Labor leader Rebecca White's objections to a motion moved at a recent meeting of the party's powerful administrative committee were brushed off by her own faction, according to multiple Labor sources.
The motion, which was ultimately carried, splits the party's preselection process into two parts ahead of the next state election, which is due to be held by March 2022.
Members of the party's right faction were gobsmacked by the move, accusing the left of trying to preemptively block the preselection of right-aligned potential candidate Dean Winter, who is the mayor of Kingborough in the state's South. Sections of the left view Mr Winter as "anti-worker", a claim he has previously rejected.
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Ms White, herself a member of the left, is said to share the concerns of the right-wingers, who feel Mr Winter would be an impressive candidate in the electorate of Franklin, where Labor believes it has a chance of picking up another seat following the resignation of former premier Will Hodgman.
"Bec ... didn't think [the motion] was in the interests of the party and getting a Labor government elected," a Labor right source said.
According to sources from both sides of the party, the Labor leader expressed her reservations to the committee about the motion, but was ultimately forced to vote in solidarity with the left to avoid breaking the rules of the left caucus.
A member of the left said they suspected Ms White supported Mr Winter as a potential candidate. "She certainly put no reasonable argument against the substantive resolution that was on the books, which was to do the two-part process," the source said. "The only thing, therefore, I can decide is that she actually thinks this guy would be suitable. And that's really disappointing."
A spokesperson for Ms White said the Labor leader couldn't discuss what occurred at administrative committee meetings because they were confidential.
The motion passed by the committee will see Labor preselection for the state election divided into two stages whereby the candidacy of incumbent members of parliament would be confirmed in the first stage, along with at least one fresh candidate in each of the five state electorates, and then the remaining two candidates in each electorate would be preselected just prior to the party's annual state conference in July.
Labor right sources say a candidate like Mr Winter would struggle to attract enough votes from rank-and-file members in his electorate, given there would be a smaller pool of nominees among which the votes could be distributed in each of the two stages.
A senior Labor figure said Ms White would be anxious not to "hand the election" to Premier Peter Gutwein, but her hopes of victory were being undercut by people in her own party. "Clearly, [it is] in the interests of the leader, who's trying to lead the Labor Party back into government ... to attract good Labor-supporting candidates who would be attractive to the electorate across the state," they said. "This has been totally undermined "
Bec ... didn't think [the motion] was in the interests of the party and getting a Labor government elected.A member of the Labor right
The source said the resolution "weakened" Ms White's leadership.
Political scientist Richard Herr said Ms White shouldn't necessarily possess more power to affect a vote than other members of the administrative committee but he lamented that politics was "becoming less based on principle and policies and more on personalities and the controllers within parties".
"Certainly within a party room, the party ought to be able to collectively debate things freely, not have it structured by pre-decided voting arrangements," Professor Herr said. "I think that changing rules specifically to encourage factional division and so forth is unhelpful."
Labor's administrative committee is understood to be holding a special meeting today, where it's expected the preselection timetable will be altered so that the first round of the process involves just the preselection of incumbent MHAs.
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