Former Health Services Union official Kimberley Kitching will replace Labor veteran senator Stephen Conroy in Canberra, after winning a factional brawl that engulfed the Victorian Right of the party.
Eight women put up their hands to take the Victorian Senate seat vacated by Mr Conroy. No men nominated.
The frontrunners were Ms Kitching and company director Diana Taylor.
Ms Kitching’s position was made official in a vote of the Victorian ALP’s public office selection committee on Thursday night.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten held the most influence over who would win the seat in his home state.
Earlier, a source close to Mr Shorten said he did not have a candidate in the race, and that he had a high opinion of several contenders.
But several people involved in the battle for the seat told the ABC that Mr Shorten made it clear he backed Ms Kitching.
That dismayed many in the Victorian Right faction, who believed her links with the scandal-ridden HSU could damage the federal party.
Mr Shorten was facing off against several powerbrokers including Mr Conroy, defence spokesman Richard Marles, David Feeney and Kim Carr.
One Victorian Labor MP said there was “fierce resistance” to Ms Kitching in the Victorian branch.
Before the vote, another said MPs from both the Right and Left were “flabbergasted” that she was shaping up as the likely winner.
A third MP said the election of Ms Kitching would be a “disaster”.
The ABC has been told Mr Conroy was backing Ms Taylor, as well as Maribyrnong councillor Sarah Carter.
Mr Conroy’s office declined to comment when approached by the ABC.
The Transport Workers Union (TWU) has traditionally been part of Mr Conroy’s powerbase and was backing Ms Taylor.
But the ABC has been told it swung behind Ms Kitching.
The other nominees were Jacinta Ermacora, Wesa Chau, Julia Mason, Emma Henderson and Denise Allen.