ETU to stick with right faction as fallout from Pettersson defection continues

ETU to stick with right faction as fallout from Pettersson defection continues

Key wings of ACT Labor's right faction will not follow backbencher Michael Pettersson into political no man's land, after he sensationally quit the faction.

It was feared up to a third of the faction could defect after Mr Pettersson, CFMEU executive officer and former deputy right convener Michael Hiscox and two others quit the right on the weekend.

Labor backbencher Michael Pettersson quit the right faction on the weekend, causing ripples within the party.

Labor backbencher Michael Pettersson quit the right faction on the weekend, causing ripples within the party. Credit:Fairfax Media

Mr Pettersson had indicated the Electrical Trades Union was also leaving the faction.

However Dave McKinley, secretary of the Electrical Trades Union's NSW branch, said it was not the case.


"For a number of years we did not take part in Labor politics in the ACT and have only recently re-affiliated," Mr McKinley said.

"I can assure you though that the ETU is fully committed to supporting the right faction and ensuring that future ACT governments implement policies that improve the lives of working class people in the territory."

Members of the right faction in Young Labor are also staying put, despite continued pressure to leave the faction.

Mr Pettersson's defection has upset many within Young Labor who volunteered for his election campaign and were blindsided by his decision.

Mr Pettersson said his decision to leave the right was a long time in the making and came after his progressive politics caused ructions.

"I'm quite a progressive individual ... This is just formalising that," Mr Pettersson said.

He said he was yet to make a decision on whether he would join the powerful left faction, but it was a "live option".

However it came after the CFMEU - who helped Mr Pettersson get elected in 2016 - changed its policy on factional allegiances.

Before, the left faction union was agnostic about which faction its staff belonged to.

But under new secretary Jason O'Mara, there has been a push to bring everyone onto the same side.

At least one part-timer has quit the union because of the move, while another is still considering their position.

Ex-Labor minister John Hargreaves told radio station 2CC if the CFMEU said dance, Mr Pettersson had to say: "would you like to rumba or would you like to swing".

Meanwhile the left caucus was due to meet on Monday night to consider, among other matters, any new members. Mr Pettersson and those who have moved with him are not guaranteed acceptance in the faction.

However it is believed a decision on accepting the defectors will not be made until next month.

If the left accepts Mr Pettersson, it will give the faction the majority in the ACT's Legislative Assembly.

While that would not have any practical implications on the leadership of ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr, who is a member of the right, it does make it more likely Yvette Berry - a member of the left - will succeed him if he leaves parliament.

However Mr Barr has come out in support of the youngest ACT parliamentarian.

"Michael and I spoke over the weekend. I understand his decision. He is a hard working local member and a very effective community campaigner," Mr Barr said.

"Whilst factions are an important, albeit informal, part of Labor’s organisational structure, the Caucus always has, and always will, reflect the progressive values of the broader Labor movement.

"Michael’s choice of factional membership, or otherwise, makes absolutely no difference to our very positive working relationship."

Meanwhile the factional wrangling over the federal preselection is expected to kick into overdrive, with the announcement Gai Brodtmann will not contest preselection for the lower house seat of Bean.

Sources say it was wrong to suggest an ACT Labor motion to treat the four seats up for grabs as held seats and therefore lock in its affirmative action rules that would guarantee Katy Gallagher the number one spot on the Senate ticket if John Falzon secured preselection for the seat of Canberra, insisting it was the other way around.

Others have said it was unlikely the ACT's preselection rules would gazump federal rules, which have no provisions for the minimum number of men to be preselected.

In the ACT, the rule is 40-40-20, while federally it is just a minimum of 40 per cent women.

Ms Brodtmann's decision - made for personal reasons - leaves another seat without an incumbent and could upend the dynamic of the already contentious preselection process.

Katie Burgess is a reporter for the Canberra Times, covering ACT politics.

Sally Whyte is a reporter for The Canberra Times covering the public service.

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