InDaily InDaily

Support independent Journalism Donate Subscribe
Support independent journalism


Union jumps to the Left as Labor frontbench takes a step to the Right


There are factional ructions in the state ALP with a major union defecting from the dominant Right faction to join the Left, as Opposition Leader Peter Malinauskas today confirmed a change to the Labor frontbench.

Print article

Right-aligned first-term MLC Emily Bourke has been elected by Labor’s caucus to be elevated to the shadow ministry, replacing Jayne Stinson – who last week stood aside citing “distressing [and] deeply personal matters”.

The change comes amid broader factional upheaval, with the AMWU [Australian Manufacturing Workers Union] formalising its move from the Right’s Labor Unity faction to join the PLUS Left [Progressive Left Unions and Sub-branches].

The decision has been some time coming, since a power shift in the union saw the Metalworkers’ division seize control of the AMWU leadership, with Peter Bauer replacing longtime secretary John Camillo.

Camillo hailed from the union’s Vehicles divison, whose influence had waned since the closure of Mitsubishi and Holden.

Both state secretary and Right faction powerbroker Reggie Martin and PLUS convenor and United Workers Union coordinator Karen Grogan confirmed the AMWU’s defection, although the latter did not respond when asked if the Left would be seeking any further concessions from the Right as a result of the power shift.

Labor Unity remains the dominant force in SA Labor’s factional machine, but the AMWU’s extra votes will bolster the Left’s conference numbers and influence within the party.

Bauer told InDaily via text message: “After a review leading up to [this month’s] ALP convention, it was decided that the Left better reflected the policies and direction of the AMWU.”

The AMWU only has one member in state parliament – Jon Gee, whose sudden retirement from his seat of Taylor will pave the way for Right-winger Nick Champion to shift from federal politics to North Terrace.

It’s understood Gee was originally slated for an Upper House seat, however his parliamentary career was fast-tracked after federal senator Don Farrell’s aborted attempt to enter state politics was blocked by then-Premier Jay Weatherill in 2014.

However, sources say a deal with Right faction bosses at the time only guaranteed Gee two terms in the lower house, with the faction adamant it doesn’t owe the AMWU another seat in the medium term.

Asked whether the union had sought or would seek a new seat as part of its new arrangement with PLUS, Bauer said: “No.”

Right faction sources say they anticipated the AMWU’s likely shift, in part prompting last year’s courting of the previously-Left-aligned Australian Workers Union, whose former official – now Labor MLC – Justin Hanson joined Labor Unity last year.

“It’s disappointing – it would have been good to keep the show on the road [but in terms of numbers] it makes no difference to us now the AWU is formally inside Labor Unity,” one said.

The two defections, ironically, better align SA with the rest of the party nationally, where the AWU is a powerful player in the Right and the AMWU votes with the Left.

With Champion shifting to Taylor and fellow Right-winger Michael Brown considering a shift from Playford to Florey, it’s understood the AWU is backing NT-based bureaucrat John Fulbrook for Brown’s potentially-vacant northern suburbs seat.

The latest ructions come amid a hasty revamp of Malinauskas’s frontbench, with newcomer Bourke – who had turned down an offer to join the shadow ministry after her initial election in 2018 – taking Stinson’s portfolios of Local Government and the City of Adelaide.

The Badcoe MP and former journalist’s remaining shadow ministries will be divided between three other Labor women: Katrine Hildyard takes on Arts, Zoe Bettison Multicultural Affairs and Andrea Michaels adds Planning and Urban Development to her responsibilities.

“Emily came into the parliament at the last state election [and] I think she’s impressed everybody in the parliament, the party and the movement generally,” Malinauskas told InDaily.

“She’s an incredibly hard worker and a strong contributor, and this is a great opportunity for her.”

Malinauskas has confirmed Stinson’s resignation was prompted from a meeting he had with her about concerns raised by a trainee in her office, who had requested to be transferred.

Treasurer Rob Lucas has revealed to various media outlets that the trainee raised “some concerns about her treatment in the Member’s office” but declined to elaborate.

She has since been transferred into veteran frontbencher Tom Koutsantonis’s office.

Malinauskas said his office had been “advised that there was an employee within Jayne’s office that wanted to move to another Labor MP’s office”.

“I then raised this with Jayne [and] she explained to me she’d been going through some pretty traumatic circumstances, which had been pretty tough on her,” he said.

“After some conversation around that, and time for her to reflect, she thought it was in her best interest [to] take a step back from the shadow ministry and focus on her work as a local MP, serving her constituents in Badcoe.”

Make a comment View comment guidelines

Local News Matters

Media diversity is under threat in Australia – nowhere more so than in South Australia. The state needs more than one voice to guide it forward and you can help with a donation of any size to InDaily. Your contribution goes directly to helping our journalists uncover the facts. Please click below to help InDaily continue to uncover the facts.

Donate today
Powered by PressPatron

More Politics stories

Loading next article