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New South Wales: ALP Left faction stages a sit-in at party headquarters because an assistant secretary had his office moved

REBECCA GORMAN: From inter-party politics to the internal tribal politics of the New South Wales branch of the ALP which, this morning, produced a high-powered sit-in at its Sydney headquarters. The Left faction's national convenor, seven State MPs, two ACTU vice presidents and a former Federal Minister were among the forty protesters. At the centre of the problem was the decision by the right-wing-controlled branch to shift the left's only elected official from his enclosed office to one without privacy. To add insult, it all happened while he was on holidays.

Kevin Wilde was at the Sussex Street headquarters for this mornings confrontation and compiled this report.

KEVIN WILDE: The Right moved his furniture and allegedly fiddled with his files but they couldn't get rid of the man.

Anthony Albanese, the left-wing assistant secretary of the New South Wales branch of the party, returning this morning with back-up to reclaim his patch. You see, politics in the ALP has always been played hard and although they're generally nice to each other in public, the enmity between left and right runs deep. For many in the Right, the enemy within the building is Albanese, one of two assistant secretaries and the Left's only elected official. The working relationship between the two sides is often poisonous, that's why a private office is so important.

John Della Bosca, the right-wing head of the State party, maintains the reorganisation of the office is about a lack of space. But the Left Senator, Bruce Childs, would have none of it. He says Mr Albanese holds a delicate and sensitive position and, as such, the new arrangements are totally unacceptable.

BRUCE CHILDS: Well, the obvious conclusion that everybody can see those people who want to come in particularly if they want to complain about something, but the other side of glass is that you can hear through it and people on either side would be able to hear that complaint, and in the atmosphere that we've had here that means that people would be inhibited in being able to complain to a person who in many ways acts as an ombudsman in the Labor Party in New South Wales.

KEVIN WILDE: With Mr Albanese headed for overseas holidays, his air line tickets in his back pocket and mind on other things, you can just imagine the mirth of the offending officials as they gathered together Mr Albanese's belongings and headed down-market. And as Senator Childs points out, it's not the first time the Right has been up to no good.

BRUCE CHILDS: Last year, childishly, his direct line was cut out. We didn't protest about that and other indignities that have occurred because of the Federal election. Today, we're asserting our position and we're going to take it through to the national executive because we're not going to have our official undermined in this way. We think it's mad what's being done because we're in the situation where we've got a budget which is very difficult; we've got Premier Fahey promising things and doing things all over the place. And of course if we get the Olympics in Sydney he'll go to an early election, so we all should be concentrating on the important things that face the Labor Party.

KEVIN WILDE: The protesters demanded and received an audience with Mr Della Bosca. He listened to the Left's complaints of foul play and allegations that sensitive files regarding accusations of party irregularities had been interfered with. One of those inside was ACTU Vice-President, George Campbell.

GEORGE CAMPBELL: I think you could say we had an animated discussion about the circumstances in the office, but it has resulted in an agreement that the status quo -which is the current status quo - will remain, pending discussions at the officer level and pending further discussions between the factions.

KEVIN WILDE: How damaging is this for the ALP to go through these type of incidents?

GEORGE CAMPBELL: Well, I think it's damaging to the extent that it makes the party look childish and ....

KEVIN WILDE: And all the party, the Left and the Right?

GEORGE CAMPBELL: All of the party, yes, that's correct. And it creates a perception, out there with the general public, that we have difficulty running a kindergarten, never mind running the State or running the country.

REBECCA GORMAN: George Campbell, ACTU Vice-President.