Crikeyâ€™s writer-at-large speaks to sacked AMEP staffer Glenn Druery and gets it straight from the “preference whisperer’s” mouth.
Glenn Druery, the “preference whisperer”, has renewed his attacks on Keith Littler, Senator Ricky Muirâ€™s chief of staff, in the wake of Muirâ€™s sacking of staffer Peter Breen yesterday — saying Breen was sacked as a clearing out of anyone capable of offering independent advice to Muir. Druery says he himself was edged out by Littler because “I didnâ€™t watch my own back.”
Druery alleges that Breen was sacked not for taking a “sickie” or for an incident report on the behaviour of Muir staffer Keith Littler, but as a clean-out of any opposition to Littler and his wife, Sharon, who is also on Muirâ€™s payroll.
“Like many dictatorial regimes, they get rid of anyone with an IQ above that of a sweet potato,” Druery said of Littler. He argues that the sacking of both himself and Breen leaves Muir with a staff with no parliamentary expertise, three weeks before Senate resumes sitting to consider a wider range of budget and national security bills.
“Rickyâ€™s a good guy but heâ€™s very inexperienced, and he left school early. Heâ€™ll be fine in one, two, three years, but for the moment heâ€™s got people who canâ€™t read a bill — except a Telstra bill — donâ€™t know how parliament works. Theyâ€™re wandering around with no idea â€¦”
Druery had earlier made allegations that Littler had a scheme called “Plan Z” to take over the Victorian branch of the Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party and eventually replace Muir in the seat. However, Muir has said that he would have to “resign or die” to be replaced, and is not planning to do either.
“If this was Keithâ€™s plan,” Druery told Crikey, “heâ€™s overplayed it”. Because the Victorian branch of the AMEP has now dissolved, the issue of Senate succession, were Muir to resign, has now become murky. Adds Druery: “I donâ€™t think the branch would have passed an [Australian Electoral Commission] audit in any case. I donâ€™t think theyâ€™ve got anything like the membership numbers for party status.”
Druery alleges that Littler was at best negligent in allowing Muir to do an extended interview with Mike Willesee — which turned out to be something of a car crash, with the Senator having to take breaks from the interview, which were also filmed by the Willesee crew. “An inexperienced guy up against a tabloid TV master,” mused Druery. “It was only going to go one way.”
However, Druery himself, it has been suggested, alienated Muir by over organising him. “Glenn had Ricky going to meetings he didnâ€™t know anything about, interviews he wasnâ€™t aware of,” said one lobbyist who had been around the office. “It didnâ€™t go down well.”
Druery suggests that his own major error was to take his eye off the ball and be so exclusively devoted to Muirâ€™s needs that he didnâ€™t watch his back. “Itâ€™s like the plumber who always has the dripping tap. I didnâ€™t do my own strategising.”
Breen, for his part, told the ABC’sÂ AM that he had been sacked for taking a sick day, and after it was alleged that he had leaked an incident report to Parliament House, in which Littlerâ€™s behaviour was described as racist, sexist and bullying. It is also believed that a complaint by a female Liberal senator about Littlerâ€™s behaviour is included in the report. Breen told AM that Druery had leaked the report “and that was well known”. However, both thought that Muir would be in immediate serious difficulties without their experience.
Keith Littler responded toÂ Crikey with this comment: “Mr Drueryâ€™s allegations are completely false and defamatory.”
In a statement, Muir added: “It has been very upsetting to have to move two people on from my team. It was my decision to remove these people from my team. I now hope to rebuild my team and focus on the very important work of representing all Victorians and the motoring enthusiast community in the Senate.”