Another great column from Crikey’s greatest asset, the mysterious boy-girl Hillary Bray.
Wasn’t it wonderful to see Australia’s king of spin back in action last week? No, not that oaf Warne, but Peter Beattie.
When Mike Kaiser fell on his sword, you might have thought Pete had planned it all. Beattie spun the Sheppardson Inquiry masterfully, turning scandal into virtue.
Have a look a couple of Beattie’s lines on Kaiser: “I am deeply concerned about what has happened”, “I think the people of Woodridge deserve better. People of Woodridge should quite rightly be disappointed.”
On the Inquiry as a whole, Beattie has said that he – not Sheppardson – will continue to expose “bad apples”. He says the election will be “bloody tough” – but that he “will continue to clean out rorters” no matter “how many people are involved”.
Beattie’s decision to tour Queensland for three weeks asking voters whether he should call a snap poll to end political instability caused by the electoral rorts scandal is even better. He’s said that he would serve a full electoral term in return for the support of Nicklin Independent Peter Wellington to form a minority government back in 98, that conditions have changed but that he is still reluctant to go back on a promise without consultation. “I am a man of my word. I want to know what people think.” Talk about holding your nerve!
But best of all is Beattie’s line on the option facing voters: “It’s a choice between a Labor majority government with me as premier of a stable government, or chaos. If Rob Borbidge is premier he will lead a Coalition of Liberals, Nationals, One Nation, City Country Alliance MPs and Independents. It’s Labor or a ragtag Coalition. It’s that simple.”
Blunt and beautiful – and, Goddam, he’s getting away with it. Wanna know why? Read on.
With friends like that
The Queensland opposition is a disaster zone. Rob Borbidge has finally wised up and said he won’t go into government backed by One Nation or City Country Alliance -three years after the metro Libs were wiped out when the Coalition played footsies with the fascists in the 98 poll.
Not only is their constant tension between the Coalition partners. All the internal brawls keep turning public – and the Libs are about to embark on the mother of all shitfights for preselection in the prized seat of Ryan as John Moore’s parting gift to the Rodent.
Unlike the born again Beattie, who now gets to hand pick his new candidates, the poor David Watson will have sit and watch a motley crew of wannabes who are already trading insults in what is shaping up to be a bruising encounter. And Watson won’t just have the Ryan preselection to sit through. There’s more fun to come finding a replacement for Kathy Sullivan in Montcrief and a candidate who can woo the affections of the voters of Dickson away from Cheryl Kernot.
Hillary’s been up early out trackside with the field glasses and a flask of coffee with a belt of brandy and can now bring you the ultimate Queensland Liberal preselection form guide.
First in the barriers is David Fraser, failed Senate aspirant and former staffer to everyone, who has been putting his name around to test the waters. He may even manage to attract more than the 14 per cent support he garnered in the Senate preselection against George “Washington” Brandis. Fraser is short of a job and being Member for Ryan has got to be more fun than mutual obligation.
Next is Astrid Vallati. Although Vallati is from the heart of the Tucker camp in the Kenmore branch, he is unlikely to attract significant support, with David Fraser likely to capture Kenmore branch support. Vallati is attempting to punch holes in Rob Sale’s candidature by phoning members and telling them Sale has only been in the Party for six months and lives outside the electorate. Still, as the owner of a chutney factory, Vallati is well placed to understand what a pickle the Queensland Libs are in. (Editor’s note: nice line HB)
Also running is Bruce Flegg, a long time ally of John Moore, a failed candidate for Dickson in 1993 and a GP from Caboolture, north of Brisbane. There are questions as to how genuine Flegg’s candidature is, with many fearing Flegg may well turn out to be the stalking horse and hit-man for a more serious candidate.
Ian Runge is chairman of David Fraser’s branch of Ironside and likely to split the branch vote. He has already fired a salvo at Michael Johnson by sending out a letter to party members pointing out that he lives at home with his mother. Was going to run for Dickson until the greener pastures of Ryan came up for grabs.
Rob Sale is the John Moore candidate for Ryan. If Rob is hoping to benefit from Moore’s years of assiduous visits to branch meetings, he will be in real trouble.
Matt Boland is a party VP but handicapped by some of his nut-bar views. Boland is backed by arch Tucker rival, Bob Carroll – although, ironically, it was Tucker who backed Boland to take over the Queensland Young Liberals, starting his rise. Bagging John Moore to the Courier Mail then asking “Oh, was that on the record?” may not have helped him, either.
Hillary knows it sounds like Lazarus with a triple bypass – and deep vein thrombosis – but rumours persist that former party president, Bob Tucker, will attempt to rise up and snatch preselection from the jaws of organisational defeat. With Tucker running, and his camp having the largest block of numbers in Ryan, you can expect him to top the primaries.
The big question will be whether the Carrollites will have the stomach to back him over Michael Johnson. Hatreds run deep in Queensland, and a Tucker candidacy would probably translate into a Johnson victory, if Johnson doesn’t manage to alienate the Carroll rank and file. Without Tucker to draw out the troops, the Tuckerites run the risk of running third and being left with their own difficult choice.
And, finally, there’s the boy wonder, Michael Johnson. Johnson is a paranoid figure these days – and for very good reasons. His allies are few and his enemies are many – including John Moore, Con Galtos, Shane Stone, Lynton Crosby and even the little fella himself. His first lobby letter to Ryan members bombed out, despite enclosing a courtesy acknowledgment letter addressed to him from John Howard after the 1996 election to prove his “unequivocal loyalty to the Liberal Party”. Unfortunately for him, the local preselectors appear to be familiar with the words “form letter”.
Despite Johnson’s amateur hour performance, his supporters maintain he is a clever guy and point to his education at an elite international institution (Cambridge) as proof. Obviously, they have never heard of Warwick Fairfax. However, with a cult-like following from his largely apolitical ethnic support base, he will always be a serious contender.
The local favourite to replace Kathy Sullivan seems to be Brett Mason staffer and former Queensland Young Liberal President Steven Ciobo – despite falling into the “marginal nutter” category. His supporters say that his time in Mason’s office has left him matured and moderated his views to a more acceptable level – and he’s been able to make himself known as a local branch member for nearly a decade.
Ian Solomon, head of the Southport branch and Chair of the Southport Chamber of Commerce is the wild card in Montrief – he has no factional support but has managed to put nearly a hundred people into the local branches over the past 18 months. This will be Solomon’s second tilt at a seat – he bombed in the McPherson preselection in 1998 losing to star government performer Margaret May (even Hillary hadn’t heard of her, but she’s there on Page 63 of the Howard Government Directory).
The big boys, however, are smiling on solicitor and Surfers Paradise branch president Michael Yarwood, who recently transferred into the seat from McPherson. Yarwood joined the Party a month after Kathy Sullivan announced her intention to retire in June 1998 and comes from a long line of National Party activists. He is close to many of the key National Party identities on the Coast and the Gold Coast Bulletin has even recently touted Yarwood as a future National Party MP. Strange.
Yarwood is backed by Tucker’s Gold Coast proxies including former electorate committee chair, John Mason – who has recruited his friend and business partner Con Galtos to the Yarwood cause. Galtos has lobbied the PM’s office and Lynton Crosby to smooth the path for Yarwood’s preselection.
One person who has been listening to this is federal director Lynton Crosby, who seems keen to help Yarwood out. The fed sec is running a Campaign Summer School this month, and when the successful applicants were announced a few months back not a single Queenslander was invited. Crosby has since intervened by personally extending an invitation to Yarwood apparently telling him that it would be good for him in the lead up to the preselection.
Sitting member Kathy Sullivan also appears to back Yarwood out of necessity as she refuses to back Ciobo and is even more determined not to see Solomon win the preselection.
There other candidates drifting around, too. Ray Stevens, a former mayor of the Albert Shire Council, and a new member of the Liberal Party, is ostensibly unemployed and looking for a seat somewhere – anywhere.
Former television “personality” on the long forgotten kids TV program Wombat Bob La Castra, a Gold Coast City Councillor who made a bid for McPherson in 98 has thrown his hat in the ring – but Agro has a better chance of winning.
Of course, there’s the obligatory former swim star being talked about – one time freestyle champ Andrew Baildon. Given that Baildon has no political experience, no numbers – plus speculation that his father and Gold Coast Mayor Gary Baildon may be running for Moncrieff for the Nats – the rumours are even more ludicrous than the “Kieren Perkins for Ryan” story.
And then there’s Dickson:
Preselection for the northern Brisbane seat of Dickson has been set for January 30. Nominations have closed with five candidates putting their hand up to take on the Gold Coast’s own Cheryl Kernot.
Deputy Mayor of Pine Rivers Brian Galvin is the PM’s choice, but Galvin’s chances are slim – he has achieved the rare feat of making enemies out of both the Tucker and Carroll camps.
The front runner is local child-care centre owner and resident Peter Dutton, Galvin will come second and Roger McGuire, a staffer to George Washington will take the third spot.
Just how thick are the New South Wales Democrats? The dumb bastards have almost put themselves out of business, left poor Arthur Chesterfield-Sofa out in the cold and buggerising their federal campaign – by stuffing up their party registration.
Changes to electoral law in NSW required all parties to lodge 750 membership declarations by 31 Dec 2000 in order for them to remain registered. All the parties supported the reforms to the registration rules following the outcry over the tablecloth ballot paper in the NSW 1999 election.
The parties wrote to their members, asking them to fill out a declaration form (as instructed by the party office), so they could then lodge the forms with the NSW Electoral Commission. Seems pretty vanilla? Well, not for the Birkenstock brigade.
The NSW Democrats lodged the “completed” forms with the Electoral Commission on Tuesday 19 December. Unfortunately, though, it seems that they instructed their members to write the name of their party as “Australian Democrats” rather than “Australian Democrats (NSW Division)”. Quite correctly, the NSWEC did not accept those forms. In fact, they were declared invalid.
Understandably, the NSW Democrats were a bit put out. Divisional president Margaret Ferrara urgently wrote a generic letter to all of their NSW members, pleading with them to resubmit the forms. She described the NSWEC’s decision as “unbelievable”, and warned that if they failed to get the forms in to the NSWEC by 31 Dec, the New South Wales Dems would lose their registration. She optimistically signed off the letter “Thank you for your understanding and for your patience”.
In early January, Margaret Ferrara wrote back again to members (this time with a personal salutation) noting that the NSWEC had granted them a “short additional grace period to complete registration”. As at 3 Jan 2001 they had collected “only a little over two thirds of the forms we need to register”.
Hillary just hopes that the NSW Democrats are very careful in their urgency to get the forms in. No John Cherry style contamination, now, boys & girls!!
After all, it would be truly shocking to find that the Branch who stood up to the might of Mystic Meg against the GST should fall on its own limp sword in such a pathetic manner. Truly it would. Truly ruly.
The Confessions of Tony Abbott
What religious order does the Mad Monk belong to? Finally, the answer is clear. He’s an Augustinian friar. How do we know? His life is a prayer – a variation of Saint Augustine’s famous prayer “Lord, make me virtuous – but not yet”.
The only difference is that Tone’s updated the prayer to “Lord, make me inclusive – but not yet”, as his performance at the Howard Youth convention showed.
He told the young stormtroopers that relations between conservatives and liberals in the party are a “generally happy marriage” and “a source of vitality and political strength”, claiming “a Liberal Party which is liberal conservative should have more to offer a wider range of voters than a Liberal Party which is just liberal.”
Then he hit the phones – in the cause of unity – to f*ck over the left – or, to be precise, his fellow New South Wales Liberal Senator Marise Payne.
If the little Libs elected NSW Young Lib Tony Chappell as their VP, under the state party’s constitution that would be one more vote for Marise against Helen Coonan “the Barbarian”. The Monk wasn’t alone in opposing this. Ho Chi Minchin and the Barbarian herself joined in the calls to Young Lib delegates. Also rung was Queensland powerbroker Santo Santoro, who, reluctantly, after much badgering, ordered his troops to voter for Wreath staffer Daniel Clode rather than the Costello friendly Chappell.
Yes, indeed. Lord, make me inclusive – but not yet.
It’s a pity the Monk entered Holy Orders, as it is clear he missed his true vocation. He’s a wonderful actor. Senior commentators like the Fin’s Tony Walker and Ian Henderson of the Oz have been completely fooled – going by the crap they’ve churned out since.
The incredible shrinking ministerial office
Retention rates have dropped lower still in the office of New South Wales Education Minister John Aquilina – Hillary hears that yet another pressie walked last week.
Just a warning – animal lovers (and pigeon fanciers in particular), don’t click on this link – http://www.geocities.com/ptradams.geo/Waters.htm
Right and wrong
Ten days after it first appeared in Crikey, the Sydney Boring Herald has reported that Malcolm Turnbull may run for Liberal preselection in the blue ribbon seat of Wentworth. Good to see they’re on the ball.
Wentworth FEC president Sally Betts, however, says Hillary is wrong to claim that she’s backing the Big T and writes “I have not discussed Malcolm Turnbull running for Wentworth with anyone and I certainly do not support his candidature. My lack of support for him is not personal – it is based on the fact that the Constitution of the Liberal Party clearly states that potential candidates should have belonged to the Party for a minimum of six months. I do not see any extraordinary reasons why this ruling should be waived for Mr. Turnbull.”
Hillary Bray can be contacted at [email protected]