Labor heavyweight Morris Iemma is accusing his party's leadership of conning the electorate after the NSW opposition moved to shut down preselection races in three state seats.
The former premier launched the broadside against Labor leader John Robertson after he sought federal intervention to parachute Punchbowl High School principal Jihad Dib into the western Sydney seat of Lakemba.
Mr Robertson has also asked Labor's national executive to intervene in Shellharbour to protect sitting ALP member Anna Watson and call off a preselection battle in the Liberal seat of Gosford.
Mr Iemma described the move as a blow for transparency and warned of a backlash from the Lakemba community.
He said the move also contradicted Mr Robertson's party reforms, which aimed to give more voting power to rank-and-file Labor members.
"The history of these sort of interventions reveal that there is a backlash electorally and a demoralisation of the party membership," he told ABC radio on Friday.
"It's just lip service, fancy window dressing to con the public."
He also accused Mr Robertson of a stitch-up with the Lebanese Muslim Association to secure Mr Dib in the position.
Mr Robertson's intervention is crucial in securing Mr Dib's chances of preselection because the high school principal was not expected to garner the support of grassroots Labor members in the seat.
Two seats on the Central Coast have also been taken over by head office, with former federal MP Belinda Neal being locked out of the Gosford race against Kathy Smith.
An ALP spokesman said the party did not want a bitter battle, but Ms Neal has stated it should be up to the rank-and-file members, not the party executive.
"It should be who will stand up for the Central Coast in the best manner possible and who the ALP locally will support and this always done through a rank-and-file preselection."
Mr Robertson justified the actions as political necessities.
"The upcoming NSW election will be the most important Labor has faced for many years," he said in a statement.
"As Labor leader I want the best candidates at the next election to fight the Liberals' radical agenda."