Labor Right

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The Labor Right, or Labor Unity in some State branches, or Centre Unity in NSW and Victoria, or Labor Forum in Queensland, is the organised right-wing faction of the Australian Labor Party (ALP) that tends to be more economically liberal and socially conservative than the Labor Left faction.

Nationally, the Right is a broad alliance of the various Right state groupings. Each state may have one or two different sub-factions, generally the right and centre leaning factions of each state branch.

State branches[edit]

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 centrist Australian Workers' Union and Transport Workers Union as well as the socially conservative Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association. These unions send factionally aligned delegates to conference, with delegates usually coming from the membership or administration of the union or from local branches their activists control.

The Right is currently the dominant faction in the Labor party. The Labor Right faction also holds a majority on the party's National Executive. The usual arrangement is that the federal leader of the 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. Most of the Labor state Premiers are associated with the Right; there are some exceptions, such as former Queensland Premier Anna Bligh, former NSW Premier Nathan Rees, former Tasmanian Premier Lara Giddings and current South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill all coming from their respective state Left factions.

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

New South Wales

  • Centre Unity


  • Labor Forum (AWU dominated faction consisting of the AWU, TWU and SDA unions)[1]
  • Labor Unity (NUW and PTEU)

Australian Capital Territory

  • Centre Coalition


  • Centre Unity (also referred to as the ShortCons, denoting the alliance between the power bases of former AWU National Secretary Bill Shorten and TWU-aligned Senator Stephen Conroy)[2]
  • Labor Unity (SDA)
  • Labor Action (NUW)

Western Australia

  • WA Labor Unity (formerly split into the New Right and Old Right)[3]

Northern Territory

  • NT Labor Unity

South Australia

  • Labor Unity SA

Political views[edit]

An overriding stated theme of Labor right wing governance is of balance between progressive social change and the need for sound 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. Labor socialists and Protestant conservatives alike have historically criticized the faction as beholden to papal authority. However, this has decreased since the 1970s with the gradual erosion of sectarianism in Australian politics.

The Right views itself as the more mainstream and fiscally responsible faction within Labor, the faction is most famous for its support of Third Way policies over Labor's traditional social democratic/democratic socialist policies, such as the economic rationalist policies of the Hawke and Keating governments, like floating the Australian Dollar in 1983, reductions in trade tariffs, taxation reforms, changing from centralised wage-fixing to enterprise bargaining, the privatisation of Qantas and Commonwealth Bank, and deregulating the banking system.

Youth Wing[edit]

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 Short/Cons (Centre Unity), the SDA (Labor Unity), and the NUW (Young Labor Action). The NSW Young Labor Right known as Young Centre Unity or simply the NSW Right is by far the largest Labor right youth faction.

Further reading[edit]

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.