Crazed allegations made by Costas Socratous against ALP prominentos from the Deputy Prime Minister down have turned out to be a damp squib.
An excellent contribution by the Left faction secretary Andrew Giles, whose wisdom has perhaps been underestimated by this publication in the past, reflects a widespread view across the state branch in Victoria.
We have previously suggested that Giles might well be on friendly terms with a fellow called Crook who metes and doles unequal articles onto a savage race of left-wing email newsletter subscribers.
Yesterday, in response to a piece in The Age that seemed to suggest ALP factions were in disagreement about branch-stacking, as they had been in the past, GIlesâ€™s bearded little mate Senor Crook piped up with an astonishingly patriotic offering that points out some home truths about the context of Socratousâ€™s claims, widely believed to be false, possibly motivated by financial inducement and highly unlikely to be substantiated in any credible independent process of investigation.
We could hardly have written a better account of these events ourselves.
Highlights include referring to Socratous as a â€œwhistleblowerâ€ in inverted commas, accurately suggesting irony, and an unprecedented demand from the Left that there be evidence not merely assertion to support allegations of branch-stacking. It even goes so far as to say Giles â€œcondemnsâ€ the allegations â€œas lacking proof.â€
Heâ€™s absolutely right of course. And he has never been so straight-shooting about these issues before. Nothing like a stability deal to usher in a new era of truth, honour, accountability, decency and righteousness.
â€œTruth has always been the first casualty of factional war, it seems fitting that it can be preserved in this era of peace and stability,â€ one factional observer remarked.
The Ageâ€™s leaked ALP email doesnâ€™t stack up
May 25, 2010 â€“ 5:03 pm, by Andrew Crook
In todayâ€™s Age, Victorian state political editor Paul Austin had a curious page-3 piece on ALP branch stacking. It seems Austin, who has been snapping away on the issue since the Liberals leaked him the confessions of Right faction â€œwhistleblowerâ€ Costas Socratous last week, had obtained an internal email from Victorian Socialist Left faction secretary Andrew Giles revealing a â€œfall outâ€ in the party.
In the email quoted by Austin, Giles says that some Right-controlled seats had been â€œcomprehensively stacked by conservative elements of the partyâ€. Nothing new there â€” the SL chieftain has been making his feelings known on opposing factionsâ€™ irregularities for years. And, as Austin acknowledges, this latest missive wasnâ€™t exactly new either â€” Giles sent it almost seven weeks ago, on April 6, well before the Socratous bombshell hit â€” making The Ageâ€™s headline, â€œALP factions fall out over branch stackingâ€, somewhat misleading given its string of stories published over the past seven days.
But it turns out Giles has been far from silent on the Socratous issue. In his regular update issued last Thursday before that nightâ€™s meeting of the ALPâ€™s powerful administrative committee, Giles responded at length to Socratousâ€™ confessions of under-the-table recruitment in Brendan Oâ€™Connorâ€™s federal seat of Gorton.
While the Lindsay Tanner-aligned stalwart admits the latest allegations are â€œdisappointingâ€, he condemns the specific charges made by his former factional sparring partner as lacking proof. He also reminds readers of previous investigations into Gorton conducted by party elder John Cain way back in 2004, and follow-up charges against Socratous, that were rejected by the Right.
Our concerns remain in relation to elements of the ALP in Gorton â€“ and some other areas. But these matters must be considered on the basis of evidence, not assertion. In this regard Party Officers have considered the material available, and the State Secretary has requested Socratousâ€™ co-operation with an investigation. He has refused, making any investigation problematic.
Although Giles says the ALP â€œhas more to doâ€, the general tenor doesnâ€™t exactly fit with The Ageâ€™s attempts to kick the story along, breathlessly citing â€œnew developmentsâ€ that â€œthreaten to undermine Laborâ€™s prospects in this yearâ€™s federal and Victorian electionsâ€. Indeed, itâ€™s likely the general public couldnâ€™t give a toss about reports of internecine wrangling among the unrepresentative swill that makes up Laborâ€™s modern day membership base. (VEXNEWS: Has Crook been reading VEXNEWS for too long?)
Last year, Giles was part of a posse of ALP officials who responded to branch stacking allegations in the wake of the Brimbank council saga, producing a cross-factional report that included a new suite of rules to crack down on rorts and open up the party. The gist of that report is repeated in Austinâ€™s story. Again, nothing new.
Here are the pertinent paragraphs from last Thursdayâ€™s email:
Gorton allegations resurface
The past year has seen the Party take major steps forward in dealing with the membership abuses of the past. In particular, the Left led the establishment of a committee which took a broad look at these issues and made some recommendations to further crack down on branch-stacking â€“ giving Victoria the toughest Rules framework in Australia â€“ and find new ways to involve members. This committee wrote to all party members and invited them to raise any concerns regarding branch-stacking activities.
In this context it is disappointing, to say to the least, to read Costas Socratousâ€™ allegations in The Age. All the more so when you consider that five years ago he was named in the report into branch-stacking in Gorton that was rejected by the Right.
Then Left and independent members of the Admin Committee did all in their power to see the Rules applied. And, more recently, we have seen the end of George Seitzâ€™ parliamentary career following more revelations.Â Our concerns remain in relation to elements of the ALP in Gorton â€“ and some other areas. But these matters must be considered on the basis of evidence, not assertion. In this regard Party Officers have considered the material available, and the State Secretary has requested Socratousâ€™ co-operation with an investigation. He has refused, making any investigation problematic.
Fundamentally, recent events are a timely reminder that as a Party we have much more to do. Taking action against abuses is one thing, but building a stronger, more outwards-focussed party culture quite another. We must continue to ensure that our Rules are applied to safeguard the integrity of our internal democracy â€“ recognising, though, that this is a precondition to building a more democratic, growing and vibrant organisation and not an end itself.
In the UK, David Milliband has highlighted the electoral value of having vibrant local parties in calling for a revival of a culture of organising. And the US Democrats â€œOrganising for Americaâ€ project, grown from the organic grass-roots base that pushed Obama into office, shows the power of genuinely involving activists in the project of reshaping society. The success of Rainbow Labor and LEAN are pointers to the broader possibilities of empowering of members to lead. Letâ€™s continue the conversation around opening up political space to activists as well as making it clear that branch-stacking has no place in Victorian Labor.