FIRING BACK: Robert Schwarten.
FIRING BACK: Robert Schwarten. Chris Ison ROK060112cditto4

'Keep away from the sour grapes Margaret': Schwarten fires

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.

Cr Strelow responded to Mr Schwarten's comments, to which he has hit back with the following:

MARGARET'S comments are an insult to branch members and unhelpful to the party.

If I was so terrible to her why did she seek my support to replace me when I announced I was retiring?

I told her then that I had already agreed to support Bill Byrne and would not break my word.

It's a matter of public record that I despised the way she did a deal with the Newman LNP government to take the money I had fought for to finish the Riverbank renewal project which had started at the Showgrounds and included the new basketball arena, swimming pool complex, Huish Dr playground fishing platforms, etc.

The area between the two bridges was the last stage and our Labor government budgeted for it, Bill Byrne promised it, and Margaret sold out the Labor promise.

I get one vote in a plebiscite. Margaret ran against me for preselection in 1994 and against Leisa Neaton for Capricornia (2016), now has run and lost again.

I'm flattered that she thinks I'm that powerful and influential but she has never been a branch activist or a rank-and-file participant in the party here and the result of the rank-and-file ballot proves it.

Branch members wanted a non-politician as their candidate.

Her arrogant assumption that she was the best candidate because she is the mayor says it all.

The last mayor who thought that was Campbell Newman.

And that ended well, didn't it?

Margaret should get on with what she was elected to do and keep away from the sour grapes and let the chosen Labor candidate get on with his campaign.

- Robert Schwarten

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