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Victoria: six ALP federal members including Simon Crean face preselection challenges.

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Monday 13 February 2006

Victoria: six ALP federal members including Simon Crean are facing preselection challenges for their seats


MARK COLVIN: We heard earlier about Coal ition in-fighting in Victoria, but on the opposite side of politics, things in Victorian Labor look almost as bad. 


Six current Federal members of the Labor Party in Victoria are under challenge from new recruits. Among them, former Labor leader Simon Crean. 


Alison Caldwell reports. 


ALISON CALDWELL: Simon Crean is fighting for his political life. 


SIMON CREAN: Because I do believe in a broader based party. I do believe in the democratic principles. I don't think that we can sustain ourselves if backroom deals are going to be hatched that have no regard to integrity, or loyalty, or honesty, or record or honouring your word.  


ALISON CALDWELL: The former Labor leader is battling forces inside his own faction in Victoria, who want to replace him in his safe seat of Hotham in the lead up to the next Federal election. 


His challenger is union official Martin Pakula. 


MARTIN PAKULA: We've got an opportunity in Victoria to implement generational change, new people, a new approach, and I'm keen to be part of that. 


ALISON CALDWELL: The current Labor leader Kim Beazley is refusing to intervene in the preselection battle. He says, under the rules, all of Labor's MPs could face challenges. 


Simon Crean won a reprieve yesterday when he convinced his faction, Labor Unity, to wait for the vote of local ALP members before making a final decision on who to support. 


Speaking to ABC Local Radio in Melbourne this morning, Simon Crean said he believes he has local support. 


SIMON CREAN: I'm very confident in my support at the local level. I think it would be a travesty of the processes to pre-empt the local vote and that there shouldn't be any attempt to lock in, whatever the argument is about factional dealings and cross-factions and negotiations centrally, you've got to let the locals decide. 


ALISON CALDWELL: Labor hasn't won an election since 1993, and the anti-Crean forces say renewal is needed to give the party a chance at the next election. 


What makes this battle seem even more personal is that Martin Pakula is the State Secretary of Simon Crean's old union, the National Union of Workers. 


In an interview with The 7:30 Report tonight, Martin Pakula says it's not a matter of loyalty. 


MARTIN PAKULA: The union has not been treacherous. It has given him more support than anyone and we've now said to Simon that the union's taken a different view about what ought to happen in the future. 


ALISON CALDWELL: The battle over the safe seat of Hotham parallels similar challenges in five other seats in Victoria. 


Long-serving Labor frontbencher Bob Sercombe is facing a challenge from Bill Shorten, the National Secretary of the Australian Workers' Union and the ALP's State President. 


Labor frontbencher Gavan O'Connor is also facing a challenge from ACTU Assistant Secretary Richard Marles in the seat of Corio. 


The powerful right faction, Labor Unity, is expected to endorse both of those challenges. 


Simon Crean will have his answer when the final selection committee votes on March 9th. 


MARK COLVIN: Alison Caldwell.