Shorten faces bitter branch dispute
Bill Shorten is staring down the barrel of a legal dispute that could tear apart the Labor Party in his home state, after the federal ALP intervened to readmit thousands of Victorian members suspended over allegations of rorts.
Victorian Labor has called an emergency meeting of its state administrative committee next week to consider legal advice against its national executive, after it overrode the state body to reinstate voting rights of 4600 members of its online “central branch”.
The national executive motion, passed yesterday by a single vote, was a bid to end a near year-long dispute that erupted when fears of branch stacking in the online body prompted Victoria to suspend online members’ voting rights.
The motion was greeted as a coup for the Victorian right faction and central branch powerbroker Stephen Conroy, but has outraged the party’s left, which claims the online branch is a hotbed of branch stacking and rorting.
“We now have our party back,” Maribyrnong Federal Electoral Assembly delegate and Conroy ally Bassel Tallal said.
The dispute has pitted topranking MPs and officials against one another, with the Opposition Leader’s right faction dependent on central branch votes to secure plum preselections.
“It’s a big fight in a big branch,” a Labor MP told The Australian.
Another member raged that the party could not afford the distraction of a state committee fighting with the national body.
The dispute is expected to boil over as preselections in the marginal seat of Corangamite see a duel between Libby Coker and Diana Taylor. Other preselections also under the microscope include Dunkley, La Trobe and Chisholm.
The online central branch previously allowed members to join by simply completing an online form. A probe of about 800 signups this year found irregularities and reasons for dismissal in more than 600 of the applications.
Mr Shorten declined to comment on yesterday’s decision, but a spokesman said he supported making it easier to join the party.