Vic ALP brawls towards defeat
By Melanie Sjoberg
MELBOURNE — As the Victorian Labor Party staggers towards almost certain defeat at the next state elections, public brawling has intensified in the party's leading circles.
With an election due within a year of next October, recent preselection battles have been fiercely fought.
The self-styled Pledge Group of trade union officials has campaigned across traditional factional alliances, mainly against the Kirner government's most recent privatisation project — the State Electricity Commission.
The group has condemned government attacks on the public sector. The Pledge unions, which signed an open letter circulated at Trades Hall Council, include the Telecom employees, AWU, electricians, plumbers, storage workers, transport workers and vehicle builders.
The factional divisions are also expected to divide the left in coming Trades Hall Council elections.
In the preselection battles, pro-privatisation treasurer Tom Roper faced a strong challenge for his seat of Coburg before scraping in by one vote. Roper was transport minister during the bitter 1989-90 tramways dispute.
The Socialist Left faction split in the area, with one group exchanging votes with the right in support of former Brunswick mayor Simon Pryor. At one stage, Premier Joan Kirner threatened federal intervention to save the unpopular treasurer.
The Pledge Group claims to represent the opinions of trade unionists who have demanded at mass meetings that their unions act against ALP parliamentarians "who have failed to protect their industry from the disaster of deregulation".