SPEAKING OUT: Mayor Margaret Strelow.
SPEAKING OUT: Mayor Margaret Strelow. Chris Ison ROK111017cadani1

'It's personal, not factional Robert': Strelow v Schwarten

THE ramifications of Rockhampton Labor's pre-selection battle has sent shock waves all the way to the top of the federal Labor party, causing the splintering of a voting faction and opening up internal divides.

The Australian reported yesterday the decision by the Queensland Right faction to run Rockhampton Mayor Margaret Strelow with the endorsement of her right wing ally Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk against the Old Guard's pick Barry O'Rourke was the "straw that broke the camel's back".

The Old Guard (who were allied with the right) have now split from the national right and will now vote independently leading to a rise of Labor's Left, throwing voting at Labor's national conference into disarray and causing a potential division on issues such as refugees and Israel.

At the heart of the issue is the relationship between Mayor Strelow and former Rockhampton MP and chief power broker of the Old Guard Robert Schwarten, which started out civilly during the pre-selection contest but has deteriorated into a bitter back and forth with old animosities rising to the surface.

Here is Cr Strelow's response to the story.

The whole story feeds on the Labor Party's propensity for drama and from the persecution complexes of various factional warlords.

Anyone on the ground in Rockhampton knows that what has happened here is just Robert Schwarten being Robert. I don't lose sleep over it.

Every time he puts pen to paper for one of his rants he seems to be having a go me for a different reason. At its heart I suspect it's because I don't owe him anything - and he likes control.

He made my job very difficult when he was State Member a decade ago, and he ran a very rough campaign against me at the last Council election. It has nothing to do with factional or even party politics. It's personal.

I put my hand up for the seat of Rockhampton when Bill Byrne was forced to retire because I genuinely believed that I had something to offer at State Government level.

I know Rockhampton well and this will not be an easy electorate for Labor this time, in spite of what 'Brisbane' thinks.

Political Parties need to listen to the drums. Regional communities are genuinely being ignored - it's not just how they 'feel'.

And the fact that some seem more concerned about which faction 'controls' the Seat than who would best represent Rockhampton just adds strength to the argument against the major parties.

I have seen Annastacia Palaszczuk try to get it right and I've admired that. I felt there was an opportunity for me to take our message to Brisbane.

I was willing to swap factions if that was helpful and key people in both factions knew that.

I've never been a major factional player. I joined the AWU about two years ago, mostly for protection from some of the shenanigans that were going on in the Labor Party in Rockhampton at that time.

I'm a bit of an innocent when it comes to the sort of politics that Robert plays as is obvious by the result of this plebiscite!

I have continued to be re-elected as an independent Mayor, in self funded campaigns, with no support or reference back to factions or even the Labor Party in any significant way.

I very very much appreciate the half dozen Party Members who rock up to hand out 'how to votes' for me every election but I have people from the other side of politics who help too.

The fact that I am Labor is not a secret but nor is it the defining factor of my work in Rockhampton.



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