VEXNEWS has assiduously avoided references to the Broadmeadows preselection, largely because we thought it would conclude without much of a stoush after the new Baillieu administration set such a tight timetable for the by-election, making the normal ALP theatrics impossible to cram into such a short season.
But they have done their best to spice things up at the last minute with writs flying around today.
The by-election will be held on February 19th, with nominations closing on Monday. Normally the ALP preselection process runs at least a month, making a local vote (after checking the bona fides of those on the roll) and a full meeting of the Public Office Selection Committee impossibly difficult to organise as party activists slept off their Christmas excess and slowly woke up to the spectre of a new school year for the rugrats and a new work year.
Anyways, the somnolent atmosphere that prevailed has been quickly confronted by the sunburst of some Kathy Jackson kick-ass. One of our favourite figures in Labor politics, the zany lady national secretary from the perpetually financially troubled Health Services Union, has fired up today with an apparently genuine threat of litigation. It isnâ€™t clear what form that will take but all we know at this stage is that Jackson has instructed Big End of Town law firm Minter Ellison to sue the ALP in some way. That probably means an interim injunction or perhaps an application for an order to conduct a local vote (without checking the bona fides of those on the roll in the normal way) to maximise the chances of their candidate, popular former local mayor Burhan Yigit.
The “Taliban” Right is increasingly gaining a reputation for extremist and erratic behaviour without much of a strategy in sight…
What puzzles observers though is why this was left so late, in circumstances where theyâ€™ll be very little time for a legal argument about the powers of National Executive to select a candidate. The â€œplenary powersâ€ of the National Executive are designed as the ultimate problem-solving mechanism for a party riddled by rules it doesnâ€™t observe, local memberships with more irregularities than a judge would tolerate and many other real-world issues and problems that seem very foreign in the rarefied air of the Practice Court of the Supreme Court. Challenging that problem-solving plenary power is usually seen by prominent party figures across the nation and all factions as â€œthe sole preserve of wreckers and terrorists,â€ according to one candid operative who was describing the latest moves.
Jackson apparently did not even attend the meeting of the Vic ALP Administrative Committee that referred the preselection to the National Executive for them to resolve, suggesting her care factor is rather low. Others say her political mentor David Feeney is not particularly keen on creating a big public brawl over the preselection, suggesting that a great deal of scrutiny of the local membership would probably not be a good thing.
Some have interpreted the last-minute aspect of the litigation as not much more that a Kabuki-style play, an expensive if stodgy entertainment, perhaps having the effect of being principally for the benefit of those on-stage rather than the audience.
The audience in this case is Burhan Yigit, a popular Hume city councillor and all-round good bloke who probably should have been in Parliament years ago. The Taliban Right as they are sometimes unkindly called are desperately keen to keep Councillor Yigit in their cart, despite years of not really delivering him much. And heâ€™s worth hanging on to because his local numbersÂ (and therefore his State Conference numbers) are considerable, building on a strong local base of public support, mainly from the Turkish community. Walking around Broady with Burhan is an impressive sight, he is one of few local politicians who is recognised â€“ and liked â€“ on the street and presented with problems by constituents who know that he takes them seriously and will diligently follow up with the appropriate bureaucrat.
Heâ€™s a good man.
But sadly heâ€™s on the wrong side of a factional feud â€“ provoked by hyper-aggressive moves over preselections and unsuccessful attempts to axe the Labor Unity aligned party secretary at the time – that has seen his allies put in a distinct minority, so much so the desperates even forged an alliance with the renegade notionally Maoist but actually just gangsterish Construction division of the CFMEU, frequently itself the subject of criminal investigation. Its representative on Laborâ€™s Admin Committee, Emma Walters, appears to have had more intra-office romances than Monica Lewinsky. But more deets on that at another time.
These are desperate times for their grouping. And in such times you canâ€™t afford to lose anyone because they thought you didnâ€™t stand up and fight for them. So thatâ€™s basically what todayâ€™s Kabuki play is about, one big con calculated at hanging on to a good blokeâ€™s votes for as long as he is willing to keep supplying them. They are using him and itâ€™s not very nice to watch for those of us who rate Burhan as old-school and someone who should be supported.
That said, after all is said and done, it remains highly likely that the Labor Unity Rightâ€™s choice of Frank McGuire will prevail. A candidate of rare quality, not really a celebrity candidate, more a quality one that has been hand-picked from outside the narrow confines of the party that produces some great people but is not the sole reservoir of political talent in society. An award-winning journalist (we wonâ€™t let that count against him), political spinner for the last Labor government and for Labor moderate friendly ex Democrats leader Natasha Stott-Despoja and businessman, he has a deep connection with Broadmeadows having grown up there and persistently giving back to the area ever since. He has a great story to tell.
The Broadmeadows â€œGlobal Learning Villageâ€ is probably the stateâ€™s best community library and it was all made possible by Frankâ€™s leadership and the financial backing of government and generous business leaders like the late Richard Pratt.
Heâ€™s a candidate the Labor Left and Labor Unity have agreed is worth fighting for, even if they have to see off some pesky theatric litigation to make it happen.
It will be interesting to see which Labor notables beyond Kathy Jackson have the courage to put their name to the proceedings. The prevailing culture in the ALP is that itâ€™s best to avoid the courts because of potential brand-damaging publicity and the grotesque expense involved. Minter Ellison charge out their partners at around $500 per hour, so itâ€™s not a cheap hobby litigating political matters.
In this scenario, if it is the case that the financially challenged Health Services Unionâ€™s membersâ€™ money is being expended on such non-core activities, it might turn out that Jacksonâ€™s ticket for the theatre could be a very expensive one indeed. We hope she enjoys the show.
UPDATE: Kathy Jackson is in the Supreme Court today, VEXNEWS Investigators report, is in rude form. She said “Just because Admin members don’t like the result they shouldn’t be able to refer it off to their mates on the National Executive.” The ALP’s lawyer said “Or your mates as the case may be.” She responded: “They are not my mates.” All the fun of the Fair.
6.30 PM UPDATE: To add confusement to weirdness, at the ALP National Executive phone hook-up, the litigant Jackson’s political mentor Senator Feeney seconded the motion that gave Frank McGuire dispensation from the rule that endorsed candidates have 12 months continuous membership of the party. Sometimes infernal internal ALP business can be hard to follow…