By Ben Packham, Greg Brown & Joanna Panagopoulos
Left-wing former senator Doug Cameron has warned Anthony Albanese he faces a contest at the ALP national conference over nuclear submarines and Palestine.
Anthony Albanese has warned Labor’s powerful policy forum he wants the AUKUS nuclear submarine plan to go unchallenged at the ALP national conference, as hard-Left figures prepare to attack the government’s cornerstone national security policy.
Federal Labor MPs are working to head off disunity on AUKUS and Left-wing demands for a timeline on recognising Palestine, in line with the Prime Minister’s directions this month to Labor’s national policymaking committee.
Mr Cameron said he would be “gobsmacked” if national delegates listened to the PM’s calls not to challenge the issues when they meet in Brisbane next month.
“The ALP Left have a proud history of challenging bad policy at ALP Nat Conference,” Mr Cameron tweeted.
“Would be gobsmacked if nuclear subs, regressive tax cuts and Palestine are not debated. Political discipline does not mean the Left subjugate themselves to leadership decrees on what can be debated.”
Union members from Victoria, including members from construction, manufacturing, electrical and public transport, are planning to revisit the challenge when national delegates meet in Brisbane next month.
The move comes amid criticism of the AUKUS pact by senior party figures including Paul Keating, Bob Carr and Gareth Evans, who have argued the nuclear subs plan is ill-conceived, overpriced, and will bind Australia’s strategic fate to America’s.
A hostile motion on AUKUS would be embarrassing for Mr Albanese, who stood beside US President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in March to announce Australia would buy three to five US Virginia-class subs and build eight new UK-designed boats in Adelaide.
Any change to the party’s position on Palestine would also represent a challenge to the Prime Minister’s authority, and that of Foreign Minister Penny Wong.
Supporters of Israel are concerned the government’s reluctance to debate AUKUS on the floor of the national conference could result in a deal in which the party calls on the government to recognise the Palestinian state within this term of parliament.
A similar motion passed at the Victorian ALP conference in a factional deal under which an anti-AUKUS motion pulled from the agenda at the last minute.
The withdrawn motion would have called on the federal government to “suspend any further involvement in the AUKUS pact, including the development of nuclear-powered submarines”.
A Victorian Labor source said “categorically” that a similar motion would be moved in Brisbane next month. There are concerns some Queensland delegates could also speak out against the nuclear submarine deal.