FACTIONS SPLIT ON STRATEGY
BILL Shorten is facing the prospect of being the Labor Party’s most isolated leader – selling out both the left and right factions in a bid to become the nation’s most powerful man.
Labor is set to adopt a watered down refugee policy which will use turnbacks as an “option” rather than official protocol which has successfully worked for the Abbott Government.
The powerful left faction will also demand the refugee intake double to 27,000 and temporary protection visas be dumped.
Mr Shorten also faces the prospect that chief leadership rival Anthony Albanese could defy him and vote against the changes if the language goes too far.
It is understood Mr Albanese, who has a high Green vote in his Sydney electorate, has told colleagues he is uneasy about issue.
and right caucus held separate meetings yesterday to discuss critical issues ahead of the party’s national conference which begins in Melbourne today.
Factionally left backbenchers openly slammed Mr Shorten for making the announcement before national conference. One suggested the policy was illegal.
Mr Shorten’s “flip, flop” policy approach has also angered the right who believe a plan to have 50 per cent renewable energy by 2030 is selling out to the Greens and fear the Government could have a “field day” if the turnback policy is watered down.
It is understood Mr Shorten has gone public with the biggest policy backflip in modern politics because he is confident he has the numbers when the ALP national conference votes on the issue tomorrow.
If he is rolled, it will deliver a fatal blow to his leadership.
Former speaker and Victorian MP Anna Burke slammed Mr Shorten for mak- ing the policy announcement before it even went to the conference floor.
“I am very disappointed by this overnight announcement pre- empting what is going to happen at conference,” she said.
Left faction heavyweight MP Andrew Giles said he had concerns about the legality of the issue.
“I’m concerned about the breach, as I see it, of international law,” he said.
Mr Shorten took to breakfast television in a bid to sell his policy change, but toned down his language from Wednesday night where he admitted Labor had made mistakes.
“I don’t think that when the previous policy was brought in, people foresaw the extent to which the people smugglers would exploit the system,” he said.
“It’s important to be honest with my party and the nation.
“And, if I was to form a government, I would want the option of boat turnbacks where safe to do so on the table.”