NSW Labor general secretary Sam Dastyari has declared the free ride should be over in any preference deal with the Greens, sparking a fierce rebuttal from the party’s Left.
Mr Dastyari moved his motion in Sydney Town Hall as NSW Greens senator Lee Rhiannon held a media event outside the doors of Labor’s annual state conference.
As 850 delegates looked on, Mr Dastyari declared: “From today the free ride is over.
“Delegates, it’s time to redefine our relationship with the Greens party.
“Today, at this conference we’ll be proposing that the Labor party not provide the Greens Party with automatic preferential treatment.
“The Greens political party are not our friends, they are not our allies, they are our political rivals,” Mr Dastyari said.
But assistant secretary John Graham, from the party’s Left, said the NSW Right’s proposal would do more to alienate Greens voters.
“The NSW Right used to say behind closed doors, we’re having this debate now so let’s have it all out, you can move to the centre, lose a few seats to the Greens, outsource the Left of the party, that was wrong,” Mr Graham said.
“I welcome the recognition that this is a serious threat, but these Greens voters we’re trying to persuade, imagine them, full of hope, desperately many of them wanting Labor to be just a bit better.
“Are we really going to win them back by talking about backroom preference arrangements?”
Mr Graham described Mr Dastyari and Australian Workers’ Union chief Paul Howes, a right-wing ally of the state secretary, as “human headlines”.
NSW Labor senator Doug Cameron, from the party’s hard Left faction, said while he disagreed with the Greens’ stance on the Rudd government’s emissions trading scheme and refugee policy, Labor should not attack their left-wing values.
“I say that we should not attack any party that takes progressive positions,” Senator Cameron, a former head of the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union, told delegates from the conference floor.
“The type of positions that the Greens take on the IMF and the WTO; my union the AMWU wrote those policies and they plagiarised them so why should we attack them on decent policy?”