Factional fix on Victorian upper house preselections comes unstuck

Kim Carr has been a key ALP factional player in Victoria. AAP/Lukas Coch

A factional fix over Victorian legislation council preselections has blown up, with the returning officer refusing to declare the ballot because the result did not meet the ALP’s affirmative action provision.

The national executive decided to choose the candidates itself after the Victorian branch said it did not have time to do a rank and file ballot before the end of the year. The candidates are for the state election late in 2014.

The denial of a grass roots vote has infuriated many party members.

While timing was the issue claimed, the real reason for the national executive ballot was to avoid serious clashes in contests, especially between members of the fragmented right.

The right and left power brokers joined forces on the executive to support the ballot, with Kim Carr from the left moving the motion last week. But when the votes were cast today the returning office, Tony Lang, who is also the ALP’s national counsel, said the result did not fulfil the rule that 40% of candidates for winnable seats had to be female.

It is believed that only 19 of the 21 executive members voted and the voting was along the lines of the factional deal.

ALP sources said the refusal to declare the ballot in these circumstances had not happened before. The affirmation action rule was usually taken to apply to the candidates for both houses combined, they said.

The sources claimed the decision could have consequences for candidates in the South Australian and Tasmanian elections, which are early next year.

The hitch is expected to be considered by the executive committee of the national executive, and legal advice is likely to be sought. In the meantime, there will be an opportunity for more criticism of the original decision to deny rank and file ballots. This is embarrassing for the party, given it says it wants more internal democracy.