EXCLUSIVE: Struggling Shorten parties on over Labor's Terrigal NSW problem

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Is NSW Labor branch secretary Jamie Clements about to become Bill Shorten's Christmas trimmings?

NSW Labor sources claim Bill Shorten attended the Christmas Party of the NSW Right not to shore up his numbers, as has been reported, but to make soundings about the besieged Sussex Street administration of Jamie Clements.

THERE IS no other way to put it. Bill Shorten faces the end of 2015 with horror numbers and an uphill battle to defeat the Liberal Party in 2016.

Due to his abysmal personal approval numbers since Turnbull ascended the throne, he's now being referred to as “Mr 14%” by some commentators. The lowest approval numbers since Newspoll started collecting them.

From the peak of the polls for Labor and Abbott's unpopularity, the average of credible polls has plunged Shorten's Labor Party to 46% on 2PP and 31% on a primary basis. This result, if replicated in 2016, would result in Labor winning only 52 seats and losing three. This would be Labor's worst result since 1996.

Bill Shorten is holding on by his fingernails, according to Labor insiders.

Fairfax journalist James Massola reported on October 12:

'But as one recently said to Fairfax Media, if the party recorded three consecutive primary votes of less then 35 per cent in published opinion polls, "come and see me".'

He's well in that zone leading into Christmas, with no sign of an uptick.

Massola also spoke of a 'bleak' mood among Right faction hard heads 'particularly in NSW'.

This, however, is the least of Shorten's problems with his own Victorian Branch under increasing scrutiny over allegations of branch stacking involving his key henchmen, a discredited internal inquiry being deemed a “whitewash” and the New South Wales branch secretary under a cloud following allegations of sexual harassment and a dysfunctional Sussex Street office.

New South Wales Labor State Secretary Jamie Clements from the NSW Centre Unity faction is a key Shorten numbers man and ally.

The Australian recently reported that Bill Shorten attended the NSW Centre Unity Christmas Party for what is believed to be the first time in at least ten years.

A well connected Labor source in New South Wales has told Independent Australia that Bill Shorten's attendance was not primarily to secure the ongoing support of the powerful NSW Right to consolidate his position as Labor leader.

He allegedly attended to sound out NSW Centre Unity colleagues over what is becoming Jamie Clements' toxic leadership. It was all he was said to be interested in that night, asking numerous senior Centre Unity figures for their opinions and advice.

The NSW Labor source said:

“The story in The Australian of Bill Shorten attending the NSW Centre Unity Christmas Party makes it appear that Jamie Clements has the support within his powerful Centre Unity. All, however, is not well.” 

The source continued:

“The inside line is Shorten was attending the event to assess the level of support for Jamie Clements within his own majority faction as well as how damaging he is to NSW Labor internally.”

NSW Labor is still reeling from the damage caused by the Obeid era and influence of his small grouping called the “Terrigals”, who allegedly corruptly controlled the majority NSW Centre Unity faction, NSW Labor and successive Labor governments for over a decade.

While most of the remnants of the “Terrigals” have been flushed out by numerous ICAC inquiries, some remain.

Jamie Clements is said to be chief among them.

“Clements regularly lunches with Eddie Obeid, who still pulls his strings,” our source says.

There is concern about a few other Obeid connected MPs, namely the controversial Noreen Hay and Chris Minns.

According to our source:

“Former NSW Centre Unity Convenor Noreen Hay, a remnant of the Obeid controlled Terrigal sub-faction, and MP Chris Minns – when asked by Shorten at the Centre Unity gathering – gave Clements a glowing appraisal for his 'strength in times of turmoil'.” 

The source continued:

“We all know Noreen Hay was controversially preselected, despite her connection to corrupt Eddie Obied and his Terrigals faction. Clements backed her over the vocal opposition of the local membership concerned with her history.”

When Independent Australia approached a local factional opponent of Noreen Hay, we were told:

“You could fill a sporting oval with the number of ALP members and voters who want Noreen Hay gone in Wollongong. She actually promised to retire after the last term but when her selected nominee Misha Zelinsky was not able to stand for preselection she ran again to keep it for the Obeid forces.”

When told that Jamie Clements looked in trouble internally and is fighting for his job the response was: “So he should be!”

“It's widely known in Wollongong among members that she rigged the preselection by having many long standing ALP members excluded from the vote, all while being actively supported by Clements.”

We're informed the Jamie Clements run Sussex Street allegedly routinely fails to receipt certain Labor members upon renewal to erode their ability to prove ongoing membership.

According to our first source, Clements has big plans for Chris Minns, but these appear to be optimistic at best.

“Chris Minns is being groomed by Clements to be the next NSW Labor leader but he has a toxic relationship with Unions NSW after he had some harsh words to say about them in his inaugural speech this year. They won't accept him.”

The push is now on within Unions NSW following the recent resignation of NSW Centre Unity figure Mark Lennon – who was controversially both Unions NSW secretary and president – to dump Clements.

We're told Lennon has stood down over his inability to control Clements.

“Even Centre Unity unions, Australian Workers' Union (AWU), Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association (SDA) and Transport Workers Union want Clements, a former Obeid staffer, gone.”

Our first source continues.

“If Clements is not gone before NSW Labor State Conference in February, there will be a huge and ugly fight and he'll be gone then. There is nobody Clements hasn't tried to screw over. He has no friends.”

So what was the take away for Shorten when he comes to the internal NSW Centre Unity support for Clements remaining in his job and the chance he can turn the NSW Labor culture around?

According to our first source:

“I've heard his colleagues say about Clements, 'He's Obeid's boy', 'We'll never reform under his watch' and 'NSW Labor will never win under his leadership'.” 

The answer: not good.

“The feeling in the room was Shorten needs the NSW campaign in the Federal election to be strong and successful, and that can't happen with Clements hanging around. Especially given now another woman has filed a complaint and left her job on Sussex Street.”

We're told by our source that even former NSW Centre Unity powerbroker, Hawke and Keating government minister, and Murdoch employee Graham Richardson allegedly wants Clements gone.

The current Assistant Secretary of NSW Labor and NSW Centre Unity colleague Kaila Murnain, who also allegedly has a tense working relationship with Clements, is next in line.

Independent Australia was unable to verify Ms Murnain's internal support.

The powerful branches of Victoria and New South Wales are proving a major headache for Bill Shorten and it is unclear whether he is willing to intervene directly in the problems of either. A failed attempt against Clements could put his leadership at risk, even with the 60% caucus rule to spill the leadership. The Left (around 40% of the caucus) is united and would relish a spill. They would be expected to vote en bloc for it to occur.

Momentum is building and we're told Clements will be dealt with one way or the other. It just depends by when, how and by whom, and what damage will be done in the meantime in probably the most important state when it comes to next year's Federal election.

This article was written by a Labor Party member.

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