Flat White

EXCLUSIVE: What you haven’t read about Eden-Monaro and the Labor leadership

5 July 2020

12:04 PM

5 July 2020

12:04 PM

Labour appears to have won the Eden-Monaro by-election. Appears to have. That’s about as strong as we can get — and utter disaster for Anthony Albanese. He needed an emphatic victory; a substantive swing.

There were two forces at work in the campaign; the physical, environmental and economic devastation wrought across the electorate by last summer’s fires and the coronavirus crisis. Labor was punting on the first, not because they believed the electors had become apocalyptic greens but, as one party figure put it, so many of them were still in temporary accommodation six months down the track it was making polling hard to do.

Whatever polling they were getting obviously wasn’t that good.

There were two extraordinary stories in The Australian last week. In the first, the opposition leader reminded his colleagues he was in “positive territory” in the polls. As Margaret Thatcher said, “Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren’t.” And the second, yesterday, ran like this:

Bill Shorten has laid down his policy vision for a post-pandemic Australia, declaring the nation needs to “seize the moment to do things differently” and create a fairer society with a stronger manufacturing base and bigger public sector.

With Anthony Albanese … under internal pressure … the former Labor leader resurrected his pre-election language to declare a new vision was needed to deliver for the “forgotten Australians” who had fallen behind during COVID-19.

Mr Shorten called for the immediate approval of “every worthy infrastructure project in the nation” and an expansion in the public sector to make up for private sector unemployment.

He also called for more government support to expand the workforce outside the traditional raw commodity sectors. “As this pandemic recedes, we stand at a crossroads. We can choose to stay on the path more travelled,” Mr Shorten wrote in the The Tocsin magazine, to be released this weekend by the John Curtin Research Centre to mark the 75th anniversary of the death of the Labor wartime prime ­minister.

The article wasn’t exactly subtle. Sources who have seen the essay say it isn’t exactly subtle, either.

And this is where things get interesting. Here’s what you haven’t read in the MSM.

Why is Shorten on the move? It’s to do with the power balance of the News South Wales Right and the Victorian Right — and party bank balances overall.

Labor’s national office is broke. Some say they’ve needed to borrow to meet payroll costs. The Aldi bags have stopped coming in the door on Sussex Street. The Victorian branch, however, is well set.

Yet the Victorians feel that they have been singled out for not just special punishment over the Adem Somyurek scandal, branch stacking being regarded as natural as playing golf on the weekend in Labor, but stripped of rights that will lessen their say in the party nationally.

As they say, they’re liquid – and have won all state elections bar one since 1999 and performed solidly in federal polls. But that’s not all.

The Victorian Right are fuming at what they see as the relatively gentle treatment handed out to Beijing booster Shaoquett Moselmane — a member of the Right. Indeed, they’re fuming at the NSW Right overall.

After the raids on his home, Moselmane’s brother claimed he had been a victim of “Zionists and racists”.

And here’s where we really get to the nub of it all. Albanese is from the Left. He has failed. Queenslander Jim Chalmers is an obvious contender for the leadership, but at 42 and with no ministerial experience — no experience outside politics but at long stint as Wayne Swan’s right hand man — hardheads fear he’d be easy pickings. There’s also Tony Burke, and he takes us back again to the NSW/Victorian clash.

Simply, the Victorians believe the NSW Right has become decadent to an extent where they weaken national security. Moselmane sums it up in one: China and complaints about Zionists. The Victorians are horrified by Bob Carr’s embrace of both Beijing and the Palestinian cause and how readily the two are embraced by ambitious apparatchiks as they climb the NSW party pole — apparatchiks from the right. There are also worries about over-enthusiastic “recruiting” from Muslim communities in Sydney’s south-west suburbs.

There’s a fear that anti-Israeli views steer the NSW Right away from the American alliance and into China’s claws, doubly threatening the relationship with the United States.

Shorten, they feel, could reassert traditional Labor Right values — hence the comeback plans.

The Victorian Right and their backers are poring over the Bill Clinton playbook. They’re not so much looking at his time in the White House, but as governor of Arkansas. He lost that job after just two years, then another two years later came back and held it until he entered the White House.

Does Shorten have the charm of the Comeback Kid?

Right now, one thing is certain. He has the ambition — and who knows where that and the coronavirus crisis could take us?

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

Show comments