poll’s “Kristina Keneally disaster”.

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InDaily revealed in its 8am edition today that Labor’s governing state executive had split from the Malinauskas Government on contentious workers’ compensation changes, demanding it immediately withdraw its proposed laws ahead of an “urgent consultation” with unions.

It comes after days of dissent with the union movement after Attorney-General Kyam Maher moved to close a perceived loophole in the state’s Return To Work laws.

It followed a landmark legal decision in favour of injured truck driver Shane Summerfield, who was left permanently injured after a 2016 workplace accident.

Summerfield was granted additional compensation for complications from his original injuries, including an ongoing limp and back pain.

At a state executive meeting yesterday, a motion was passed declaring: “The ALP SA state executive expresses concern about the significant impact the proposed Return To Work amendment Bill would have on injured workers in SA”.

“The ALP SA state executive calls upon the state Labor Government to withdrawn the Return To Work amendment Bill legislation and lead an urgent consultation,” it said.

Responding to the revelation, Malinauskas today said he was listening to union concerns “but just as importantly I’m listening to workers themselves and families across the state and small businesses as well”.

Speaking on ABC Radio Adelaide, he insisted there was only “a very, very small cohort of injured workers that this legislation affects” but the threat of vastly increased premiums would have a “very broad impact on business”.

“I don’t think workers benefit out of an unfunded scheme,” he said.

“I don’t think workers benefit if their ability to get a pay-rise is diminished as a result of a big increase in costs on small businesses or businesses… so what we want to do is achieve a balance and I’m very glad to be working with the union movement to try and see if we can’t find a way through.”

The state executive motion was moved by Demi Pnevmatikos, state secretary of United Workers Union, and seconded by shop assistants’ union boss Josh Peak – the pair significantly representing the major Left and Right factions of the party.

Malinauskas is a member of the state executive but was not present at yesterday’s meeting, with his cabinet meeting in Mount Gambier.

It’s understood the motion was not opposed by those present.

Asked if he would accede to the state executive’s demand – which is not binding on the government – to withdraw the Bill, the Premier said: “If we think there’s something better to replace it I’m open minded to that, but that’s not where we are at the moment.”

It comes as grassroots opposition to the party’s ‘captain’s pick’ – anointed at the same state executive meeting yesterday – for next month’s Bragg by-election, with Unley-based lawyer Alice Rolls endorsed ahead of four-time federal and state candidate Rick Sarre.

Sarre, a retired academic who ran in Bragg at the last two state elections, told InDaily yesterday he held “no grudges” over the snub, declaring: “A very good alternative candidate came along… they’ve said ultimately they’ve got to pick the candidate they think’s going to win – and they think she can win, and I can’t.”

But ALP members in the area’s local branches appear to think differently, with one telling InDaily the decision was “wrong”.

In correspondence seen by InDaily, a member of the Bragg sub-branch details their strong opposition to Rolls’ preselection, telling colleagues: “Do we really have to repeat the Kristina Keneally disaster??? (She lost a safe Labor seat!!)”

The reference is to the decision of the NSW party to parachute the then-deputy senate leader and former NSW Premier into a safe lower house seat, which she failed to win in last month’s federal election.

“Now I have slept over this (and slept badly),” the email reads.

“Bragg is a very conservative electorate [and] Rick is a well-known entity and the electorate would expect him to run again… they like Rick, while some want him but don’t like that he is in the Labor Party [but] iIf ANYONE can win Bragg (big IF anyway) it is Rick!”

The email warns that “time to prepare is short” and “no new candidate could do this in this kind of by-election”.

“Our advantage is a well-known and widely respected candidate vs a ‘greenhorn’ for the Libs – we loose [sic] that advantage by fielding a newbie,” they write.

“Parachuting someone in like this (even if she is a woman) is very unwise… this kind of action is likely to be perceived as arrogant and out of touch with the base, against the spirit of party reform and will piss off some (definitely me) immensely.”

The author, who is not identified in the email provided to InDaily, says “party office is making a mistake” by shunning Sarre.

“The branch should speak up in [no] uncertain terms and support Rick,” they write.

“This new candidate should be prepared for the 2026 state election. She sounds great but this is the wrong timing.”

Another local Labor insider said it was “utter bullshit that Rick didn’t get a chance to go again”.

“He’s put his hand up so many times in that seat when no one would even look twice at it – he should’ve been given a chance,” said the source, who anticipated the decision will “upset a few of the members” in the local branches, including the Dunstan sub-branch of which Sarre is president.

Rolls told InDaily yesterday Sarre “respects the party processes”.

“He’s a lovely guy [who’s] given much to Labor, and I know he’ll continue to do so, she said.

“He’s supportive of me.”

Meanwhile, InDaily revealed today that a longtime teacher at the exclusive Pembroke School, Daryl McCann, has been confirmed as the family First candidate for the July 2 by-election, after winning 5 per cent of the vote in the seat at the state election.

McCann, who is also an author of several books and contributor to several publications, including The Australian, the ABC, The Spectator, Quadrant and the Salisbury Review, said in a video posted to Facebook he was “attracted to Family First because family is the most important thing in our lives”.

“It’s the one place we can be truly unique… it’s important we look after all aspects of the family, including family business, community and the environment,” he said.

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