The deputy mayor of South Sydney, Peter Furness, has left the Australian Democrats to join the Australian Labor Party.

A Democrats member since 1998, Furness sat on the party’s national and state executives and was the number two Legislative Council candidate at the recent state election. Prior to his involvement with the Democrats, he was an ALP member for three years.

It is with some sadness that I observe the demise of the Australian Democrats, but following the recent state election and probably before then, the party has undeniably ceased to be a viable political force, Furness said.

As an elected public office holder, I do not wish to continue expending my efforts building a party whose future I simply cannot see.

Furness told Sydney Star Observer that he had been considering the move for several months and that he knew he was not going to be elected in last month’s state poll.

When the timeworn political clich?bout rats and sinking ships was put to Furness, he replied: It is a sinking ship. I take no pleasure in that.

The poor electoral performance of the Democrats at the state election -“ they registered only 1.5 percent of the primary vote -“ was a sign that it’s time to pack bags and go home, he commented.

I do not believe the Labor Party is perfect. I do believe, however, that the ALP is the best vehicle available to me and others for the pursuit of progressive politics, Furness said.

Furness’s defection to Labor is a blow for the Democrats, who exulted in his election to South Sydney Council in 2000 -“ a first for the party at the time.

Democrats senator Brian Greig told the Star that Furness’s election in 2000 was a great morale booster for the party.

Greig said he was saddened by Furness’s defection.

He’s been a great councillor for our party and for its visibility in the community, he said. While I wish him well with his new path, I fear he will find his passion for progressive change is frustrated by the factional and conservative reality of the NSW ALP, particularly on GLBT issues.

A former ALP member himself, Greig commented: I know what kind of a beast it is and how tribal they can be.

But Furness’s defection was welcomed by the mayor of South Sydney, Tony Pooley -“ despite the fact that it was Furness’s vote that kept the ALP out of the South Sydney mayoralty for two years.

Liberal councillor Shayne Mallard was less salutary. He called upon Furness to resign from Council.

Peter Furness was elected to South Sydney Council on a very strong anti-Labor ticket, Mallard argued.

Furness owes it to the thousands in the community who supported his anti-Labor platform to now resign from the Council. He has to be called to account for his treachery, hypocrisy and betrayal of the community who elected him to Council to keep Labor from absolute power.

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