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Victoria: ALP's Pledge faction candidate for preselection to the Federal seat of Batman warns against Federal ALP intervention in the seat

ELLEN FANNING: Labor's head office has been warned that intervening to get ACTU President, Martin Ferguson, into Federal Parliament would set a dangerous precedent. This morning, the Pledge Group's Jenny Mikakos has echoed the concerns of another candidate for the safe Victorian seat of Batman, Theo Theophanous. He warned the Federal Executive yesterday to stay out of the preselection battle for Batman or risk alienating the battler and the ethnic votes at the next election. Mr Theophanous, the Socialist Left candidate, has also called on the Prime Minister and senior party members to find another solution if they want Mr Ferguson in Canberra.

Well, Jenny Mikakos also wants the seat and she told Catherine Job why the installation of Martin Ferguson would be dangerous.

JENNY MIKAKOS: Well, it would be damaging to the party for a number of reasons. Firstly, we are seeking, in Victoria, to fight the Kennett Government quite strongly on the issue of people being disenfranchised in local government and in a number of policy issues that will have very lasting ramifications on this State, such as privatisation of our public assets. It's very difficult to do that effectively as a political party when we are seeking to disenfranchise our own party members from having any input as to a decision that affects them locally which is: who will be their local Federal Member of Parliament.

There is also the factor, in this preselection, which is to do with the party's credibility on preselecting more women for Parliament. I have a very good chance, I believe, of becoming the Member for Batman in what is considered to be a relatively safe Labor seat. I think this is an opportunity for the party to demonstrate its commitment to preselecting women in safe Labor seats in accordance with its affirmative action policy which it adopted at last year's national conference.

CATHERINE JOB: Of course, Martin Ferguson says, too, that he doesn't want federal intervention and that he will win a free open and democratic ballot if everyone is properly credentialed. Is there a difference of opinion on who is properly credentialed?

JENNY MIKAKOS: Well, there is a process whereby the candidates, and all candidates, can actually challenge people's eligibility to vote if there is some non-compliance with the party rules and that is the means whereby we can deal with these kind of issues at a plebiscite, through the plebiscite process. That is the preferable means, rather than actually disenfranchising all the party members - and we are talking about 1100 people in Batman, plus a 100 member central panel elected by the party State conference which includes representatives from the trade union movement. I mean, the proper process is to have a process of challenges, not through national intervention. The party members in Batman and the electorate of Batman deserve to have some input into this process.

But as to an assessment as to who would come in what order in this particular instance, I think that if we did go to a vote, Martin Ferguson would quite clearly come third in a plebiscite and quite third overall when pooling the votes with the central panel.

CATHERINE JOB: And where would you come: first or second?

JENNY MIKAKOS: Well, I believe that I would be successful because I have broad support from a number of people across the factions, locally, and also quite considerable support amongst the trade unions. So, I think that I would be successful. This is, as I said, a test, really, of the party's commitment both to preselecting women candidates and also its commitment to implementing its own party processes and its democratic processes on preselections. We want to avoid establishing a precedent, in this instance, of the national executive coming in, the 21 men or women on the national executive making a decision that should properly be made by the party membership in Batman, and by the party's central panel.

CATHERINE JOB: That would be a precedent, would it?

JENNY MIKAKOS: Well, it would be .. my understanding is that it has not occurred in the past: to put in a non-sitting Member of Parliament. We only have national intervention to protect sitting Ministers and in this particular instance I don't think it's justified that the national executive intervene when quite clearly Martin Ferguson would not win any other way. His supporters are indicating that they are prepared to support national intervention to ensure that he is successful.

ELLEN FANNING: Jenny Mikakos, the Hard Left or Pledge Group candidate for the seat of Batman in Victoria, and Catherine Job was the reporter there.