Albanese demands party fast tracks preselection for federal seats

Labor leader Anthony Albanese has demanded the party’s top decision-making body fast track the preselection process for federal seats, amid a bitter row over the new seat of Hawke in Victoria’s west.

Mr Albanese has written to the Australian Labor Party’s national secretary, Paul Erickson, calling for the national executive to begin the preselection process, after the party intervened in the Victorian arm’s preselections following branch stacking allegations.

Labor Leader Anthony Albanese has urged national executive to fast track the preselection process. Credit:Dominic Lorrimer

“The next federal election could be held any time over the next 12 months and Labor must clear the way to ensuring the selection of strong community candidates in every seat in Australia to ensure the strongest possible Labor campaign,” Mr Albanese wrote.

“The national executive must ensure that it exercises its particular responsibility in Victoria to achieve this vital objective.”

The Victorian branch of the ALP has been in administration since June last year after an investigation by The Age and 60 Minutes uncovered “industrial-scale” branch stacking. Party elders Steve Bracks and Jenny Macklin, whose term ended in January, were tasked with cleaning out the Victorian division and expelled 1800 fake members.

The next round of preselections will this year be ratified by members of the national executive, who are due to meet on Tuesday morning to discuss Mr Albanese’s letter, according to several sources. Nominations for lower house seats could close within a week, and the Senate within a month.

“While the final report of the Victorian redistribution is yet to be received, there is sufficient certainty around boundaries and the new seat of Hawke to enable the first phase of Victorian preselections to begin. It is, in my view, electorally imperative that the national executive commence that process now,” Mr Albanese wrote.

“I am writing to request that the national executive urgently determine preselections for held federal House of Representatives seats in Victoria, including the new seat of Hawke.”

Labor’s factional powerbrokers have been jostling over the newly-created seat of Hawke in Melbourne’s outer west, which includes Sunbury, Melton, Bacchus Marsh and Ballan and is expected to be a safe Labor electorate with a projected margin of about 10 per cent.

The candidate is set to come from the party’s Right faction, but subgroups have been in furious disagreement as to who should win the plum seat.

Meanwhile, Labor’s Socialist Left and some elements of the Right have reached a so-called “stability deal” in the fallout of the branch stacking investigation.

Veteran Labor senator Kim Carr, at the centre of a new stability pact within the Victorian division, leaves his Carlton office after a late night meeting to carve up a deal. Credit:Joe Armao

The Socialist Left unions met on Monday morning to endorse the deal, with an executive meeting expected to rubber-stamp the process about 7pm on Monday.

This will be the first peace deal since former Victorian minister, and factional heavyweight, Adem Somyurek ended the last alliance more than four years ago.

In the power vaccuum created by Mr Somyurek’s forced exit from the Labor Party, federal deputy leader Richard Marles and former leader Bill Shorten are emerging as pre-eminent figures in the Victorian branch.

If Mr Marles – who is aligned to factional heavyweight Stephen Conroy – is successful in installing a candidate loyal to him in the seat of Hawke, he would boost his powerbase if he were to have a tilt at the Labor leadership.

However, if a candidate aligned to Mr Shorten takes the plum seat, it would enable the former leader to reassert his influence.

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