You won’t read this sort of detail on Liberal infighting anywhere else as a new contributor pulls together all of the jockeying ahead of the Young Liberal Movement January convention. And there are some very interesting responses published from some of the players at the bottom.

Manoeuvring for senior positions of the Young Liberal Movement to be contested at the January Annual Convention of the Movement are under way in earnest. The outcome this year has implications for both the senior body of the party and the parliamentary party. Hence the very considerable interest taken in the contest by both senior organisational and parliamentary members.

The three candidates for Federal President of the Movement are Grant Muller, the Queensland State President from the right faction, Daniel Clode, the current Federal Vice President and previous President of the ACT also from the right and Conrad Xanthos, President of the Victorian Division from the left faction.

Muller has previously worked for Michael Kroger, Clode is a former staffer of Peter Reith and Xanthos was employed by Victorian State Member of Parliament, David Davis.

The significance of Muller and Clode both standing from the right is that Muller has climbed between the sheets with Tony Chappell, a former New South Wales State President and left faction leader. Muller is running Chappell as his Vice President.

Chappell stood unsuccessfully last year for the federal presidency as head of the left ticket. Ironically, the right who demonised Chappell amongst its own last year, used his “left wing views” at the club to beat him to death amongst the undecided and swinging voters.

At the moment Muller will receive all of the South Australian and Queensland votes and the majority of the New South Wales votes. Clode can be sure of the ACT votes and Xanthos will receive the majority of the votes from Victoria and Tasmania. Western Australia is uncommitted however they would in normal circumstances support Clode having been instrumental in his election last year to the vice presidency.

The complication in all this is that for an obscure reason, Tasmania has been disqualified although that is now subject to appeal. On these figures Muller and Chappell have a slight edge. It will finally depend on the will of Western Australia and the fate of Tasmania.

The consequence of this unholy cohabitation is that Muller has split the right and Chappell has split the left. One might well ask for what good reason have these two young leaders of opposing factions betrayed their own.

The answer is to be found in the federal parliamentary Liberal Party. The unstated but undeniable strain between Costello and Howard is clearly surfacing in the Liberal Party organisation ahead of the parliamentary party. The Young Liberal Convention is a precursor to the Federal Council of the Liberal Party in April.

Not surprisingly, it is the left faction which has put the deal together and it is the left that is primarily driving it. The right could have won the presidency without the left however the left could not have won the vice presidency without the right. Clode and sections of the right are particularly angry with Muller for what they see as self indulgent treachery.

A principle driving force behind the Muller/Chappell alliance is South Australian Federal Member Christopher Pyne, a leading member of the left faction and Costello supporter. Pyne is an energetic activist in party affairs who first gained his seat of Sturt by using the Young Liberals to stack out the branches and dump the popular sitting Liberal member, Ian (Curly) Wilson.

Pyne is bitterly disappointed at being passed over by Howard for the ministry which he puts down to punishment for being aligned with Costello. Pyne and his cohorts do not intend to languish on the back bench while Howard either contests the next election or resigns late into the term having concluded that government is to be lost to Labor.

Pyne has enlisted the support of his factional parliamentary party colleagues, in particular Bruce Baird from New South Wales and Julie Bishop from Western Australia, both of whom also nurse the unswerving view that the public has been denied undoubted talent by Howard for factional reasons.

Baird has some influence amongst the New South Wales Young Liberals but Bishop has none with the Western Australian Young Liberals. So poor is her standing in the Liberal Party in WA following the debacle of her dalliance with State politics during her last term, it is likely Bishop would have been dumped from Curtin had she been opposed for pre-selection this time around.

From the right, Michael Kroger, Muller’s former employer is enthusiastically backing Muller and his ticket as is Queensland Senator Brett Mason who won his Senate preselection at the expense of sitting Liberal, Senator David McGibbon.

If Muller and Chappell are successful, not only will it cement for Costello a broader base both in the federal parliamentary party and the organisation, it will deliver him two important votes and voices at Federal Executive where he is already the beneficiary of Howard’s ill will in both the Queensland and Western Australian lay organisations.

There is considerable speculation that Kroger is contemplating standing against Shane Stone for the Liberal Party Presidency. Costello is still furious about the “Stone memo” and would be happy to see Stone dumped, not the least by his mentor.

Howard of all people knows the great advantage of having the Federal President on side and certainly one that can be controlled. Howard hand picked Shane Stone having previously had the considerable benefit of Tony Staley. Both these men contrast vividly with the two Federal Presidents Howard endured during his time as Leader of the Opposition between 1985 and 1989.

Howard, stung by the rejection of Bob Tucker, his favoured candidate for the Ryan preselection in Queensland, and despairing of the shambles in Western Australia, is determined to ensure that the forthcoming Federal Council of the Party gives the Federal Executive wide State intervention powers.

Paradoxically, Kroger while Victorian State President centralised control over its preselections and later drove the 1994 Federal Council reforms during Alexander Downer’s Leadership, which now give the federal body some powers of intervention.


Feedback from one of the players


There were a few bits and pieces in the story you carried that were not particularly correct. Here’s a slightly more detailed breakdown of the votes at the YL National Convention.

Each division has 6 votes – 5 elected Federal Council delegates, and 1 State President. In addition, the incumbent federal President and Vice-President vote. NSW, SA, QLD, ACT, WA, VIC are all certainly eligible to vote. Tasmanian might or might not be, because their form was not sent in by their State Director to the Federal Secretariat in time. The Tasmanian YLs would support the anti-Costello campaigners, and given that their State Director is nominally a Costello supporter, this is very interesting.

There will be two significant tickets – Grant Muller (President) and Tony Chappell (Vice-President) against Daniel Clode (President) and Conrad Xanthos (Vice-President). Both positions have voting rights at Federal Executive.

All 6 of South Australia’s delegates will vote for Muller and Chappell, thanks to some heavy phone calls from Christopher Pyne. 5 of the NSW Delegates will vote for Muller and Chappell (they would have expected 6, but Kyle “Butter Fingers” Kutasi took a bunch of votes to the other side at their recent AGM), with self-proclaimed next NSW YL President, Adla Abraham (not and never the girlfriend of Michael Kroger’s paid fix-it man Jason Aldworth as this emailer first claimed) bullying the others into submission. 5 of the Queensland delegates will vote for Muller and Chappell, the 6th being a particularly homophobic redneck who would not like to see Tony Chappell as Vice-President and is pissed off with Muller for supporting him.

Western Australia and the ACT will both send all 6 of their delegates to vote for Clode and Xanthos. Victoria has 4 of their 6 voting for Clode and Xanthos too. 1 from NSW (the right-winger) and the lone Queenslander will also vote for Clode and Xanthos.

So far, that is 16 for Muller & Chappell, and 17 for Clode & Xanthos. The ex-officio votes will split one each (Paynter will vote for his Queensland friend, and Clode will vote for himself). The remaining two Victorian votes, Liz Hassett and Brooke Dellios also lean towards Muller and Chappell, but dislike Chappell and Muller for ensuring that their former boyfriend, James Matheson was defeated last year. On the other hand, Xanthos (who knocked off a Costello staffer for a position on the Menzies Electorate Council a few years ago) has ensured that neither will hold any positions of significance within the Victorian Division of the YLM. This leaves the votes at 19 for M&C, and 18 for C&X.

If the Tasmanians are permitted to vote, it makes the whole result elementary, because they’ll vote as a block for Clode and Xanthos, giving them an easy majority.

Cheers, Name Withheld

Correcting a couple of points

While I enjoyed a whole article about the Young Libs I feel that your ‘secret’ correspondant’s credentials do fail somehow when they claim Conrad Xanthos used to be employed by David Davis. This is simply not true, Conrad did however work for Nick Kotsiras, MLA for Bulleen.

Not only that but Tony Chappel didn’t run for Prez earlier this year, he ran for Vice.

Name Withheld

This Chappel loves John Howard

Hi Stephen

It’s not enough for Hillary Brae (sic) to allege that I scored an invitation to the Michael Photios wedding when I did not get the selector’s nod for that particular political gathering, but now I am anonymously accused of putting together an anti PM deal in the Federal Young Liberals.

Let me state for your anonymous author’s benefit that I regard John Howard as the most successful Liberal Prime Minister after Menzies, and when one takes into account current political and global circumstances, perhaps even more successful than Menzies. It is Howard who has set the political agenda more effectively than any PM in my memory and I was honoured to host a dinner for him last year to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Young Liberal branch he founded. He enjoys my total support.

Best wishes, Tony Chappel

CRIKEY: Sometimes we question whether to cover the Young Liberals given the type of material that comes in. A lot of it is childish finger-pointing and other stuff that we haven’t published is just plain crap. If you want to run your petty games through Crikey then lift your game a bit. And if something is wrong, then please get in touch pronto.