Rudd's men seize control of preselectionsPhillip Coorey Chief Political Correspondent

| 12.06,09. 07:20 AM |

Rudd's men seize control of preselectionsPhillip Coorey Chief Political Correspondent

June 12, 2009
KEVIN RUDD and his most trusted lieutenants will oversee the preselection of Labor candidates in key seats after being granted special powers by the party's national executive.

A motion passed recently by the executive prevents state branches even starting the preselection process without the permission of the Prime Minister and the five-member national executive committee.

This committee comprises the ministers Anthony Albanese and Mark Arbib, the parliamentary secretaries Mark Butler and Bill Shorten, and the union leader Bill Ludwig - all factional powerbrokers.

The Victorian and West Australian Labor branches have been permitted to select candidates for seats the ALP holds. The other state branches are expected to receive approval after the ALP national policy conference at the end of next month.

The party aims to have all preselections completed by Christmas, by which time it will be ready to campaign should Mr Rudd decide to call an election early next year.

Mr Rudd does not prefer an early election but he wants to keep his options open.

The national executive motion gave effect to a recommendation contained in a 2002 review by Bob Hawke and Neville Wran aimed at ensuring that quality candidates were chosen.

It urged that state branches consult the federal leadership before selecting candidates for both targeted Coalition seats and safe Labor seats. It had never been universally implemented.

The ruling has the potential to rankle the party's rank-and-file but one senior operative said it was aimed at ensuring quality, not enshrining interference. "It's not about Kevin choosing the candidates; it's about Kevin making sure there's a quality control system in place in all the branches."

Another said: "It's the usual process just codified, or formalised, so the states know they have an obligation to consult before moving forward."

Mr Rudd and the executive would also have the power to replace sitting members. The fate of Belinda Neal, who holds the marginal seat of Robertson, would rest in their hands rather than those of the local branches.

Despite a healthy lead in the polls, Labor leads the Coalition by only a handful of seats and it would lose government with a swing of 2 per cent against it.

The Coalition, which believes Mr Rudd could call an election in March, will not finish preselections until about February.


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