Bill Shorten was the guest on the ABC’s Insiders this week, and he spoke well on a number of issues, however something surfaced when he was queried on Party reform that I wanted to delve into today.
Shorten told viewers that he was taking measures to bring the Party into touch with community expectations by increasing rank and file participation within the Party. However the most important thing Bill repeated several times was about having the best candidates possible.
On that note I’m sorry to say Bill the exact opposite is true.
In fact there are factional players who are seeking to ensure the worst candidates are promoted as they will be the easiest people to control.
Here in NSW we are going through the often entertaining and usually ugly process of pre-selection, this time for the upcoming State Election.
Some of you may recall an article I wrote regarding the candidate for Seven Hills Susai Benjamin. The article went into some claims that have been made about the finances of his Toongabbie Legal Centre and others regarding his comments and alleged actions surrounding domestic violence.
Most agree that this is a candidate that will see Labor lose the seat that it has held for over half a century. However given that he is alleged to have the branches stacked full of supporters who only appear at pre-selection time nobody had enough backers to stand against him.
This article saw me receive a bit of grief from Federal Labor member Laurie Ferguson who is the man backing Mr Benjamin for the Labor candidacy despite the outcry from the public, the members, and some within the Party. Mr Benjamin is such a poor candidate that it took over four months for him to get through the Candidate Review Committee, a committee whose recent final decisions have been incredibly questionable.
@madwixxy you are an habitual Smear merchant &apologist for machine domination.You are against rank&file local members picking candidates
— Laurie Ferguson (@FergusonLMP) August 21, 2014
Maybe next time after Mr Benjamin loses the Seven Hills seat, Laurie Ferguson will put another puppet in place to have another crack, perhaps even his long time close family friend Fiona Field whom Ferguson’s branch members have claimed to have met at a Ferguson Christmas function.
Ferguson has also put the considerable weight of his ego and support behind Julia Finn for the seat of Granville. Julia Finn is a councillor on Parramatta Council that has so far done an exceptional job at being completely unimpressive.
Ferguson likes these candidates because they are easy to control and will always back his point of view and vote in the manner he suggests.
One problem with a Party full of puppets is we will end up a Party without a decent leader.
Branch stacking is a plague that is acting as a cancer in our Party and it is a practice that Laurie Ferguson would appear to be taking full advantage of.
I find it ironic that Ferguson would claim that I am against democratic rank and file process, given that he was initially parachuted into his Federal seat without the member pre-selection he now apparently holds in such high-esteem.
I am not against rank and file democracy, I am however against branch stacking.
Over the weekend it was reported in Fairfax that the long time and well-respected Member for Auburn Barbara Perry was in trouble as it has been alleged that another of Laurie Ferguson’s puppets has been busily stacking the local branches to oust her.
Barbara Perry is a member who would fit under Bill Shortens “best possible candidates” category. She is well-respected and works hard for her community and is a Former Minister and current Shadow Minister.
Unfortunately for Barbara though, she does not have Laurie Ferguson’s strings attached to her.
It is understood that complaints re the branch stacking allegations have been made to Sussex St regarding Hicham Zraika’s supporters which rose to around 300 all of a sudden in the Regents Park branch.
Many of these supporters live with Hicham Zraika according to Labor Party records, and many others live in houses that must be overflowing with member’s families. Nine members are even registered as living at a business address.
Just as he has done with the numerous complaints regarding Susai Benjamin’s branch stacking that have gone to Sussex St, NSW Labor Secretary Jamie Clements has dismissed all the complaints involving Hicham Zraika.
Jamie Clements is reported to have said this at the State Labor conference.
“no more ethnic branch stacking”
Branch stacking is branch stacking, the word ethnic should not come into it, but I’ll put that aside for the time being.
Fortunately for Mr Ferguson’s friends this new rule of Jamie Clements’s does not seem to apply, in fact given recent goings on it would even appear to be encouraged.
The number of questionable candidates with Clements blessing and Ferguson strings attached has some members questioning the closeness of the relationship of Ferguson and Clements.
The branch-stacking behaviour of people like Susai Benjamin and Hicham Zraika should see them kicked out of the Party, not chosen to represent it.
For NSW Secretary Jamie Clements it is about time we saw some action around this issue, not just hollow words. Why is this a debate that has to be pushed aside and done with factional leaders behind closed doors while telling the rank and file they are going to have a bigger say? Why is it that whenever I have a conversation with someone in a position to do something regarding party reform it always starts with the immortal words
“This is off the record”?
It’s about time we had something other than spin and lies were actually put on the record as the membership expects and deserves better.
Jamie Clements, I hope you are up for the task.
Maybe you’d better check with Laurie.