Geoff Payne, Newcastle
The Queen's Birthday weekend conference of the NSW Labor Party rejected a motion, moved by the Newcastle State Electorate Council, supporting the rank-and-file preselection of Bryce Gaudry, the member for Newcastle since 1991. The motion was lost 390 to 477.
Two busloads of Gaudry supporters travelled to the conference in Sydney to demonstrate to delegates their strong backing of their local member. Ignoring the locals, the majority of conference delegates backed behind-closed-doors manoeuvring to instead parachute an as yet unannounced "high-profile" candidate into the safe Labor seat.
NSW Treasurer Michael Costa had a previous portfolio as minister for the Hunter. One of his projects in that role was to organise the closure of the rail line past Broadmeadow into Newcastle.
Costa set up a business, civic and trade union committee to report on transport in the Hunter. The civic representative was the Newcastle lord mayor, John Tate. Tate is widely speculated to be the party machine's preferred candidate for Newcastle.
The rail line closure is the central issue in this fight within the ALP. Gaudry has campaigned consistently and strongly for the retention of heavy rail services to Newcastle, so now his party enemies are going to roll him and dump an anti-Labor independent on the voters and ALP members of Newcastle.
Tate has never been a member of the ALP and has campaigned to close the rail line to Newcastle.
A clue as to why NSW Labor is so keen to close the rail line lies in the party's alliance with big business, as revealed in the corporate donations it has received. Between 1999 and 2004, NSW Labor received $29,710,580 in corporate donations, $10 million more than the NSW Liberal Party.
The big developers, in alliance with the Newcastle Herald, have been campaigning for many years to get rid of the rail line. Eliminating Gaudry as the local member is the latest step towards achieving this goal.
Gaudry has said that he will resist being pushed aside and local ALP branch members are considering their next steps. Progressive activists in the Hunter are also keenly watching this latest ALP sell-out. The NSW state election will be held in March 2007.
From Green Left Weekly, June 21 2006.
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