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Factional machinations open Labor wounds as Rau bows out


The retirement of Labor’s former leadership duo and one-time rivals for the Premiership, Jay Weatherill and John Rau, has stoked factional tensions within the ALP, with Right faction insiders bitter that the Left is only paying ‘lip-service’ to a push to bring more women into parliament.

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The Right is expected to endorse a female candidate to replace former Attorney-General and Deputy Premier Rau, who confirmed his retirement yesterday – although the likely nominee remains under wraps.

It’s understood it won’t be one of the names previously mooted by insiders, with Lucy Hood, an adviser to Labor leader Peter Malinauakas, not expected to nominate, and sources talking down the prospect of two-time former candidate Jo Chapley standing. Neither woman returned calls today.

One insider predicted a “cast of thousands” would put their hand up for consideration.

But Right sources say the candidate is likely to be a woman, in part driven by the party’s need to meet a 50 per cent quota in parliament by 2025 – a motion carried at the last national conference.

Rau’s seat of Enfield is a nominal Right-faction seat, while the Left can put up their own candidate in Weatherill’s seat of Cheltenham.

That’s expected to be SA Unions secretary Joe Szakacs who, as InDaily reported previously, has been the presumptive candidate for some time.

That decision has left the Right compelled to preselect a female candidate in Enfield, to ensure the 2025 quota is achievable.

But some in the Right faction are unhappy that the Left has consistently ignored the looming quota in recent preselections, leaving the Right to endorse female candidates in SA.

A trade-off deal to save Left-faction powerbroker Mark Butler after his safe seat of Port Adelaide was abolished saw his factional colleague Steve Georganas take the seat of Adelaide, soon to be vacated by the Right’s Kate Ellis.

Instead, the Right was given the winnable second spot of the Senate ticket, preselecting Marielle Smith.

“The Left are great at affirmative action,” said one Right-faction insider sardonically.

Another suggested the faction should have reconsidered rubber-stamping Szakacs’ endorsement, saying: “If you’re serious about women, you put a woman up.”

Whoever comes away with the Enfield nomination, there are some high-profile names being mooted – and not all of them female.

Former state MPs Tom Kenyon and Annabel Digance have been mentioned in dispatches, with neither ruling it out today.

“I do think we need a woman to run in that seat,” Digance told InDaily.

“I haven’t had any serious discussions about it [but] we’ll see what happens,” she said of her own interest.

“It’s an interesting thought… it remains to be seen.”

Kenyon, a former frontbencher who narrowly lost his north-eastern seat of Newland at the March election, said: “It’s a very interesting prospect and I’ll give it some thought.”

Another giving it some thought is one of Kenyon’s former staffers, Port Adelaide Enfield councillor and newly-elected deputy mayor Michael Iammarrone.

Iammarrone, who works for Labor MLC Tung Ngo, told InDaily he was “seriously considering” nominating for Enfield.

“I had thought about it for a while beforehand, given my role as a local councillor,” he said.

“I feel stepping into a role as a local member for the same constituency, I could achieve a lot of outcomes for the people I’m representing as a local councillor… I did receive a lot of really genuine support from people in the community [at the local government elections].”

Asked whether he expected Labor to choose a woman for the safe seat, he said: “There are affirmative action rules that we’ve got in the party, and they’re there for a reason.”

“I more than anyone am supportive of women in politics and the need for more women to be in politics,” he said.

“Everything’s moving quickly… this is something I’m considering – I haven’t gone one way or another yet, but I’m certainly seriously considering it.”

Another name touted was former Adelaide candidate and current Prospect mayor David O’Loughlin, but he ruled out a tilt, noting he “just got re-elected as mayor with my strongest vote I’ve ever had”.

Rau told InDaily today he had “mixed feelings” about moving on, after Weatherill announced his retirement last week, but was “confident it’s the right thing to do”.

“I always approached the positions I had on the basis that it was a moment in time that would eventually pass, and I tried to be as active and energetic as I could,” he said.

He will return to law, saying “I have a practicing certificate, I’ve had one since 1981, and I’m in a position now where if somebody wished to engage me to do some work, I’d be interested in talking to them”.

He said he “hasn’t really thought” about a role on the bench, saying: “I’d be very surprised if the current government would be even thinking along those lines.”

“If somebody suggested something I’d obviously consider it, but it’s not something I’ve got a particular ambition for at the moment,” he said.

He looked back on the 2011 leadership transition – when Weatherill pipped him for the top job despite widespread expectation that he was Mike Rann’s successor-in-waiting – as another “moment in time”.

“A decision was made, and I adopted the approach that, ‘well, that decision’s been made’, and rather than moping around the place and being a nuisance, it was better for me to put my head down and work – so I did,” he said.

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