The Victorian ALP Conference held in the grey place that is Monash University in Clayton was a pedestrian and mostly friendly affair, gaining national attention only because there were so few people there at the end that the conference couldnâ€™t proceed for lack of quorum (sufficient numbers of delegates present for the Conference to proceed validly).
Thatâ€™s mostly because everyone had voted already for the partyâ€™s various policy committees which were up at the Conference and because the stars of the show, new Leader of the Opposition Daniel Andrews and the PM Julia Gillard had already shone and gone.
Andrews, in particular, impressed the delegates, writing his own remarks and delivering some good lines with the excellent comedic timing some thought modelled on Elliott Goblet. Gillardâ€™s home branch loves her still but generally thought her a little flat and with a speech that seemed to be written by Sussex Street (thereâ€™s no greater insult in Victorian ALP circles).
One of the highlights of the Conference was Noah Carrollâ€™s tough remarks putting the â€œparasiticâ€ Greens on notice that the days of Labor fighting them with one hand tied behind their back are over. The state Melbourne MP Bronwyn Pike is known to be particularly ferocious about what must be done about the Greens party menace and is putting steel in the spine of the Left on the issue. She has had a gutful of their lies, hypocrisy and double-standards. She cites, as one of many examples, how quietly theyâ€™ve gone on the issue of Baillieu keeping open the Hazelwood coal-fuelled power-station. Labor people say, and few could question this, that if Labor had done this they would have gone feral about it.
The â€œTalibanâ€ Right (as they are referred to by opponents) had something of a split over gay marriage.
A NUW power-broker from the Hotham FEA Councillor Steve Staikos loudly and publicly attacked SDA-aligned delegates for pulling quorum (instructing their delegates to leave ahead of requesting a quorum count) ahead of the debate on gay marriage.
He followed up with a Tweet:
The truth is conf was shut down cos 147 delegates supported us, 10 were against. Disgraceful and intolerable
SDA-aligned delegates told VEXNEWS they thought Staikos was disgraceful and intolerable for attacking them in public and will be pushing for Staikos to no longer be part of the State Conference going forward. That will prove rather difficult as Staikos runs a substantial bloc of votes in Hotham and won’t be pushed around by the SDA, his supporters say.
The Victorian secretary of the SDA, Michael Donovan, commented to VEXNEWS after this story was published that those – as Staikos did publicly – who claimed it was the SDA’s fault the Conference didn’t debate gay marriage were not telling the whole story.
“The ALP Conference was abandoned because 459 delegates out of 606 did not return after lunch. SDA delegates were gone by 12.30 because there is a major Coles EBA rollout occurring at over 200 sites which started 10 May. We (were) visit(ing) weekend workers. Because of the rollout we were never intending to be there after lunch – a decision made well before urgency motions were even put in to (the) ALP. The SDA could not have a spat with anyone after lunch as it was not there. No person from the SDA has made any comment about Steve Staikos.”
Michael Donovan is honest and true in all respects but of course there were very many SDA-aligned delegates present even if the SDA’s own union delegates were not and had what sounds like perfectly good reason not to be there. As is the case with many trade unions who participate in the ALP, they nurture a support-base in branches. Nothing wrong with it, but there’s not much point in denying they exist either.
Whatever happened, Staikos made it very clear what he thought in full public view, at the conference and later on Twitter.
Some think the issue highlights a serious fault-line between the more socially liberal parts of the NUW bloc and their current allies at the SDA.
The federal government, it was thought by many delegates, could probably do without the guidance of the Victorian branch on the issue, gay marriage is thought likely to be debated at the next ALP National Conference where thereâ€™ll be strong division between those who passionately support it, those who passionately oppose it and those who think itâ€™s a tenth-order issue that can only boost Laborâ€™s enemies in the Greens and conservative parties. Because both supporters and opponents think itâ€™s an idea for which their side has overwhelming moral and popular support, and because it is a non-partisan issue, we think a national plebiscite could resolve the issue, once and for all. Wouldnâ€™t it be fun?
Meanwhile, a looming tussle between the Victorian moderate faction Labor Unity and what they say are their extremist â€œTalibanâ€ rivals over the national assistant secretary position was worked out reasonably amicably in recent days.
Two Victorian moderates will be heading up to Canberra to help run the national ALP secretariat, former ALP Victorian Head Office campaigns officer George Droutsas and his mate current Victorian assistant secretary Nathan Lambert will serve in a senior campaign co-ordination role and as assistant secretary respectively. These positions are to be newly created. While Droutsas is from the moderate faction Labor Unity and Lambert is supported by the SDA, neither are seen as particularly enthusiastic factional spear-chuckers and they are thought to be keen on ensuring those hostilities donâ€™t spill over nationally.