Spare a thought for Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese and Labor’s National Executive. The ALP’s 22-member decision-making body over the weekend endured the unnerving and exposing experience of a digital strip search.
They were forced to hand over their phones, computers and pretty much every typed document for legal discovery.
It was just the latest step up in an increasingly bitter spat with 11 heavyweight unions which are protesting the federal party’s decision to take over the Victorian branch.
Labor’s top officials were forced to intervene in the Victorian branch last July after an investigation by The Age and 60 Minutes lifted the lid on allegations of branch stacking.
But the unions and local powerbrokers feel that the federal party is hanging around like a bad smell, determining critical pre-selection processes for seats including the new, likely safe, Labor federal seat in Melbourne.
Powerful industrial groups, including the CFMEU and the Plumbers Union, launched legal action in April blasting the federal takeover as “improper”, “unreasonable” and done with an “ulterior purpose”.
True to form, CFMEU construction boss John Setka went one further.
“Kim Jong-un is jealous of how undemocratic the ALP has become under Albo,” Mr Setka said in April. “What we cannot do is tolerate this undemocratic, illegal farce from Anthony Albanese and Richard Marles for one day more.”
Last Friday, the unions secured a critical win when Justice Tim Ginnane in Victoria’s Supreme Court ordered the National Executive to hand over phones and other information. Given executive members include former treasurer Wayne Swan, opposition frontbenchers Mark Butler and Amanda Rishworth, NSW Labor secretary Bob Nanva and construction union boss Michael O’Connor, there’d be no end of juicy information lurking in the digital recesses. The Opposition Leader’s office chose not to comment on the process, no doubt keen to avoid adding more weight to the indignity.