Labor Right

The Labor Right, also known as Labor Unity, is a political faction of the Australian Labor Party (ALP) at the national level that tends to be more socially conservative and economically liberal. The Labor Right is a broad alliance of various state factions and competes with the socialist left Labor Left faction.

Labor Unity
LeaderKaila Murnain[1][2][3]
Student wingStudent Unity
IdeologyThird Way[4]
Social liberalism
Political positionCentre to Centre-left[5]
National affiliationAustralian Labor Party
Colours     Red
Seats in the House of Representatives
29 / 150
Seats in the Senate
11 / 76
Federal Caucus
36 / 85

State branches

Factional power usually finds expression in the percentage vote of aligned delegates at party conferences. The power of the Labor Right varies from state to state, but it usually relies on certain trade unions, such as the Australian Workers' Union (AWU), Transport Workers Union (TWU), the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association (SDA), the National Union of Workers (NUW) and the Health Services Union (HSU). These unions send delegates to conference, with delegates usually coming from the membership, the administration of the union or local branches covered by their activists.

The Right is currently the dominant faction in the Labor party on a national level. The Labor Right faction also holds a majority on the Australian Labor Party National Executive. The usual arrangement is that the federal leader of the Labor party is from the Right, while the deputy leader is from the Left, although former federal Labor leader and Prime Minister Julia Gillard was from the Left with support of the Right. Historically, most state Labor Premiers have been associated with the Right; there have been some exceptions, such as former Queensland Premier Anna Bligh, former New South Wales Premier Nathan Rees, former Tasmanian Premier Lara Giddings, current Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews and former South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill all coming from their respective state Left factions.

State-based factions (national sub-factions) which make up Labor Right include:

New South Wales
  • Centre Unity
  • Labor Forum (dominated by the AWU)[6]
Australian Capital Territory[7]
  • Centre Coalition
  • Labor Centre Unity (The Shorts, or AWU, consisting of branch members and unions aligned with Shorten, in particular the Australian Workers Union) [8]
  • Labor Unity (The Cons, consisting largely of Branch Members and supporters of former Senator Stephen Conroy)
  • Moderate Labor (Mods: defectors from the Shoppies; aligned with Adem Somyurek; allegedly part of a grouping called 'Centre Unity')[8]
  • Shoppies (SDA: also known as Labor Unity, largely union-based)
Western Australia
  • 2017-2019 - Progressive Labor (Consists of TWU, SDA, AWU, MUA and CFMEU) [9][10] The Progressive Labor faction was dissolved in 2019 due to infighting.[11]
  • 2019 - WA Labor Unity (TWU, SDA, AWU)
Northern Territory
  • Labor Unity
South Australia
  • Labor Unity (dominated by the SDA) [12]
  • Labor Unity

Political views

An overriding stated theme of Labor right wing governance is balance between progressive social change and conservative economic management as the pathway to community development and growth.

Many Roman Catholics have been prominent and influential in the Labor Party, both inside and outside the auspices of the Labor Right faction. Their influence had been criticised by many older Labor socialists and Protestant conservatives for being beholden to religious authority. However, this sentiment has decreased since the 1970s with the erosion of religious sectarianism in Australian politics.

The Labor Right views itself as the more mainstream and fiscally responsible faction within Labor. The faction is most famous for its support of Third Way economic policies over Labor's traditional early twentieth century social democratic policies, such as the economic rationalist policies of the Bob Hawke and Paul Keating governments, including floating the Australian Dollar in December 1983, reductions in trade tariffs, taxation reforms such as the introduction of dividend imputation to eliminate double-taxation of dividends and the lowering of the top marginal income tax rate from 60% in 1983 to 47% in 1996, changing from centralised wage-fixing to enterprise bargaining, the privatisation of Qantas and Commonwealth Bank, making the Reserve Bank of Australia independent, and deregulating the banking system.

Youth Wing

While the senior faction is broken into various state- and union-based groupings the Young Labor Right is organised around the various parliamentarian factional leaders and power brokers. The Victorian Young Labor Right is currently divided between the Conroy aligned (Young Labor Unity), the SDA (Victorian Labor Students), AWU (Young Labor Centre Unity) and Moderate aligned grouping, and the NUW (Young Labor Action). The NSW Young Labor Right known as Young Centre Unity is the largest Labor Right youth faction.

Federal Members of the Labor Right

Name Parliamentary seat Other positions State/Territory Sub-faction/union
Richard Marles Member for Corio Deputy Leader of the ALP

Shadow Minister for Defence

Victoria 'Cons', TWU
Kristina Keneally Senator for New South Wales Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, Shadow Home Minister

Former Premier of New South Wales

Dr Jim Chalmers Member for Rankin Shadow Treasurer Queensland AWU
Tony Burke Member for Watson Manager of Opposition Business in the House

Shadow Minister for Industrial Relations

Mark Dreyfus QC Member for Isaacs Shadow Attorney-General Victoria
Bill Shorten Member for Maribyrnong Shadow Minister for the NDIS

Former Leader of the ALP

Victoria 'Shorts', AWU
Don Farrell Senator for South Australia Shadow Special Minister of State

Former Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate

Chris Bowen Member for McMahon Shadow Minister for Health

Former Treasurer

Joel Fitzgibbon Member for Hunter Shadow Minister for Agriculture

Former Minister for Defence, former Chief Whip

Jason Clare Member for Blaxland Shadow Minister for Housing and Homelessness

Shadow Minister for Regional Services, Territories and Local Government

Michelle Rowland Member for Greenway Shadow Minister for Communications NSW
Amanda Rishworth Member for Kingston Shadow Minister for Early Childhood Education

Shadow Minister for Youth

Madeleine King Member for Brand Shadow Minister for Trade WA
Shayne Neumann Member for Blair Member of the Shadow Outer Ministry

Former member of the Shadow Cabinet

Queensland ASU
Clare O'Neil Member for Hotham Member of the Shadow Outer Ministry Victoria NUW
Matt Keogh Member for Burt Member of the Shadow Outer Ministry WA AWU
Matt Thistlethwaite Member for Kingsford Smith Shadow parliamentary secretary

Former General Secretary of the NSW Labor Party

Tim Watts Member for Gellibrand Shadow parliamentary secretary Victoria 'Cons'
Kimberley Kitching Senator for Victoria Shadow parliamentary secretary Victoria 'Shorts', HSU
Dr Mike Kelly Member for Eden-Monaro Shadow parliamentary secretary NSW
Glenn Sterle Senator for Western Australia Shadow parliamentary secretary WA TWU
Emma McBride Member for Dobell Shadow parliamentary secretary NSW
Chris Hayes Member for Fowler Chief Opposition Whip NSW AWU
Justine Elliot Member for Richmond Former member of the Outer Ministry NSW
Sharon Bird Member for Cunningham Former member of the Outer Ministry NSW
Ed Husic Member for Chifley Former member of the Shadow Outer Ministry NSW CEPU (CWU)
Anthony Byrne Member for Holt Former parliamentary secretary

Deputy Chair and former Chair of the Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security

Victoria Mods (formerly SDA)
Deborah O'Neill Senator for New South Wales Former shadow parliamentary secretary NSW SDA
Helen Polley Senator for Tasmania Former shadow parliamentary secretary Tasmania AWU, SDA
Rob Mitchell Member for McEwen [13] Former Whip Victoria 'Shorts'
Alex Gallacher Senator for South Australia Co-Chair of the Senate Standing Committees on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade SA TWU
Catryna Bilyk Senator for Tasmania Chair of the Senate Standing Committee of Senators' Interests Tasmania ASU, SDA
Anthony Chisholm Senator for Queensland Former Secretary of the Queensland Labor Party Queensland AWU
Milton Dick Member for Oxley Former Secretary of the Queensland Labor Party Queensland AWU
Nick Champion Member for Wakefield SA SDA
Meryl Swanson Member for Paterson NSW
Luke Gosling Member for Solomon NT SDA
David Smith Member for Bean ACT Professionals Australia
Raff Ciccone Senator for Victoria Victoria SDA
Dr Daniel Mulino Member for Fraser Victoria SDA
Josh Burns Member for Macnamara Victoria
Anika Wells Member for Lilley Queensland AWU
Marielle Smith Senator for South Australia SA
Tony Sheldon Senator for New South Wales NSW TWU

‡ Sterle was formerly a member of the now-defunct Centre Left.

See also


  1. Bramston, Troy. "Albo picks up the pieces". The Australian. News Corp. Retrieved 30 May 2019.
  2. Bramston, Troy. "Factional warfare creates Right old mess in search for a leader with a winning chance". The Australian. News Corp. Retrieved 30 May 2019.
  3. Bramston, Troy (10 January 2017). "New Labor women reckon they have the ideas — not just the numbers". The Australian. News Corp Australia. Retrieved 8 December 2017.
  4. Jingjing Huo (2009). Third Way Reforms: Social Democracy After the Golden Age. Cambridge University Press. p. 79. ISBN 978-0-521-51843-7.
  5. Brown, Greg (8 October 2018). "Kimberley Kitching caters for Labor's conservative core". The Australian.
  6. "Left takes over Queensland Labor in historic shift". The Australia. 31 July 2014.
  7. "Contest in ACT comes down to the ALP machine versus genuine locals". Crikey. 9 April 2010.
  8. Rundle), Guy (18 July 2018). "The instability of Labor's latest factional stability deal". Crikey.
  9. Butterly, Nick; Delalande, Joanna. "WA Labor's Progressive faction fractures". PressReader. Retrieved 20 October 2019.
  10. "Historic union pact formed to take on the Left". The West Australian. 2017-04-01. Retrieved 2019-05-26.
  11. Butterly, Nick. "WA Labor's Progressive faction has split after spectacular infighting leaving Left faction dominant". The West Australian. Retrieved 20 October 2019.
  12. "Liberals' donations double Labor Party's ahead of SA election". ABC. 11 August 2017.
  13. "Electorate: McEwen". Electorate Form Guide. Crikey.

Further reading

  • Cumming, Fia (1991) Mates : five champions of the Labor right. Sydney: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 1-86373-021-4. Library catalogue summary: Paul Keating, Graham Richardson, Laurie Brereton, Bob Carr and Leo McLeay recount events which shaped the Australian labour movement from the 1960s to the 1980s.
  • Richardson, G (1994) Whatever It Takes, Bantam Books, Moorebank, NSW. Library catalogue summary: Graham Richardson recounts his career and outlines the philosophy and operation of the NSW and National Labor Right during his time in the ALP.
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