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Factional 'Godfather' Farrell rejects calls to step aside

Politics

South Australian ALP factional ‘Godfather’ Don Farrell is standing firm in the face of calls to hand over his Labor leadership role to former New South Wales Premier Kristina Keneally, telling InDaily he would nominate to continue as the party’s deputy senate leader.

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The battle-weary ALP caucus will meet in Canberra tomorrow to elect a shadow cabinet and confirm its four-person leadership team, with Victorian right faction MP Richard Marles expected to be elected deputy to NSW left-winger Anthony Albanese in the lower house.

SA Left-faction powerbroker Penny Wong is set to continue is her role as senate leader, but there have been calls for Right-wing stalwart Farrell to step aside as her deputy, to promote Keneally and ensure an equal gender balance in the leadership group.

Kristina Keneally will be part of my team as far as I’m concerned

However, Keneally – who played a prominent role in Labor’s failed campaign – had been on the outer within her own NSW Right, and was no guarantee to snare one of the six frontbench roles to which the faction is entitled.

That appears to have changed with the resignation today of rising star Ed Husic, paving the way for Keneally to serve in the shadow ministry.

The various state factions will meet later today to confirm their shadow ministry nominees, with the SA Right part of a group of smaller states and territories that will divide up four frontbench positions.

Farrell, who has been under public pressure to vacate the Senate deputy leadership, confirmed this morning he would nominate for both the frontbench and the leadership group.

“I intend to nominate and put myself forward for the shadow ministry and the senate deputy leadership,” he told InDaily.

It’s the third time in his parliamentary career that the former shopworkers’ union boss – one of SA’s most influential factional powerbrokers, known colloquially as ‘The Godfather’ –  has been prevailed upon to step aside.

He bowed to public and political pressure in 2012 to relinquish the Number One spot on Labor’s SA senate ticket for his higher-profile Left adversary Penny Wong, only to lose his seat when the ALP upper house vote collapsed.

An infamous attempt to enter state parliament in 2014 was shot down by then-Premier Jay Weatherill, a factional colleague of Wong’s, who threatened to quit as leader if Farrell won party endorsement.

On this occasion, though, it appears Farrell will retain the numbers to survive in his current role – despite Labor’s next leader putting pressure on factional bosses to ensure Keneally plays a prominent role.

Kristina Keneally and Bill Shorten in campaign mode. Photo: Lukas Coch / AAP

“I intend to be consultative as a leader,” Albanese told reporters in Canberra today.

“I’ve made a number of my views very clear to the caucus – for example, Kristina Keneally will be part of my team as far as I’m concerned.

“I’m talking to them about the Labor interest… not any factional interest, not any state interest – the Labor interest.”

The latest factional jostling comes after InDaily yesterday revealed Labor’s SA Right had bolstered its numbers in federal parliament, with the defection of long-time Left-winger Steve Georganas to the Labor Unity faction.

-Additional reporting by AAP

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