Flat White

From Spring Street to the Snowys: how will Labor’s stacking scandal play in Eden-Monaro?

19 June 2020

2:45 PM

19 June 2020

2:45 PM

When the contest for Eden-Monaro kicked off just a few short months ago, the Coalition looked like it may pull off a once a century victory, by potentially winning a seat off the opposition at a by-election while in government. Polling showed that New South Wales Transport Minister Andrew Constance, a popular state member within the electorate, was an extremely strong candidate with a solid chance at pulling off a win.

Less than 24 hours later it all fell apart, Constance dropped out of the race and state Nationals leader and Deputy Premier John Barilaro had already removed himself from contention days before, as covered in Flat White.

For the Coalition it had all gone wrong. They had seemingly snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Despite polls showing that the eventual Coalition candidate Fiona Kotvojs was in a winning position, the notorious unreliability of single-seat polls still left the contest as Labor’s to lose, at least in the eyes of the bookies, who continue to have Labor candidate and Bega Mayor Kristy McBain as the odds on favourite.

But like all great stories, there was still one big twist left in the tale.

On Sunday evening the Adem Somyurek saga came to light, a damaging scandal for the Labor party that showed the so-called ‘faceless men’ who dominated the destiny of the party during the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd era were still very much in positions of power and influence, despite years of attempts at reform.

With Labor set to announce a full audit of Victorian ALP membership and the possibility of a takeover of Federal preselections on the table as a response to the scandal, its likely that the misdeeds of Labor’s operatives will continue to make headlines in the run-up to the Eden-Monaro by-election, in a little over two weeks time. Awkwardly, prepoll voting began on Monday

For Opposition leader Anthony Albanese, the Somyurek saga has come at the worst possible time, just as his leadership faces its first challenge at the ballot box.

Two polls, both backed by the left-wing Australia Institute, who are desperate to turn the by-election into some sort of referendum on climate policy, indicate a narrow Labor victory, but are entirely meaningless. Their sample size, margin of error results — let alone the Institute’s fondness for venturing close to push-polling territory — guarantee they are nothing but bids to generate political momentum rather than genuine reflections of public opinion.

In the coming weeks, Albanese will join Labor’s candidate Kristy McBain on the campaign trail, but instead of his focus being squarely on ensuring that Eden-Monaro stays in Labor hands, he will likely face an inquisitive media with questions about the ongoing revelations of the transgressions of the Victorian Labor Party.

Albanese tried to brush the issue away out in the electorate this morning. “I’ve been in Eden-Monaro a lot over the last month. No one has raised any of those issues with me and it certainly wasn’t raised today. What people are concerned about is jobs and the economy. I doubt whether you’d heard that gentleman’s name two weeks ago and it would have been a trivia question. And if anyone in the federal press gallery could answer it, then they would have got a pretty good prize.” The wording was clumsy; unforgivably so. He should have been primed up with something much better,

Yes, much of the public believe all sides of politics are sleazebags. That may help Albanese. It may not.

One thing though is certain. The relative peace and unity within Labor that defined the Shorten era is now a thing of the past. How the Somyurek scandal will affect Albanese’s leadership is anyone’s guess, but one thing is certain, if the Coalition pulls off a once in a century victory, it will be a blow to Albanese’s already tenuous leadership of an increasingly divided Labor Party.

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