Tuesday, July 15, 2008


Red News Readers,

What a curious notion that somehow wisdom in the ALP resides in its elders. At least one of those elders Barry Unsworth supports the privatisation of electricity assets in NSW, a move which would cost many workers in the electricity industry their jobs, lead to poorer service delivery and lead to even higher prices. Where's the political wisdom in that, when up to 90% of the NSW population oppose this privatisation?

My nomination for a meeting of the current elders of the ALP, not to organise a split but to set the party and the parliament a united course in acordance with the policy and platform as decided at the NSW State Conference in 2008, would be John Roberston, Bernie Riordan, Andrew Ferguson, Paul Bastian, Steve Turner and Luke Foley all meeting with the leaders of the parliamentary party, with Michael Costa having no say in the negotiations. Now that may mean Michael Costa may have resigned. That would be a split worth having!

Jenny Haines

Unsworth moves to split Right

Andrew Clennell, State Political Editor,

July 15, 2008

THE former NSW premier Barrie Unsworth will seek the backing of Labor's elder statesmen for a historic splitting of the party's dominant right-wing faction - arguing the radical move may be necessary to punish Labor's head office over its campaign to unseat the Premier, Morris Iemma.

Mr Unsworth said yesterday he would be calling together such key figures as the former premier Bob Carr, the former prime minister Paul Keating and the former Labor Council heads Michael Easson and John MacBean to talk about the future of the NSW Right, which Mr Keating helped set up 30 years ago as "Centre Unity".

Senior government sources told the Herald there was a prospect of a group splitting from the NSW Right in a bid to target the general secretary, Karl Bitar, over his campaign against Mr Iemma. Mr Unsworth said yesterday a "campaign of destabilisation" by the party's head office was threatening to throw Labor out of power.

"What we want to do is examine what we set up Centre Unity for and where it's going to, and if necessary make a general appeal to the party membership," he said.

Meanwhile, the man Mr Iemma refers to as his friend, the Minister for Water, Nathan Rees, has agreed with senior Labor party officials that he would be prepared to run for premier, but only if Mr Iemma were convinced to stand down.

The revelations show there is someone senior in Government prepared to do the job and puts a possible Rees candidacy firmly in the spotlight.

The Herald revealed last week that Mr Bitar was individually meeting MPs to put forward four possible successors to Mr Iemma after poor poll results in what the Premier has dubbed a "psychological war" against him. The candidates include the Deputy Premier, John Watkins, Mr Rees, the former frontbencher Carmel Tebbutt and the Planning Minister, Frank Sartor.

Mr Rees is understood to have held several discussions with Labor's head office in the past fortnight concerning him becoming premier if Mr Iemma were convinced to go. Mr Rees's name is also understood to have been mentioned in conversations between Mr Bitar and Mr Iemma in which Mr Bitar has urged the Premier to stand aside.

Mr Rees told the Herald in a statement: "There is no vacancy so the question you raise simply does not arise. As I have stated publicly many times, Premier Iemma has my unequivocal and rock solid support and he knows it."

Mr Bitar refused to comment.

Mr Rees's failure to deny leadership aspirations yesterday puts into the shade his suggestion last month that any talk he could be leader deserved the Miles Franklin award for fiction.

One senior pro-Iemma source said of Mr Rees's agreement to go for the job: "[The backbencher] Kerry Hickey would probably do it if you asked him. They're setting him up for a huge fall as … media scrutiny of this bloke [will increase now] when he goes into a more senior portfolio."

In an interview in Saturday's Herald, Mr Iemma said he could not imagine Mr Rees challenging him because he was a "friend". A spokesman for Mr Iemma said the Premier saw Mr Rees as a "leader of the future" but that the Premier was not going anywhere.