Last Tuesday a vicious campaign was in full flight amongst local Labor members, in a concerted effort to keep out Richie Bates from getting the nod as their party's next candidate in the next State election.
The Party's AWU faction lead the charge to ensure that union representative Richie Bates was not going to get the numbers in the Cairns selection. Members who contacted CairnsBlog since the weekend's vote said there was intimidation, threats and visits from senior factional officials from Brisbane. A number of older members were telephoned as late as Friday night, with the threat of complying to support Lesina.
Labor members said both former branch president Mike Bailey and sitting MP Desley Boyle, were behind the desperate effort to keep Bates out.
"This is old school bullying, however Richie can hold his head high for not stooping to these gutter tactics," a frustrated Labor member said. "The branch members have had enough of this quite frankly"
"Unfortunately I expected some of that," Richie Bates told CairnsBlog.
The email was in part spurred after a story in last week's Australian, where Bates was quoted as saying "lucrative assets like QR National, which underpin Queensland's economy well into the future, should be retained."
The Australian predicted that a number of pre-selections across the State on Saturday would support candidates against Bligh's privatisation agenda. It said Labor insiders were tipping the left faction's Richie Bates for Cairns...
- ...Richie Bates from the Rail, Tram and Bus Union, would take the seat of Cairns with rank-and-file support over the AWU's Kirsten Lesina. Mr Bates has been an outspoken critic of Ms Bligh and her government's privatisation program, which included selling the commercial arm of Queensland Rail.
"We are already seeing the first signs of QR National getting rid of jobs and damaging rural and regional communities," Richie Bates said.
However Bates told CairnsBlog that this was not an issue any longer.
"The reality is we have moved on and I don't believe the electorate would have seen this as a negative for me," Bates said after the vote against him on Saturday.
Labor insiders have said that it was probably former Cairns branch president, Mike Bailey who was one of those behind a campaign to discredit Richie Bates. They say he helped set up an anonymous email address, firstname.lastname@example.org. The email instructed members not support Bates.
The message was titled "Candidate Richie Bates means the whole campaign will be focused on the past.- that will damage Labor in Cairns." It sent to a heap of ALP branch members on Tuesday last week.
- From: KeepCairns Labor email@example.com
Sent: Tuesday, 17 May 2011 12:55 PM
Subject: Candidate Richie Bates means the whole campaign will be focused on the past.- that will damage Labor in Cairns
If Richie Bates is Labor's candidate then the media will make the whole campaign in Cairns about two things:
* Assets Sales
* Richie Bates' opposition to Anna Bligh.
The result is damage to Labor-especially here in Cairns.
The story below in today's paper (the Aust p.7) is just a taste of what will unfortunately dominate the whole campaign damaging Labor.
Richie Bates below describes Anna Bligh below as "getting rid of jobs and damaging rural and regional communities".
Even if you think Richie is a ok candidate it is just a fact that his record means the media will only talk about division, asset sales and attacks on Premier Bligh.
That means Labor will be damaged in Cairns.
Please consider this when you vote on Saturday, I know I will.
Plebiscite voter this Saturday
PS you may wonder why I haven't put down my name- It's because I don't like the fights that some have bought to our branches and don't want to be a target. I hope you respect that and also consider my message- its too important- we can't be responsible for losing Cairns for Labor.
Of course the coward behind the slanderous email didn't put a name on it.
Bailey also sent out a letter to members under his name, which was worded similar to the anonymous email.
It is believed that senior Labor party officials were in Cairns last lobbing against a vote for Bates.
After the close vote on Saturday, Lesina says that the party is still unified within and she received emails offering support, even from those that voted for Bates as the preferred candidate.
Kirsten Lesina also says it was a "clean campaign," however this angry internal email would disprove that. "It's been a very clean pre-selection campaign, because Richie and I are good mates, so that's been good."
Yesterday Kirsten didn't respond to questions about any knowledge of the erroneous email, but undoubtedly had to be aware of it's wide circulation.
"I hop on a plane to Brissy first thing this morning. I will give you a call around lunch time," Kirsten Lesina wrote in a 6:30am email, in response to two emails at 2pm yesterday afternoon.
Another disgruntled Labor voter who attended the pre-selection says he was disgusted that whilst in Brisbane last week on Cairns Regional Council business, Councillor Lesina used the opportunity to meet with senior Labor Party hierarchy about the Cairns pre-selection.
"The people who voted for Kirsten at electoral college should be ashamed of themselves," she said.
There is now a move to encourage Richie Bates to run for the State seat of Cairns as an independent, and also as a candidate for Council, something he missed out against Alan Blake in 2008.
As a strong and consistent fighter for union right and protections, Bates will be a valued addition to local or State government, whatever he chooses.