In a move that could be interpreted as a very hostile attack on Labor Unity Convenor Bill Shorten or as a pointer that could indicate just how serious the NUW/SDA/Feeney forces are about pursuing a peace deal, the former Labor Unity executive has met and appointed Senator David Feeney to negotiate on their behalf.
Rather than editorialise too much, we’ll attach a copy of a communication sent by Senator Feeney’s office to supporters of the NUW/SDA/Feeney coalition.
You’ll note – in the fine tradition of ALP squabbles over naming rights – that despite being dissolved by a two thirds majority of the members the Executive continues to act on their behalf. Some will see this as very provocative while others – us included – see it as very positive that people are so keen to stay in the one moderate faction. Others will see the appointment of Feeney himself who has strongly expressed disapproval at last year’s pre-Christmas Admin Committee antics – as the NUW/SDA’s representative- as a hopeful sign that – having now been checkmated that they might be interested in suing for peace.
Impossible is nothing, reads the banners we saw while watching Chelsea sneak home against Stoke in the Premier League last night and perhaps some fast-moving patriots can prove that to be the case in a world turned upside down.
LABOR UNITY GROUP
Dear Labor Unity Member,
On Monday the 19th January 2009 the Labor Unity Executive elected me as the Interim Convenor of the Labor Unity Group.
The Labor Unity Group is in crisis. As you may be aware, a number of senior members of our group have secretly met with the Socialist Left and concluded an agreement with them concerning upcoming State and Federal preselections, and positions at Party office.
It is an agreement that expands the Socialist Left at the expense of Labor Unity.
The Ferguson Left group are not a party to this agreement.
Labor Unity was founded on the principle that to make a difference you had to win Government, retain it, and govern well. We have been bestowed with a sacred trust by the Partyâ€™s members and supporters; to provide mature, principled and effective leadership to the Party.
I believe that these values continue to unite everyone in the Labor Unity Group.
It is my intention to work towards avoiding a damaging split in the Labor Unity Group. It is my plan to make a contribution to restoring the values of consensus, fair play and respect for due process that can restore the Labor Unity Group as the premier force in Victorian Labor.
It would be an intolerable indulgence for the Labor Unity Group to turn aside from its historic task because of the recent divisions that have so bedevilled us.
I acknowledge that there are real grievances between the leading members of our Group. I believe that no one side is innocent. Serious errors of judgement have brought us to this point. We all share responsibility for that.
But I also believe that each of us must accept that our first responsibility is to one another, the Party and our supporters. Not to our individual ambitions, animosities or aspirations.
In seeking to avoid a damaging split within our Group, it is my intention to seek the guidance and support of our Parliamentary Leaders, and the participation of all sections of Labor Unity and all of our affiliated trade unions, irrespective of recent divisions and animosities.
The Labor Unity Executive has resolved to reject the process that gave rise to the agreement, and on that basis to not ratify it. Nor have we been invited to do so.
However, the Labor Unity Executive will support any cross-factional agreement so long as it provides stability, fairness and is made in good faith.
The idea of a broad based â€œstability agreementâ€ in the Victorian ALP is not new. It was first discussed by the Labor Unity Executive in 2007.
It is simply false to suggest that the SDA, NUW, or any other major element within Labor Unity opposed the making of a â€œstabilityâ€ agreement with the SL and other groups within the Party. On several occasions the Labor Unity Executive unanimously endorsed opening discussions with the SL.
The failure to negotiate such an agreement throughout 2007-2008 was caused by a dysfunctional negotiating team. In particular, the endless â€œunavailabilityâ€ of senior MPs who insisted on leading such negotiations, while never being available to conduct them, meant a frustrating paralysis.
The failure to negotiate a â€œstabilityâ€ agreement was never caused by any impending preselection battles.
And that important fact should mean the present crisis can be averted, and a split in our group avoided.
I have been largely inactive in the internal affairs of Labor Unity and the Victorian ALP since 2002, having been focussed on my work as ALP Campaign Director in SA, then later as ALP Deputy National Campaign Director, and most recently as a Senator. I have not held any positions in the ALP Victorian Branch or the Labor Unity Group since 2002. My own experience of divisions in Labor Unity has often been a painful one! But I have learnt at least one lesson â€“ that we must not only remember our history, we must also learn from it.
United we stand. Divided we fall.
I feel compelled to now make a contribution towards the goal of keeping Labor Unity united as a vital force within our Party.
It is my intention to remain Convenor only for so long as I can play a useful role in that task.
I seek your support, and hope that you will join with me in this undertaking.
Please feel free to contact me with any issues, concerns or suggestions you may have concerning these issues on (03) 9650 5075.
Yours in unity,
Labor Unity Group
Labor Unity Executive
Monday, 19th January, 2009
â€œThat the Labor Unity Executive elects Senator David Feeney as the Interim Convenor of the Labor Unity Group effective immediately.â€
MOVED: M Donovan
SECONDED: C Donnelly
â€œThat the Labor Unity Executive rejects the process that gave rise to the so-called â€œstability agreementâ€ and hereby resolves to not ratify that agreement made between members of the Labor Unity Group and the Socialist Left faction.
The Executive notes that this agreement has been made by LU members acting without the authority of the Executive, and acting outside the traditional processes of the LU Group.
Further, the Executive notes that in its discussions with the Ferguson Left grouping, they have indicated that they are not a Party to the so-called â€œstability agreementâ€, and have not agreed to its terms or operation.
The Executive re-states its support for the making of a broad-based cross-factional agreement in the Victorian ALP so long as it provides stability, fairness and is made in good faith.â€
MOVED: J Jackson
SECONDED: R Larocca
â€œThe Executive hereby authorises the Interim Convenor to enter into discussions with those members of the LU Group who have split and entered into an alliance with the SL , with a view to restoring the commitment of the entire Labor Unity Group to the values of unity, consensus, fair play and respect for due process.
â€œThat the Secretary of the LU Group, Noah Carroll, distribute a message from the Interim Convenor to every member of the LU Broad Group to advise them of the present crisis, and the initiatives that the LU Executive are putting in place to seek a reconciliation with those who have split from the group.
Further, the Interim Convenor of the Group shall undertake the following;
Â· Seek the guidance and support of the Parliamentary Leadership in ending the split in LU.
Â· Meet with MPs aligned to LU.
Â· Meet with all the affiliated unions of the Group.
Â· Establish whatever processes and lines of communication are required to enter into discussions with all sections of Labor Unity, irrespective of recent divisions and animosities.
The Interim Convenor shall report back to the Labor Unity Executive at a meeting of the Executive to be held at 4.30 pm on Friday, 23 January, at the Commonwealth Parliamentary Offices, Ground Floor Conference Room, 4 Treasury Place, East Melbourne.
MOVED: R Scott
SECONDED: A Somyurek