Two senior Andrews government ministers look likely to have their political careers extended amid a round of preselection fights that threaten to deepen Victorian Labor’s internal divisions.
The moves to protect Attorney-General Jaclyn Symes and Jobs Minister Martin Pakula come amid a looming stoush over the endorsements of MPs aligned with former powerbroker Adem Somyurek, who all intend to run again, but may face resistance from the forces that have taken control of the party.
Victorian Trade Minister Martin Pakula, Premier Daniel Andrews and Attorney-General Jaclyn Symes.Credit:The Age
Mr Pakula, whose seat of Keysborough was abolished in a redrawing of electoral boundaries, intends to shift to the South Eastern Metropolitan upper house spot that will be vacated by Mr Somyurek.
After months of speculation, the Premier has asked that Ms Symes, the government’s most senior woman in the upper house, be protected from potentially losing her seat by moving her up the Labor ticket into a spot that guarantees she will be elected even if Labor suffers a swing against it.
Ms Symes’ elevation is a win for her Australian Workers Union faction, which has been cut out of the post-Somyurek power-sharing deal between the Premier’s Socialist Left faction and sections of the Right.
Luba Grigorivitch.Credit:Scott McNaughton
However, it comes at the expense of the breakaway Industrial Left grouping – linked to the CFMEU and other building unions – that could be reduced to only one MP in Parliament. To compensate for the lack of parliamentary representation, the group will seek to secure a seat for rail union secretary Luba Grigorovitch, who has led strikes against the state government and called a minister “out of her depth”.
The Victorian branch of the Labor Party has been run by administrators since mid-2020 when an Age and 60 Minutes branch stacking expose blew apart the party and led to Mr Somyurek and fellow ministers Marlene Kairouz and Robin Scott losing their jobs.
The ructions represent the latest flashpoint in an ongoing party war between the ascendant party groupings and remnants of Mr Somyurek’s empire, which are set to file an appeal to a Supreme Court judgement validating the federal takeover of the Victorian branch.
At an ongoing corruption hearinginto the branch stacking and alleged misuse of public funds, some of Mr Somyurek’s allies were named and alleged to have broken party rules and potentially misused electoral budgets. This led to veteran MP Luke Donnellan resigning from cabinet after confirming evidence given to the inquiry that he paid for other people’s memberships, which is against Labor rules but not illegal.
The Age has confirmed Ms Kairouz, Mr Donnellan and Mr Scott (who was not alleged to have broken party rules) will seek to contest the November 2022 election.
Former minister Adem Somyurek and Premier Daniel Andrews.Credit:
Their runs may prove controversial and will derail plans by the dominant factional alliance to hand their seats to fresh candidates, including Ms Grigorovitch, who has been mooted to replace Ms Kairouz in her seat of Kororoit.
One right-wing ALP source not aligned to the ruling factional grouping, speaking anonymously because the preselection negotiations are confidential, said elements of the Right faction running the party post-Somyurek were “vultures” seeking to knife vulnerable MPs associated with Mr Somyurek to install their own allies.
“The Premier has to do the right thing by endorsing sitting members. By letting them go out and neck whoever they want to neck; that’s not stability, it’s going to destabilise the place.”
The source said MPs named at IBAC should be nominated and could have their nominations reviewed if IBAC’s final report made adverse findings against them. IBAC will hold final hearings this month, but it is not clear when it will publish its final report.
However, these MPs would probably face questions at the next election from voters concerned with their links to the IBAC probe.
Far from cauterising the political problem when he sacked Mr Somyurek last year, the after-effects of the takeover requested by Mr Andrews has sparked an ongoing factional war that has cost the party in legal fees and disrupted its internal processes a year out from a state election.
The Premier this month wrote to the party’s federal national executive to conduct state preselections on the basis that the national takeover remained “necessary and justified”.
The frictions in Victorian Labor are also being experienced by the Victorian Liberal Party, which has five sitting members facing preselection challenges including former opposition leader Michael O’Brien.
Pressure is also set to be placed on a cohort of long-serving members, including Broadmeadows MP Frank McGuire and upper house president Nazih Elasmar, who factions believe may need to make way for future ministers.
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