ALP underdog Darren Cheeseman was yesterday poised to win preselection for Corangamite, according to Labor MP Gavan O’Connor.
Members of Labor’s Socialist Left faction were preparing to celebrate the Ballarat union official’s unlikely triumph when the Independent went to press last night.
The win would spell the end of former Geelong mayor Peter McMullin’s hopes of contesting the seat for Labor again at this year’s federal election.
Mr O’Connor, Labor’s Federal Member for Corio, said a victory over Cr McMullin, a Labor candidate who had been favoured to win, would come as a shock to his powerful right-wing Unity faction.
Mr Cheeseman beat Cr McMullin and a third candidate, Christine Couzens, in the Corangamite ALP branch vote but had appeared unlikely to win the vital support of a central Labor committee in Melbourne.
Limited representation of Mr Cheeseman’s left faction on the central committee meant he needed 63 per cent of the ballot to guarantee preselection. He secured 58 per cent of the local ballot after preferences but was yesterday confident factional manoeuvres would get him over the line.
Mr Cheeseman said union boss Bill Shorten, credited as the founder of Labor’s right faction, congratulated him prior to counting of the vote.
Mr O’Connor welcomed the likely result, saying a Cheeseman victory would signal a weakening of Unity’s stranglehold on local branches.
Mr O’Connor lost preselection to Unity’s Richard Marles last year amid allegations of branch stacking.
Mr O’Connor said Mr Cheeseman’s win would indicate dwindling support for the right in the region.
“The ordinary ALP members are taking back control of their branches.”