The ‘Death’ Of David Feeney

It says something about the alertness of the newspaper’s classified advertising staff that this ‘death’ notice appears in today’s edition of The Age:

FEENEY, David

Beloved friend of Bill. Life tragically shortened after a brief battle with M.A.

Your stacks of friends will mourn your passing. Those left will never forget.

        “Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand”.

Love Delia and Reg.

Until last night, David Feeney was the State Secretary of the Victorian ALP. A member of the right-wing faction, Labor Unity, Feeney ‘stood down’ – a phrase on a par with ‘I want to spend more time with my family’ – from the position at a meeting of the party’s Administrative Committee. Despite having a 5-year contract as State Secretary, Feeney’s tenure has been shortened, tragically or otherwise, as a result of friction within his own faction.

Feeney is a beloved friend of Bill Shorten, the Federal Secretary of the right-wing Australian Workers Union. Feeney and Shorten have worked together as political allies in the right-wing Labor Unity faction. Shorten was defeated last week in a ballot for the Victorian ALP presidency by the Left’s Jim Claven.

The defeat of Shorten and Feeney is the result of a brief battle within Labor Unity. The dispute erupted a couple of weeks ago when one of the faction’s powerbrokers, Greg Sword, the party’s State and Federal president, took his union, the National Union of Workers, out of Labor Unity and forged an alliance with the Left to defeat Shorten and Feeney.

The alliance of Greg Sword and his long-time factional opponent, Senator Kim Carr, has been dubbed the Modernisation Alliance – M.A. – although whether this unity ticket is what Simon Crean had in mind when he started talking of his plans to modernise the ALP is not clear.

In recent years, the ALP has experienced the practice of ‘multiple recruitment’, whereby stacks of friends have been organised to join the ALP for the sole purpose of supplying factional votes in pre-selection contests. The dispute between Sword and Shorten-Feeney has its origins in these internal battles for dominance. Branch stacking remains a problem within the ALP. Allegations of involvement in branch stacking in the Geelong-based Corio electorate have been levelled at some of the aforementioned players over the past month.

Members of the Left will never forget the battles with the Right over pre-selections during the 1980s and 1990s. Many will appreciate the irony of their faction now being in alliance with Greg Sword. It is also likely that the remnants of the Labor Unity faction will never forget the recent actions of Greg Sword.

The Left has itself experienced a succession of schisms over the years. There are now so many sub-factions, shifting alliances and festering feuds within and between the Left and Right that it is not only David Feeney who will be muttering “nor shall my sword sleep in my hand”.

The ructions in the ALP have been reported at anonymous length on Stephen Mayne’s >strong>crikey.com.au by ‘Delia Delegate’ and ‘Reg the Representative’. Delia and Reg have provided remarkably detailed accounts of the byzantine behaviour of the ALP’s factions. They have been joined in print by Harry Hack and Betty Branchmember.

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