South Australia Premier Jay Weatherill. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
Labor senator Don Farrell has pulled out of the preselection race for a safe state seat after South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill threatened to quit.
''I think the best interests of the Labor party are best served by me withdrawing,'' Senator Farrell told reporters in Adelaide.
The Labor Party's bitter internal divisions became public on Friday morning when Mr Weatherill accused his federal colleague of being partly responsible for the destruction of the federal Labor Party.
Senator Don Farrell. Photo: Supplied
Nor was Senator Farrell welcome in South Australian Labor politics, despite having apparently stitched up a deal to replace retiring State Finance Minister Michael O'Brien in the seat of Napier, Mr Weatherill said.
"For better or for worse Don represents some of the divisions and disunity that comes from federal politics and we don't want that playing into the state parliament," Mr Weatherill said on ABC radio.
"We certainly don't want it in the state Labor Party."
Asked whether he would resign before the March election if Senator Farrell was preselected, Mr Weatherill replied: "Absolutely".
After hearing the Premier's attack on his character and motives, Senator Farrell insisted he would still run for preselection in the seat of Napier after he lost his Senate position in last year's federal election.
However, hours later he called a press conference to announce he would withdraw from the preselection race and retire from politics when his Senate term ends on July 1.
The Labor Party will now have to select another candidate for the seat of Napier with Mr O'Brien also confirming that he would not recontest the seat in the upcoming state election.
Senator Farrell is a former state secretary and national president of South Australia's most powerful union, the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees' Association.
Known as the 'Godfather' of South Australia's Labor Party, Senator Farrell has been a powerbroker in state preselections and was instrumental in the axing of then prime minister Kevin Rudd in 2010.
Senator Farrell's factional support secured him the top spot on South Australia's Senate ticket for the 2013 election. A factional revolt lead by the Left faction's Anthony Albanese ended with Senator Farrell surrendering his number one position to Penny Wong.
Labor MP for Adelaide, Kate Ellis, a factional ally of Senator Farrell's, had praised her colleague, saying she would ''be very surprised if there is a better candidate than Don'' for the state seat of Napier.
But Ms Ellis admitted Friday morning's ''unusual'' outburst by Mr Weatherill would not help Labor's chances in the South Australian election.