The Northern Territory’s long-serving federal Member for Lingiari, Warren Snowdon, is likely to be either expelled from or to leave NT Labor’s powerful left-wing faction.
And if that happens, the veteran Central Australian MP has indicated he may form his own faction.
Mr Snowdon had been backed by the faction since he was elected as the Member for the Northern Territory almost three decades ago, in 1987, later becoming the Member for Lingiari.
But the ABC has been told that faction executives intend to remove him from the left at a meeting on Thursday night.
The expulsion stems from a motion at Saturday’s conference put to delegates by Thomas Mayor of the Maritime Union and Rolly Cummins from the CFMEU to remove Territory Labor’s state secretary Kent Rowe, who is a member of the opposing right-wing faction.
“The governance of the party is in a bit of a shambles,” Mr Cummins said at the time.
“Nothing’s ever properly organised, it’s always hard to understand what’s going on because of the lack of information we receive from the secretary.
“To run and have good government, you need to have good administration and good governance.”
The ABC understands the left believed they had the numbers to topple Rowe, who is backed by Chief Minister Michael Gunner.
However, they were outvoted 71-49, with members of the left, including Mr Snowdon and NT Member for Katherine Sandra Nelson splitting from faction lines.
Mr Snowdon said the motion was humiliating and unfair to Mr Rowe, who is a Labor Party employee.
It is believed Mr Snowdon and Ms Nelson’s decision to cross the floor enraged senior faction and union figures, and will likely lead to their dismissals from the faction.
Factional split could harm Snowdon’s preselection
The ABC understands the relationship between Snowdon and the left had been souring for some time.
The ABC has learned the 68-year-old almost came to blows with Michael Ravbar, the secretary of Queensland’s CFMEU branch before the vote took place.
Andy Sutherland’s Facebook post about federal Member for Lingiari Warren Snowdon. (Facebook: Andy Sutherland)
On Tuesday, Andy Sutherland, the assistant secretary of the NT’s CFMEU branch, indicated that Mr Snowdon would be given the boot by posting a picture of the Central Australian’s face superimposed on the body of a rat on Facebook, with the caption “Now, keep on walking rat!”.
In the post, he accused Mr Snowdon of selling out the left and disrespecting the trade union movement.
Sources close to Mr Snowdon have told the ABC that he “doesn’t care” if he is removed from the left, and that he could form another leftist faction potentially with Ms Nelson, further dividing the party.
The ABC has also been told that Mr Snowdon is disenchanted with “the influence of the Queensland CFMEU branch’s influence on Labor Party politics in the NT”.
The lack of union and factional backing for Mr Snowden could be critical during preselections, but even more consequential in a federal election run-off against high-profile Country Liberal Party candidate Jacinta Price.
Mr Snowdon currently holds the seat for Labor with a margin of 8.4 per cent.
Price will have the full backing of the CLP, who are confident she can flip the seat in the Coalition’s favour, while Mr Snowdon may have to look outside the party and the union movement for financial support.
The large geographical area of the Lingiari division — which is the largest federal seat in Australia and covers almost 99 per cent of the NT — means resources are critical to Mr Snowdon’s re-election.
When contacted by the ABC ahead of Thursday night’s meeting, Mr Snowdon’s office indicated that he would be considering forming his own faction with Ms Nelson but he did not believe it would hinder his chances of preselection in Lingiari.