Ferguson Left

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Ferguson Left (Soft Left)
Leader

Laurie Ferguson (New South Wales)

Kim Carr (Victoria)
Youth wing Active in NSW Young Labor
Ideology Democratic Socialist
Political position Left-wing
Colours      Red

The Ferguson Left (more commonly known as the "Soft Left") is a political subfaction within the Australian Labor Party.[1] It was founded by Martin Ferguson, a former president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU). The Ferguson Left only exists in the New South Wales and Victorian branches of the party.

In New South Wales, the Ferguson Left is a sub-faction within the New South Wales Socialist Left faction. It has been traditionally led by Martin Ferguson's brother, Laurie Ferguson. It has the support of the construction and general division of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union and the smaller Plumbing Trades Employees Union. Its membership base is centred across South-western Sydney and Parramatta, including the federal electorates of Banks, Hughes, Werriwa, Fowler, Parramatta and Reid as well as the state electorates of Liverpool, Holsworthy, East Hills, Granville, Parramatta and Seven Hills. Its membership base is also strong in Newcastle, including the federal electorates of Newcastle and Shortland and the state electorates of Newcastle and Wallsend.

The Soft Left was the dominant group on the Steering Committee in New South Wales until March 1989, when the Soft Left's Jan Burnswoods was defeated by the Hard Left's Anthony Albanese in an internal faction ballot for the leading position of Assistant General Secretary of the New South Wales Labor Party.[2] The new Hard Left majority changed the name of the faction to the Socialist Left in November 1989, and in response the Soft Left split and formed a short-lived faction aligned with the Labor Right until it was forced to dissolve eight months later.[3] Following Martin Ferguson's move to Melbourne to become ACTU president, the Soft Left in both New South Wales and Victoria were renamed the Ferguson Left. The large union United Voice supported the Soft Left until 2010, when it joined the Hard Left after a change of leadership and this has likely contributed to a decline in their vote at conference.[4] The Ferguson Left accounts for roughly 40% of the Socialist Left faction in New South Wales.

Similar to the Hard Left and Soft Left in the United Kingdom, the Ferguson Left is the descendent of the original left faction in New South Wales and Victoria. Elements linked to left wing movements and certain unions became the Hard Left in those two states. Eventually they took control of the wider Socialist Left faction, with the Ferguson Left becoming a significant sub faction.

In New South Wales; despite the retirement of Laurie Ferguson from the federal parliament, he continues to lead the Ferguson Left in that state.

In Victoria, the Ferguson Left is a sub-faction within the Victorian Socialist Left. It was led by Martin Ferguson until his retirement from parliament in 2013 and is led by federal senator Kim Carr. It has a large influence through its control of a portion of the left wing unions in Victoria.

The Ferguson Left reunified at the New South Wales, Victorian and national levels with the Socialist Left, after the retirement of both its key powerbrokers Martin Ferguson and Laurie Ferguson and its diminishing size and influence.[5] It still holds important influence in New South Wales and Victoria as a subfaction.

In the Australian Labor Party leadership spill, October 2013 the support of the Ferguson Left for the Labor Right's Bill Shorten proved crucial to his victory over the National Left's candidate Anthony Albanese.[6]

The Ferguson Left shifted votes in caucus to Labor Right's Bill Shorten to have him elected leader in the 2013 Australian Labor Party leadership election over Anthony Albanese. The slim majority Bill Shorten received in caucus, as a result of the small number of Ferguson Left votes, overpowered the rank-and-file who voted 60% for Anthony Albanese.[7]

This occurred in the lead up to the 2015 Australian Labor Party National Conference, at which the Labor Right faction had lost its majority for the first since in 1984.[8]

Federal members include Kim Carr, Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union National Secretary Michael O'Connor,[9] Maria Vamvakinou, Warren Snowdon and Brendan O'Connor. Past federal members included Martin Ferguson, Laurie Ferguson, Daryl Melham and Julia Gillard. It is now strongest at the state levels.

At the 2015 Australian Labor Party National Conference former Ferguson Left powerbroker Martin Ferguson was roundly condemned by the labour movement and a motion was carried condemning him[10] for comments he'd made that they believe had damaged the party[11] since retiring from parliament. He is no longer considered part of the Soft Left.

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