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Factional games at play in health union’s call to sack Jenny Mikakos

In recent years the HWU, which claims about 14,000 members, has been home to a rogues’ gallery of Labor factional hacks and is up to its neck in often toxic internal party politics.

Health Workers Union Diana Asmar has called for Ms Mikakos to resign

Health Workers Union Diana Asmar has called for Ms Mikakos to resign

The right-faction HWU was aligned to former ALP powerbroker, now independent MP Adem Somyurek, whose recent demise after an Age investigation into branch stacking weakened the HWU and its backers.

Ms Mikakos is a senior left-faction minister, so is a factional rival to the HWU. The timing of the letter’s release – as Ms Mikakos was about to give evidence at the hotel quarantine inquiry –lends credence to a suggestion doing the rounds in Labor circles that this was more a factional hit than anything else. The HWU, of course, disputes this.

The HWU, which was previously known as the Health Services Union No.1 branch, has long been fought over as part of sub-factional warfare in Labor’s right at a steep cost to its low-paid members which include cleaners and orderlies. It was the union previously controlled by allies of the disgraced Kathy Jackson who Ms Asmar deposed.

Lisa Fitzpatrick has thrown her support behind Health Minister Jenny Mikakos.

Lisa Fitzpatrick has thrown her support behind Health Minister Jenny Mikakos.Credit:Joe Armao

There’s no doubt many serious questions about Ms Mikakos’s handling of the health portfolio during the pandemic. Those questions deserve proper scrutiny. But it’s unlikely Ms Asmar’s intervention will achieve that due to the HWU’s extensive baggage.

Premier Andrews gave a strong endorsement to Ms Mikakos, and Ms Fitzpatrick in effect accused the HWU of engaging in factional payback.

“(The) ANMF does not usually comment on ALP left and right politics, but on this occasion is concerned that matters unrelated to the health portfolio are at play.”

The ANMF leader said she would not comment further.

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Ms Asmar in her letter to the Premier said her criticism of Ms Mikakos was “not about a personality clash” and was about her handling of the pandemic and plans for a public private partnership to redevelop Frankston Hospital.

That may or may not be the case. But there’s plenty to suggest that this intervention is not just about health policy.

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