Factions, yet again
One of the points coming up in discussion of the ALP faction issue is the claim that while factions are destructive in the Federal Party they have worked well at a state level. I think this is the reverse of the truth. The faction system worked reasonably well at the Federal level throughout the Hawke-Keating years. At the state level, the system has been poisonous and destructive ever since it took its current form around the time of the Split in the mid-50s.
Full-scale factionalism has been most dominant in Queensland, NSW and Victoria. In Queensland, the AWU and Old Guard factions kept Peter Beatty and the reformers out for years, promoting instead a succession of hacks and no-hopers, most notably Keith Wright, later convicted of sex offences against young girls.
The NSW Right has been similarly dismal, failing miserably to beat the corrupt Robin Askin and losing horribly whenever it put up one of its own favored sons as a leader or contender for any position of substance (Pat Hills, Barrie Unsworth, Michael Lee and almost certainly Morris Iemma as well). Labor in NSW has only succeeded when outsiders like Wran and Carr (a member of the Right, but not a Sussex St hack) have managed to get the top job.
Victorian factions have been a source of grief and disaster for fifty years, and obviously nothing has changed. From Santamaria & Kennelly to Hartley to Conroy, whatever the ideology, the style hasn’t changed.
Labor’s performance at the state level is, and always has been, inversely proportional to the strength of the factions.
fn1. I always remember my father describing how, as a returned serviceman, he joined the ALP (along with my uncle) in the hope of doing something for the good of the working class, and how Pat Kennelly (the “Kingmaker”) led them to quit in disgust.