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Labor machine man flags "cross-factional support" for powerbroker's Upper House bid

Politics

The outgoing convenor of SA Labor’s Left faction has lobbed a grenade into the party’s upcoming preselection process by endorsing his factional opponent, Right powerbroker Reggie Martin, for an Upper House seat currently held by veteran MP Russell Wortley.

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Martin, the ALP’s state secretary for the past eight years, has long refused to rule out a tilt for the state Legislative Council in 2022, telling InDaily just yesterday: “If there’s a vacancy for the Legislative Council, and there’s some support for me to put my hand up, I’d very, very seriously consider it.”

But such a move is complicated by the fact the Right faction can only be sure of electing two MLCs, and incumbents Wortley and Tung Ngo are both expected to seek to extend their tenure.

David Gray, the long-time convenor of the Progressive Left Unions and Sub-Branches faction, today weighed in on the standoff.

Speaking to InDaily as part of a broader interview to be published tomorrow, Gray said while he was “no longer the convenor of the PLUS faction… I do think Reggie is a very well-respected secretary [and] I’d be surprised if he didn’t have strong cross-factional support” to contest the preselection.

Asked how that would impact on Ngo and Wortley’s bid for re-election, Gray replied: “Tung is a very highly-regarded member of the Right.”

As part of the Right faction’s leadership group, Martin has effectively been Gray’s opposite number in Labor’s majority Unity group over much of the past decade.

Gray vacated the Left convenor’s role in November, along with his position as head of the SA branch of the United Voice union.

His comments will inflame a sensitive issue within the Right faction, with Wortley already publicly flagging his intent to seek another eight-year term.

He told InDaily last year he had “no intention of stepping down”.

“I’d like to continue my time for another term… my intention is to continue,” he said at the time.

Party insiders have flagged the prospect of Wortley digging in for a fight to retain his seat, a suggestion to which Gray noted: “If you know our history, a few have done that [but] it hasn’t ended well for them.”

Wortley declined to comment on Gray’s remarks today, saying only his “main focus is Labor winning the next election”.

Martin did not respond to inquiries.

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