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Throsby's factional friction invites federal intervention

Date

Australian Financial Review chief political correspondent

View more articles from Phillip Coorey

Preselection battle ... Stephen Jones.

Preselection battle ... Stephen Jones. Photo: Dave Tease

LABOR Party members in the southern NSW seat of Throsby face the threat of federal intervention if they do not vote to preselect the sitting member, Stephen Jones.

Mr Jones, who replaced Jennie George in the seat at the 2010 federal election, is a Left faction convener and does not have the support in his branches to guarantee being returned.

Senior party sources say the state MP Noreen Hay, of the Right faction, controls the numbers and is keen to replace Mr Jones.

Keen to replace Mr Jones ... Noreen Hay.

Keen to replace Mr Jones ... Noreen Hay. Photo: Orlando Chiodo

A year ago, Mr Jones lost a motion against him in his own branch by the Right to protest his support for same-sex marriage.

The federal executive is reluctant to intervene in Throsby, especially in NSW where the ALP general-secretary, Sam Dastyari, is trying to promote rank-and-file participation as part of a broader push to open up the ALP and reform its rules.

But there is no appetite for dumping a sitting member and such a move would have the potential to destabilise the federal caucus with possible implications for the leadership. ''If they had a vote of branch members, she could get anyone up she wanted,'' said a source of Ms Hay.

Consequently, Ms Hay and others are being leant on.

''He will be preselected, one way or another,'' the source said.

In July, there was unrest in NSW Labor when MPs who were parachuted into their seats before the last election were told by Sussex Street they would not be safe from preselection challenges before this election.

This angered those who were spending every hour trying to hold their seat. They did not believe they should have to worry about an internal challenge as well.

Behind the scenes, there were threats to destabilise and even walk away and force a byelection if defeated. This would be disastrous for an unpopular government sitting on a one-seat margin. Mr Jones had backed Kevin Rudd in the lead-up to the February leadership spill but switched to Julia Gillard at the last minute.

This week, Mr Rudd has again been boosting his profile while Ms Gillard has been overseas.

He appeared on the Sky News Agenda program on Sunday morning from Shanghai. On Monday night he was a guest panellist on the popular TV show, The Project, and on Tuesday night, he was the guest on the Radio National program Late Night Live.

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