NSW Labor delegates have voted to deny the Greens automatic preferences during elections but Left faction stalwarts Anthony Albanese and John Faulkner have slammed the debate.
The state branch of Australia’s oldest political party will continue to put One Nation and other “racist right” parties last, but the Greens will no longer get special treatment.
With federal Labor’s primary vote languishing at 31 per cent in the most recent Newspoll, a clear majority of NSW Labor’s 850 annual conference delegates inside Sydney Town Hall voted with their voices to pass the motion, moved by the federal government Chief Whip Joel Fitzgibbon.
Mr Albanese, the federal Infrastructure Minister, who faces a strong Greens threat in his inner-western Sydney seat of Grayndler, was scathing about having a debate on Greens preferencing.
“Labor will defeat the Greens political party by the value of ideas and our principles not by the values of our preferences,” Mr Albanese told the conference floor.
Senator Faulkner, a former defence minister, said the “orchestrated” public debate would fail to entice Greens voters back to Labor.
“You have to win primary votes to have preferences to give,” Senator Faulkner said.
“And in case you hadn’t noticed, our primary vote is far too low and getting lower.
“Our party is facing a crisis of organisation and a crisis of belief, and instead of grappling with those threats to our survival as a party … we’re talking about the minutiae of politics, tactics, preferences.”
But Mr Fitzgibbon, a right-winger who represents the coal mining electorate of Hunter, said federal Labor’s minority government arrangement with the Greens was politically damaging.
“For too long we have been appeasing them and it must come to an end,” he said.
“There’s an assumption wrongly out there that the Greens are pulling us by the nose, that we are too close to the Greens, and therefore too close to some of the extreme policies they promote, including policies that would have a devastating impact on my electorate like the … closure of the coal mining industry.”
NSW Labor secretary Sam Dastyari, from the Right, told delegates the “free ride” for the Greens was over.
“The Greens political party are not our friends, they are not our allies, they are our political rivals,” Mr Dastyari said, as NSW Greens senator Lee Rhiannon called a media conference outside.
Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke, another right-winger, said the Greens had preferenced against Labor at the 2011 state election, costing it lower house seats and electing upper house Shooters Party members “who support shooting in national parks”.
NSW Opposition Leader John Robertson supported a motion moved by the Right for a party committee to examine a proposal for rank and file party members to elect the NSW parliamentary leader.
Deputy Opposition Leader Linda Burney, from the Left, had argued that only a leader elected by Labor MPs would have legitimacy.