Labor’s upper house leader Luke Foley has poured scorn over suggestions he is running former staffers for preselection in the seat of Newtown to help shore up his numbers in parliament.
Environmentalist Felicity Wade and town planner Sean Macken have entered what is fast becoming a crowded field for the newly-created electorate of Newtown, which along with Summer Hill will replace the abolished seat of Marrickville. Both Mr Macken and Ms Wade have previously worked for Mr Foley.
Sitting MLC Penny Sharpe will also contest the Labor preselection and is considered to be the front-running candidate. But she will face a tough contest in what ABC analyst Antony Green has declared a notional Greens seat with a margin of more than four per cent.
“I have the highest regard for each of them; Penny, Sean and Felicity,” Mr Foley said.
“They have all made a decision to run of their own accord. And I know that none of them would want the kiss of death that would accompany an endorsement from me.”
Mr Foley covets the job of Labor leader, but is facing growing resistance from within his own faction. One NSW Left source, who is a delegate to state conference, this week delivered an extraordinary tirade against the upper house leader.
“A few eyebrows have been raised that two of his staffers are running for this inner-city seat,” he said.
“He has the support of the executive of the Left but he no longer has the support of the membership of the Left, and he no longer has the support of the unions.”
The bigger game is preselection for the party’s Legislative Council ticket ahead of the 2015 state election. Preselection is typically controlled by the executive but it can be pushed to a vote at state conference. Labor’s low polling numbers mean there is increased pressure for candidates to be further up the faction’s pecking order, in order to secure their election. The Left source said he believed Mr Foley was attempting to negotiate a deal with deputy opposition whip Lynda Voltz to secure the number one and two spots on the Left’s ticket.
“If it gets put to vote, you’d struggle to imagine circumstances where Luke and Lynda could carry the room – Luke because he’s a rat and Linda because she’s a waste of space,” the source said. He went on to suggest there were plans being hatched to revolt against the MLC, who is the shadow minister for both environment and infrastructure.
“There is a contingent of left-wingers who are in constant dialogue over what to do about Luke Foley.”
Mr Foley denied he was negotiating a deal with Ms Voltz and said “the system doesn’t work that way”.
“I confirm that I intend to contest Labor’s upper house preselection whenever it is called.”
Another senior member of the Left said there was no agenda surrounding the Newtown preselection, only a demonstration of Labor’s wide pool of talent.
“It’s great if we have a range of competent candidates, which we have,” the source said.
“I think that everyone who’s nominated so far has nominated because they believe that they give Labor its best chance.”
Policy debates continue to rage about passionate issues within the Left, but are not focused on any particular member, the source said.
“Whenever there’s a preselection there’s a whole range of rumours and scenarios that go on around it. I don’t think there’s another agenda going on.