Disgruntled firefighter Geoff Barker might have lost his legal fight against Victorian Labor but is claiming a victory for exposing his own party’s “internal factional power-broking”.
Mr Barker was told by Supreme Court justice Maree Kennedy on Thursday that he had lost his bid to overthrow the preselection of fellow Labor member and incumbent state MP Jane Garrett, who is seeking a move from the lower house to a safe legislative council vacancy.
“Unfortunately I did not succeed in my quest to have nominations re-opened, but I hope that the ALP Victoria Branch will consider reviewing the selection processes now that I have ventilated the impact of internal factional power-broking within the ALP,” Mr Barker said in a statement after the court ruling.
The decision means Ms Garrett, the former emergency services minister, is free to continue campaigning for a new seat at next month’s state election.
In an expedited trial Mr Barker tried to sue the state branch of the ALP, claiming it operated outside party rules in preselecting Ms Garrett for the upper house Eastern Victoria electorate vacancy.
She is leaving her lower house seat, which is under attack from the Greens.
“Jane’s going to be a fantastic member of the upper house and continue the really important contributions she’s made as the member for Brunswick and I wish her well,” Premier Daniel Andrews said after the decision.
Ms Garrett said she was pleased with the outcome and grateful for the support she received.
Nominations for the November 24 election close in two weeks and the party had argued starting preselection again would leave them with a “headless ticket” in a critical pre-poll period.
Despite the looming deadline, Mr Barker has told party members he is discussing appeal options with his lawyers.
He is a member of the United Firefighters Union which has a tumultuous history with Ms Garrett stemming from a protracted and nasty fight over new pay deals.
Ms Garrett’s preselection emerged after the current member for Eastern Victoria, Daniel Mulino, became a candidate for the new federal seat of Fraser.
Mr Barker claimed the party was wrong in following rules to withdraw endorsement for Mr Mulino in Eastern Victoria, because the party’s endorsement of him continued more generally.
But Justice Kennedy rejected the argument, saying she didn’t believe a person’s viability as a candidate was “all or nothing”.
Mr Barker had also argued a resolution to re-open preselection to replace Mr Mulino didn’t have support of 75 per cent of party members present at an August meeting, but Justice Kennedy wasn’t satisfied the majority had to be so high.
Mr Barker was ordered to pay Labor’s legal costs.