Bill Shorten

Trouble in Labor’s ranks as Bill Shorten turns his eyes right

Bill Shorten has unsettled a key group of federal Labor MPs from his Victorian support base by forging closer ties with NSW party figures known for their pro-China views and a push to weaken ALP support for Israel.

Victorian federal Labor MPs including Mark Dreyfus, Richard Marles, Anthony Byrne and ­Michael Danby are known to be concerned about the policy direction of a future Labor government if the NSW right faction gets its way.

They are especially suspicious of the how the NSW branch, led by general secretary Kaila Murnain and heavily influenced by senator Sam Dastyari and former Labor foreign minister Bob Carr, appears open to more local investment by companies controlled by the Chinese Communist Party government — in isolation from national security issues.

While historically a friend of Israel, Mr Shorten’s silence lately has created uncertainty as the NSW branch spearheads a campaign to adopt support for a Palestinian state as national policy.

Mr Shorten’s reprimand this week of pro-Israel Labor MP and past Shorten loyalist Michael Danby — after he used his taxpayer-funded allowance to pay for ads in Australian Jewish News ­attacking alleged unbalanced reporting by the ABC’s Jerusalem correspondent, Sophie McNeill — has compounded the anxiety of Victorian MPs about where their leader stands.

Mr Danby yesterday dug in his heels, issuing a further statement defending his spending as a legitimate use of his communications budget for his Melbourne Ports electorate with the nation’s largest Jewish community. Mr Danby, whose questioning of Chinese government influence is almost as strident as his support for Israel, is under pressure within the ALP to retire at the election.

Read the article by Brad Norington in The Australian.