Macarthur musical chairs

28

Just days after the Liberal Party actually conducted a local preselection to choose their candidate for Macarthur, the ALP has delved into the unedifying spectacle of dividing up the federal electorates of southwestern Sydney without any consideration of what any actual members might think about their candidates, or local links to seats.

According to reports in the Australian, Sydney Morning Herald and Macarthur Chronicle, the musical chairs have been triggered by desperate attempts to save Laurie Ferguson after his seat of Reid was effectively abolished in the recent redistribution.

Reports suggest that Chris Hayes, Member for Werriwa, could be shifted from his safe seat to nearby ultramarginal Macarthur, with Werriwa going to a member of the Left. The Australian reports a deal to impose the Left’s Damien Ogden, 31, who appears to be a former Sutherland Council candidate (nowhere near Werriwa’s territory in Liverpool and Campbelltown) in exchange for which the Right would choose the candidate for Hughes, which covers parts of Liverpool, Bankstown and Sutherland and is held by a slender margin by Liberal MP Danna Vale.

However, the Chronicle reports that the “soft Left” is pushing Wendy Waller, Mayor of Liverpool, in Werriwa, and a number of reports suggest Ferguson, who has no links with that part of Sydney and whose entire career has been based in Granville, could be shifted to Werriwa. The Campbelltown branch of the ALP has clearly stated its support for Chris Hayes continuing in the seat.

Hayes has reportedly refused to move, understandable considering how he would be moving from a safe seat that he currently holds to an ultramarginal one. While he does appear to have the support of local members, that appears unlikely to be of any relevance to the ALP.

Meanwhile, the deal is tied up with agreements around the parcelling out of Greenway, Macquarie, Fowler and Throsby between the factions. None of them seem to involve any actual members ever having a say or seeing candidates tested in rank-and-file preselections.

In Macarthur, apart from Hayes, candidates named include 2007 candidate Nick Bleasdale, local paediatrician Mike Freelander, Deputy Mayor of Camden Greg Warren and paralympian Paul Nunnari. While Bleasdale claims strong local support, he was effectively preselected in 2007 without any opposition in a climate where the party did not think Macarthur was winnable, and can expect to face fiercer competition this time around. What may ultimately doom Bleasdale’s chances are his seeming lack of factional support or political capital. While his candidature saw a major swing to the ALP in 2007, no-one would claim that was due to the individual candidate, rather than a mixture of national factors and a backlash against Pat Farmer.

It appears that the party machine is enthusiastic about Mike Freelander as a contender, although he would likely be pushed aside too if it was needed to get Chris Hayes out of Werriwa (a terrible deal for Hayes, of course). With ALP preselections being decided by a panel of the Prime Minister and five factional headkickers in Canberra, what ALP members in Western Sydney actually want will not come into consideration, but they will surely take it lying down, like they always do.

Liked it? Take a second to support the Tally Room on Patreon!

28 COMMENTS

  1. Given the name ‘Reid’ is being retained, why is all this nonsense necessary to “save” Ferguson? Wouldn’t it be Murphy who gets the chop (and since he appears to be basically a backbench warmer, what would the party lose)?

  2. Reid is mostly Lowe. Something like 65% of the new Reid is in Murphy’s current seat, with about 30% in Fergys and a few percent elsewhere.

  3. ideas for new Labor preselection methods:
    1. There are 22 ‘safe’ Labor seats in NSW, so the factions get together and agree on a list of 22 ‘Class 1’ candidates (ie people who absolutely must have a safe seat), then those 22 names get put into a hat, and one name is drawn out for each of the safe seats. Anyone who currently holds one of those 22 seats, but misses out on being a ‘Class 1’ candidate, gets made a ‘Class 2’ candidate and goes into a consolation second-chance draw for a marginal seat.
    2. 22 ‘Class 1’ candidates are chosen as before, and each in turn gets blindfolded and has to throw a dart at a dartboard containing a chart of the 22 safe seats – whichever one they hit, they get.

    Hmm, must be able to come up with some better ones.

  4. Ben – Yes and no. Murphy is safe because the majority of branches in the new Reid are aligned to the right, but this is a result of the new Reid being mostly the current Lowe.

  5. I have a wild suggestion. How about they leave preselection up to the members in a normal democratic way? Sigh. When I was a teenager and starting to get involved in politics, this undemocratic way of preselecting was one of the reasons why i never seriously considered the ALP.

  6. “How about they leave preselection up to the members in a normal democratic way?”

    To be fair to the Labor machine, the branches in safe seats are probably so factionalised and stacked that their decision would be no more representative than Head Office’s.

  7. Fair point MDM and sounds very likely. However, having it democratic would give the candidate a certain level of legitimacy.

  8. MDMConnell I don’t know if you’re a member of the ALP or not (doesn’t really matter) but you’re last comment is a perfect example of what Ben said here:

    “With ALP preselections being decided by a panel of the Prime Minister and five factional headkickers in Canberra, what ALP members in Western Sydney actually want will not come into consideration, but they will surely take it lying down, like they always do.”

    Rank and file members of the ALP appear to want to have a voice in preselection, but whenever they get stomped on they regurgitate the party line that it is actually in the best interests of the party blah blah.

    Joel MacRae :
    Fair point MDM and sounds very likely. However, having it democratic would give the candidate a certain level of legitimacy.

    Maybe, but from Labor’s perspective they can still ignore the will of the local members and they’ll still faithfully turn up to campaign.

  9. “MDMConnell I don’t know if you’re a member of the ALP or not (doesn’t really matter)”

    Heh. God, no.

    Of course I understand your argument, and in an ideal world obviously a ‘rank and file’ is far more democratic than imposing an outsider. Just making the very cynical (or realistic?) point that there’s probably no real ‘rank and file’ in safe seats anymore, just hacks and stacks. So it’s undemocratic however you look at it.

    As for them taking it lying down, I guess if the factions have done dodgy deals with each other for their mutual benefit, no-one want to rock the boat. Just proves the ‘rank and file’ are just hacks who care little about local issues, doesn’t it?

  10. MDM,

    They may be hacks in those local areas, but all the same you would still have a process where a candidate has to meet with a particular power base and get their agreement. As it currently stands a small cabal will decide ALL seats.

  11. I don’t really see how getting the backing of a factional powerbroker and his mates to impose yourself on the electorate is any more democratic than getting the backing of head office to impose yourself on the electorate.

    I’m being a very cynical here, I know, but in a safe seat with tightly controlled branches, any ‘local’ vote is pretty much the illusion of democracy. Maybe that’s the lesser of the two evils, but not by much.

  12. [but in a safe seat with tightly controlled branches, any ‘local’ vote is pretty much the illusion of democracy.]

    [Just proves the ‘rank and file’ are just hacks who care little about local issues, doesn’t it?]

    I disagree. I’ve been a member of a few parties, including the ALP, and have always found the ALP branches, while overly represented by unionists, retirees and uni students, were never stacked and the preselection of candidates to be genuinely fair and based on local popularity. While I’m sure that Young Labor and Labor HQ is full of factions, it really hardly ever leaked down to the local branches.

    In large successful parties, the nature of the beast is that there will be enough people for a significant spread of opinion. This naturally causes formalised or loosely defined ‘factions’ – and frankly I would be surprised if the Greens in places like Melbourne, Balmain and Marrickville don’t have their own ‘factional’ fights either now or in the near future – and I don’t see anything wrong with that, it means that a party is expanding beyond a single issue.

  13. I’m not sure I understand the logic that says the small handful of branch members are the people best placed to choose potential members of parliament.

  14. -Because they are the people who will be working to get that person elected.
    -Because, short of having a primary, they are the only way in which people in a local area have a say in deciding their MP in a safe seat.
    -Because the current alternative is to have a small handful of factional warlords choose every single MP.
    -Because it diffuses power within the party.

    Also, if the problem is that you have a “small handful” of branch members, maybe you should be doing what you can to encourage more people to join the party. Letting them actually have a say in who is in Parliament and the direction of the party might do that.

  15. “Also, if the problem is that you have a “small handful” of branch members, maybe you should be doing what you can to encourage more people to join the party.”

    You branch stacker you.

    😛

  16. It will be interesting to see whether the ‘primary’ style system being trialled in a couple of seats will catch on.

  17. If the NSW Labor Party genuflected to the primacy of branch level preselections then Kelly Hoare and Michael Hatton would still be in parliament.

  18. I think people are conflating the issue of factions and branch stacking.

    I don’t have a problem with factions in a general sense. They exist in some form or another in every political party.

    The ALP factions have historically been based on ideology. The formalised structure of the factions in the ALP is unique in Australia and I don’t know how many parties around the world have such a rigorous factional structure.

    One of the downsides of the ALP’s structure is that the membership votes en bloc on factional lines. But, like MDM said, this is a reflection the membership itself.

    A cynical way of looking at the preselection committee formed by Rudd is to say that the ALP has a 4 or 5 groupings and members of each vote together anyway, so let’s cut out the middleman (rank and file votes) and just let individuals represent them.

  19. It is a very good read but it all seems to be plaguerised from all the media outlets.
    The author should get a job from fairfax

  20. James, seems to me Ben has written an excellent summary of and commentary on this saga. I’m not sure how you can call referencing the media reports and writing your own overview of the story plagiarism.

  21. I always though Nick Bleasdale was related to Blacktown City Councillor Tony Bleasdale. If he is wouldn’t he be better served trying to get preselected in Chifley or Greenway? If not then disregard this comment 🙂

Comments are closed.