Labor factions are negotiating a peace deal that would carve up seats in federal and state parliaments for the next decade. Senator Carr’s seat is held by the Left faction and that group decides on his successor. The proposed deal also includes a contentious clause about factions being able to get rid of elected MPs to create renewal.
Six senior Left figures, who spoke anonymously so they could candidly discuss the race, said there was a growing consensus that renewal was needed despite Senator Carr’s standing in the party. “He’s on death row,” said one.
The senator – well-known for his three-piece suits and championing of local manufacturing and scientific sectors – has been a totemic factional figure in the party for three decades, and spent much of his career dominating the Victorian branch with Right faction counterpart Stephen Conroy. His influence has waned in recent years but his removal would still signal a generational shift.
The failure of the Left to agree on a replacement could protect Senator Carr and ensure he is given another term in Canberra.
Mr Bornstein, who declined to comment for this story, has not yet won widespread backing of the factions and unions that make up the Left’s 41-person internal candidate selection panel. But closer to the preselection contest he may win the support of powerful figures such as Victorian minister Lily D’Ambrosio and former MP Alan Griffin.
More candidates, including women, are likely to emerge in the months before the preselection contest, which is expected to be held in July.
Senior Left figures said Senator Carr had about four or fewer locked-in votes on the panel and factional sources say Mr Batchelor does not have significant support.
Grassroots Labor members were stripped of their voting rights last year following the Adem Somyurek branch-stacking affair. As a result, Victorian preselections are decided by the national executive. Party sources said Labor leader Anthony Albanese, who sits on the national executive and in effect has the casting vote, would support the Victorian Left dumping Senator Carr.
The national executive will rubber-stamp any decision made by the Left and will only intervene if the faction is unable to select a candidate.
A senior party source said Mr Bornstein, an equity partner at Maurice Blackburn, was eyeing off the industrial relations portfolio in a potential Labor government. “He isn’t going in to be backbencher, so which cabinet minister loses their role?” the source said.
Mr Bornstein, 55, a prominent employment lawyer, has represented women in high-profile sexual harassment cases. He has also been mooted as a lower house candidate in recent weeks and his potential candidature was first reported by The Age last month.
The Left grouping associated with federal MP Andrew Giles is backing Mr Batchelor, a former Labor staffer but one powerbroker said he was perceived as a bit of a “woke, inner-city leftie” who would not be the right choice.
Meanwhile, Right faction unions and leaders will determine in coming weeks the candidate for the newly-created seat of Hawke in Melbourne’s outer-western fringe.
Sub-groupings within the faction do not yet agree on who should be preselected for Hawke, which is forecast to be a safe Labor seat. Former party state secretary and now PwC partner Sam Rae, who led the party’s 2018 state campaign, is being encouraged to run. Mr Rae did not return The Age’s calls.
The Labor Party aims for 40 per cent of its members to be women – a target the party is achieving in Victoria. Women make up a greater proportion of the Left faction than the Right in Victoria.
Labor powerbrokers are closely monitoring the actions of four long-serving federal Labor MPs to determine whether they may retire at the next election, freeing up spots for some of the party’s rising stars.
But the group – including Anthony Byrne, Maria Vamvakinou, Brendan O’Connor and Mark Dreyfus – have all told colleagues they wish to recontest at the next election. They could be buoyed to recontest by positive opinion polls and the Morrison government’s poor handling of the crisis related to sexual assault and the treatment of women.
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Paul is a Victorian political reporter for The Age.
Annika is state political editor for The Age.