If you thought the fight for supremacy of the Victorian Liberal Party was over, think again. Kennett supporter and the conceiver of the fatal jeff.com.au strategy, Gil Hoskins, has nominated to be Treasurer of the Victorian branch and we hear Peter Costello isnt happy about it
If you thought the fight for supremacy of the Victorian Liberal party was over, think again. Kennett supporter and the conceiver of the fatal jeff.com.au strategy, Gil Hoskins, has nominated to be Treasurer of the Victorian branch and we hear Peter Costello is not happy about it.

Hoskins is a colorful character by any stretch of the imagination. His friendship with Kennett goes back to their mutual interest in the Hawthorn Football Club where Hoskins was a director and Kennett a high profile supporter. Hoskins and Kennett are both self-made men who rose to the top in controversial style and were never really part of the establishment.

Gil took over as chief executive of National Mutual when it was in a parlous state following the bloody market share battle with AMP in the 1980’s where both outfits bled thanks to their risky capital guaranteed policies and drive to sew up the lucrative advisor market. NatMut’s establishment chairman Athol Lapthorne eventually sent him packing with a $3 million payout in 1993. This was after Paul Keating blocked the planned merger with ANZ in 1991 which was in fact an expensive rescue of National Mutual by that Khan like ANZ CEO Will Bailey and his surprisingly like-minded board.

After a few quiet years, Gil has substantially rebuilt his reputation with a series of staggeringly smart and aggressive deals that have created a paper fortune worth almost $200 million thanks to entrepreneurial plays in Challenger International, Sausage Software and now Bourse Data.

As Sausage Software chairman it was his idea to run the jeff.com.au strategy and he told Sausage shareholders at last year’s AGM that it had not been good for Jeffrey’s electoral performance but at least had promoted the new and expanding Sausage Interactive website development business.

So why would Gil want to bother being Victorian Treasurer of the Liberal Party? The answer lies in the precedent of Graeme Samuel, the consummate networker who used the same post 10 years ago to get access to Melbourne’s most powerful boardrooms.

Gil wants to be accepted back by the same establishment that gave him the boot. As a $200 million man, he could also position himself to be the new Ron Walker, the new benefactor of the Liberal Party. Word on the street is that Peter Costello is backing the other nominee for the position who is a low-profile former Howard staffer turned accountant. However, Hoskins is expected to win quite comfortably unless Costello and Kroger pull out all stops.

Whether this battle reignites previous acrimony between Kennett and Costello will be interesting to watch. As chairman of the rejuventated and rapidly expanding Sausage Software, Hoskins is quite a powerful figure around town so Costello, a man who has never lacked the nerve for a fight, might be reluctant to take him on.

Hoskins would be an interesting Treasurer. In recent years he has turned his hand to the property development game and enjoyed the liberal planning laws under the Kennett government which allowed him to get up a couple of large apartment developments up in Melbourne.

You have to look no further than Ron Walker for a precedent in which a Liberal Party officer bearer has benefitted from decisions by a Liberal government. Ron has raised about $100 million over almost 10 years as Federal Treasurer and watched his Hudson Conway shares rocket from $2.85 to a high of $18 on the back of the Victorian casino contract. At one stage he was more than $100 million in front but the final figure is about $50 million. However, much of this is because of the internet bubble in PBL’s share price. Crown shareholders have been on this ride since accepting PBL’s paper in a $1.8 billion takeover offer last year.

At one stage when his HudCon shares were riding high, Ron even personally took over a $4 million debt owed by the Liberal Party to the National Australia Bank. With Gil being worth $200 million on paper, could he be positioning himself to replace Ron and become a major benefactor to the party in the future. Stay tuned for developments.

Peter Fray

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