Saturday, 6 September 2008 

The unprecedented dumping of a NSW Labor Premier has coincided with an almost as historic event in the life of the ALP. Iemma’s fall and the rise of an unknown from the left mark the collapse of the national party’s most important faction over the last three decades, the NSW Right.

In a way, Iemma has achieved the technocrat resolution he wanted but has destroyed the NSW Right and taken himself down in the process. Tensions in the NSW Right had been growing throughout Iemma’s attempt to break with the unions over electricity privatisation. Paradoxically, even though the Right Centre Unity as the dominant faction in NSW was best placed to take on the party over the issue, by breaking the union links on which the NSW ALP was based, it naturally undermines the faction on which it was built. Iemma’s attempt to break with Centre Unity over his ministry reshuffle was too much for the faction that supported him, but it signalled its own demise as well.

Rees and his deputy Tebbutt may come from the Left but they do not represent a victory of the Left and the party grassroots. Rees’s tenure in Parliament of barely over a year should be one clue, the role played by Tebbutt’s Left faction husband, Anthony Albanese, in Federal Labor should be another. This is not the traditional left of the party. Rather it is a new faction that may come from the left, but whose purpose, as the perennial losers of the faction system, is to subvert it. In taking over, this new left accepts the basic framework that they have inherited. Even if they do not agree with the privatisation, as Rees made clear on Lateline last night, he agrees with the financial constraints that require it. If he doesn’t go ahead with the privatisation, he will have to cut back on infrastructure spending. Either way he will end up doing something the old left will not like.

While this new technocratic left, that is Rudd’s right hand in Canberra, may ostensibly be in control in NSW like elsewhere in the national party, there is a question about how complete its victory is in that state. Unlike most other states where this change has happened, the NSW branch has had to undergo it later, as the old Labor model was so entrenched, and so at a time when the Liberals are so decrepit that Labor did not have the luxury of opposition to carry it out. There is a sense that NSW Labor has had to present the electorate with the conclusion before they themselves have reached it. It would suggest more blood-letting is on the way.

Posted by The Piping Shrike on Saturday, 6 September 2008.

Filed under State and federal politics

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