With the christmas/new years break well and truely behind her, Hillary has filed another cracker, SA Election, the Hanson factor and well know liar MP’s.

It’s been no secret for ages that One Nation Senator “Loopy” Len Harris is sick and wants – or needs – to step down – which begs the question of who the party would nominate as his replacement.

While Pauline is tied up preparing for court – and the registration of the Queensland divisions questionable – it’s generally thought that John “Kojak” Pasquarelli made sure One Nation’s federal registration as a party was done properly back in 1997.

The Senate would also give Pauline a handy platform to conduct her defence from – after all, there’s nothing like parliamentary privilege, win or lose.

It could well be that Pauline’s resignation as One Nation’s president is just the first step towards her new career.

Ready, set, go

At the time of writing, it looks virtually certain that South Australia’s party premier Karaoke Kid Kerin is about to call an election, with February 9 as the favourite date.

South Australia was plagued by blackouts in February and March last year when a record heatwave smothered the state – and, naturally, this was blamed by various geniuses on electricity privatisation rather than generation capacity. A new generator has since come on line and nation electricity marketer NEMCO says summer power are looking better for the state. It makes sense for Kerin to get the election out of the way before the really hot weather begins – just in case.

Buffy has announced his resignation, which gets him out of the way, and the Libs have scored well in a recent Newspoll and a survey taken by the Advertiser last week.

Both of these polls show the Democrat vote well down as well, cruelling Labor’s preference hopes.

Why don’t you give me a call?

The South Australian Labor Party might like to follow this reader’s suggestion up quick smart:

“Why don’t you guys get some dirt on (DELETED SENIOR LOCAL LIBERAL) when in his hey day he used male escorts on a regular basis at the Arkaba Motel/Hotel on Glens Osmond Road… I was told by an ex male escort that he was rude and tried to get the hour at the cheapest possible rate and if he could that would be nothing. He was a regular client of Adam’s Boys Escort Agency in Adelaide which is run by an overweight Mr Smith (08) 82691444.”

Hillary has looked at Yellow Pages Online, and such a service exists – but if you want to ring Fatty Smith, then it’s your call. If, of course, you find out anything interesting, don’t be selfish.

Tassie poll

Stand by for another state poll. Jim “Crispy” Bacon doesn’t need to go to an election until November, but the residents of the Apple Isle could be heading off to vote as early as March 2. And, yes, Rodney, that is Mardi Gras night, so don’t forget to do a postal vote.

Frequent liars?

Crikey has been miles out in front of other media in covering allegations of dodgy charter flight and frequent flyer practices by Western Australian federal Libs – the issue still keeping Wilson Tuckey out of the ministry two months after the election.

Now, a strong rumour is doing the rounds that Sandgroper MPs chipped in to make sure that members of the junior book burners’ brigade could attend the Young Liberal conference in Melbourne last week – by dipping into their frequent flyer points.

So, farewell then, Denis Napthine…

There’s more and more talk about the imminent demise of Denis Napthine – but the Victorian Libs are so desperate that they don’t seem to have thought about just who or what will replace him.

Very few punters seems to think that Robert Doyle has anything to offer Victoria – unless they like the fact that he pissed off a few posh kiddies while a teacher at Scotch College. In his day job as shadow health minister he is yet to lay a glove on John Thwaites – despite the numerous mistakes the man in the white suit has made.

Permanent vacation

The Mayne Man is enjoying a holiday in Queensland at the moment – and talk is that federal Liberal director Lynton Crosby is spending time in a holiday place he has bought in the seat of Fairfax, up Noosa way.

Some think that Crosby plans to linger longer in the seat. The sitting MP, Liberal Alex Somlyay, has scarcely set the world on fire and few people can imagine him sticking around much longer.

Case for intervention?

The Prime Miniature has already foreshadowed that he wants to shove through some major party reforms that will give the Liberal federal executive powers to intervene in state divisions at hold their federal council meeting in April. It’s been thought that this was largely directed at the dire Queensland division – but it also appears that a few top Libs also think it’s time for a spring clean in the West.

For over fifteen years, the WA Libs have been racked by some of the most brutal factional warfare anywhere in any of the party’s divisions. In the early years, it was Noel Crichton-Brown’s Right (NCB Right) faction facing off Fred Chaney’s moderates.

The total defeat of anything remotely other than rampant right wingers a wet around nine years ago saw the faction turn on itself. Senators Chris Ellison and Ian Campbell, who had spent their years as Liberal Students and Young Liberals, acting as key lieutenants to Noel Crichton-Brown, turned on their mentor and founded the WA Centre-Right.

Now, the Centre-Right together with the remnants of the moderates (Julie Bishop and Judi Moylan) act in concert against the ultra-conservative thugs in the Crichton-Brown group which typically dominates the state parliamentary party. The trials and tribulations of the state opposition leader, Colin Barnett merely highlight the drift within the party.

The Western Australian Liberal Party has specialised in producing particularly useless opposition leaders for a long time. However, none have managed WA Liberal leader, Colin Barnett’s feat of managing to alienate every single faction.

Barnett came to the leadership of the party in a bizarre set of circumstances. Barnett was preselected for his blue-ribbon Liberal seat of Cottesloe only a few days after joining the Liberal Party. Consequently, he has no friends, let alone allies in the organisational wing of the party. Barnett has been hated by the NCB Right for being a pinko in their eyes – believing in gun control, associating with Catholics, not wanting to lock them Abos up on reservations – and other unforgivable crimes in the WA “Liberal” Party. He has also managed to alienate the Senator Ian Campbell-led Centre-Right (equivalent to the Howard Right in NSW but aligned with Costello. This is due to Campbell’s consistent failure to make the Ministry.

In the wake of the landslide that removed the incompetent Court government, key Campbell lieutenant, David Johnston, then State President of the Liberal Party and currently Senator-elect for Western Australia together with Richard Court, ex-Premier and another former acolyte of Noel Crichton-Browne, attempted to engineer the parachuting of Julie Bishop into the state leadership. The ensuing media flare-up that followed saw a back down by all parties involved thus clearing the way for the internally and perennially unpopular Barnett to ascend to the leadership. Ironically, none other than Noel Crichton-Brown catapulted Bishop, a talented up and coming but politically inept moderate and close ally of disaffect backbenchers Christopher “Teenage Toecutter” Pyne and Bruce “Baby” Baird, into her seat of Curtin.

Several months later at the June state conference of the party, Barnett outlined his vision for the party. He demanded a more inclusive party. He demanded a more professional party with an extensive campaign to increase the membership. He demanded a modern, progressive Conservative Party. All in all, it was a positive vision. However, such a vision naturally alienated the predominantly redneck, homophobic, god-bothering WA Liberal Party (the same party that produced Red Fred Cheney, ol’ Peter Durack, Kim Beazley’s first father -in-law Sir Shane Paltridge, Paul Hasluck and Don Cleland). The West Australian and the Australian both took the view that Barnett had performed admirably. From there, things went downhill.

First, Barnett once again exposed his notoriously short temper when he tried to physically intimidate the Premier, Geoff Gallop in state Parliament. This attempt followed his famous swatting of Labor frontbencher, Alan Carpenter with a sheaf of papers three days before the state election following a tough radio debate.

Second, the Merridan by-election came up following Hendy Cowan’s resignation. Cowan announced his intention to stand for the Senate and resigned from state Parliament. Barnett demonstrated his commitment to a modern and inclusive party by doing a preference deal with One Nation. The WA Liberal Party has been through all sorts of acrobatics over One Nation preferences. The issue sorely damaged Richard Court in the lead-up to the state election following internal divisions on the issue. It also forced John Howard to directly intervene in the state division to force them not to do a preference deal in the lead up to the state election. It destroyed the political career of leading moderate and natural Barnett ally, Ron Birmingham. A leading Perth barrister, Birmingham was David Johnston’s long-time Senior Vice-President and the initial Centre-Right/Moderate candidate for State President. Birmingham was and remains committed to putting One Nation last. Lynton Crosby even sent Liberal pollster, Mark Textor to demonstrate to the recalcitrant rednecks that a deal would do tremendous political damage to the party. Despite all this pain, Barnett went and did a deal – conveniently announced the day after the Federal election result. This decision, in one foul swoop, destroyed the few wells of support amongst more moderate elements in the Party.

However, the Merridan debacle was not over yet. Barnett next went and destroyed any possibility of a coalition with the Nationals. The Nats had picked up 5 staff and an additional $330 000 by just barely clinging onto party status following the state election. Were the Libs to pick up Merridan, the Nats would lose party status and thereby lose all their funding which would then flow to the Libs. By targeting a rock-solid Nat seat, that in reality, he was never going to win, Barnett permanently poisoned Nat-Lib relations. Barnett was attempting to destroy a fellow conservative party. Within all sections of the WA Liberal Party, there was much unease at such a blatant attack on their fellow conservatives. In the end, the Nats decimated all their opponents and the Libs managed a measly swing of under 2 per cent.

His strong public opposition to the Labor Government’s abolition of the old electoral system that gave country voters 4 votes to every 1 vote in metropolitan areas detrimentally damaged his standing in the city. From an internal Liberal point of view, city Liberals shook their heads with disgust at what many saw as an opportunity to wrest control of the NCB Right dominated state party. Barnett further alienated city Liberals by failing to reprimand his Shadow Minister for Justice and fully accredited redneck, Rob Johnston for his comments on the Labor Government’s legislation to alter the age of consent for homosexual relations. Johnston declared that Labor’s legislation was a piece of social engineering more reminiscent of the Nazi era. All Barnett could say was that Johnston was entitled to his opinion – which he disagreed with.

Barnett has utilised a strategy of trying to appeal to sections of the Party that will never tolerate nor support him in a vain attempt to secure his own long-term survival in the state leadership. He has promoted factional and ideological opponents at the expense of his natural allies. He has consistently failed to implement any organisational reform in order to win over the rednecks that he thinks he needs to ensure he will still lead the WA Libs into the next state election rather than identifying natural allies or introducing new blood into the party.

The WA Liberal Party is a shambles. Its membership is declining rapidly and their poor performance in the Federal Election demonstrates the lack of talent within the Party machine in a predominantly conservative state. Barnett’s appalling leadership is yet the latest symptom of the incompetence and factional infighting which plagues this once proud division. The NCB Right maintains its iron grip around the throat of the party, thus preventing serious reform. The Young Liberal Movement, often the most vibrant wing of the party in other states, has a handful of branches all based around Kalgoorlie. These branches have virtually no active members and are merely NCB pawns in preselections and key internal ballots. NCB’s primary opponents and former prote51ge51s’, Senators Campbell and Ellison lack the cunning and will to once and for all defeat the ultra-right. John Howard’s decision to snub Western Australia in his ministerial reshuffle following the election reflects his own disenchantment with the WA Liberals.

By selecting Wilson Tuckey, even with the stench of Federal Police investigations hanging over his head, over Julie Bishop or Senator Ian Campbell, Howard signalled what he thought of the WA Federal Liberal delegation – not much at all. Whether it be Senator Winston Crane allegedly doing dodgy deals on his air charter services or Senator Ross Lightfoot commenting on Australia’s racial relations, the WA Liberal Party is devoid of talent and ideas – and, for many of its members, federal intervention couldn’t come quickly enough.

High flyer

The Brisbane stockbroking fraternity were surprised to receive an e-mail last week from one time Liberal high flier and establishment scion Alan Pidgeon that he was leaving J P Morgan to work for new minister and one time Wombat host Gary Hardgrave as a “policy adviser”.

It was generally thought that all of Hardgrave’s ministerial spots were filled – and people like Pidgeon don’t normally take lowly electorate officer’s positions, even when they come with posh titles.

Since becoming Queensland Young Liberal president 20 years ago – and despite Santo Santoro’s helping hands – young Pidgeon’s political career has not prospered. All he seems to have done was a short gig in Warwick Parer’s office.

However, talk is now that Pidgeon might be lining himself up for a shot at the formerly safe state seat of Indooroopilly – hence his career change. If this is the case, then he has stuffed up yet again. Stockbrokers go down much better than staffers with the old dears who make up most Liberal preselection colleges.

Hillary Bray can be contacted at [email protected]

Peter Fray

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