There has been much discussion lately on the control of political parties by internal factional groups and cliques of mutual benefit, and great concern has been expressed.
Frankly, I thought we were all getting altogether too excited about internal party machinations, which I acknowledge have been with us for ever and certainly present all through the decades I have been involved in politics.
In my experience few people in the community are focused on party internals. In fact most are sickened by any political party airing their dirty linen in public.
That is why I generally refuse to do it.
However, in the Upper House of Parliament this week internal control of a major political party was shamelessly flaunted by MPs, and it demands a response.
So I have put aside along-held principle to do so.
There is a group who have taken over the largest political party in this State, and that group is influencing both policies and preselections.
They are determining who gets higher office, both in the parliamentary party and in the lay party.
They can get rid of good sitting members and installing their own puppets.
They are influencing and even determining policy — and influencing financial commitments that should be above party politics and beyond reproach.
And they are now shamelessly flaunting their power in the Parliament. This internal group of power brokers has a name.
It is called the “Left” and it absolutely dominates the Labor Party in Western Australia, the party that is currently the Government and is overseeing a $40 billion budget.
It is made up mainly of MPs who are members of the United Workers Union and the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, and it has taken over the Labor to such an extent that there is not much room for anybody else.
The other Labor members —known as “Progressive Labor” — struggle to get a look in.
Former South West Labor MP Adele Farina was not a “Left” member and did not enjoy their support, which explains why despite being an excellent regional representative she was unceremoniously dumped by the factional overlords of the “Left”.
It also has to be acknowledged that the Premier is also not a member of the “Left” but he is probably untouchable for the time being given his personal approval ratings.
So how does the “Left” exert control?
It has power because the unions control half of the votes for things like preselections.
The wider community generally has no idea about who these faceless powerbrokers are and how much control they can exert.
To highlight this, “Left” members of the State’s Legislative Council proudly put their factional credentials on display in a debate on health this week, identifying themselves as United Workers Union members and appointees. They revel in their power. Of course, there are also
much-publicised factional alliances and groups of mutual benefit in my own party, the Liberals, and there have been as long as I can remember.
They exist in every party. Some of our Liberals have had ill-conceived internal comments — that should never have been uttered — made public. Others have gone on the attack publicly, which helps nobody.
But before the Labor Party tries to stand on some sort of high moral ground, it needs to be remembered that they invented factions and they are champions of factional politics.