The Young Libs gathered in Melbourne last weekend. Alas for them, Young Yorrick was there.
As I anticipated in my earlier article, the outcome of the Young Liberal Convention resulted in Grant Muller from Queensland being elected President and Tony Chappel from New South Wales being elected Vice President. Muller has until now marched under the flag of the right and Chappel is an undisguised member of the left.

Also as anticipated, the result was close with Tasmania determining the outcome. While Muller was elected unopposed, the real state of the vote was that of the vice presidency contest. Chappel defeated Tammy Atkins the Western Australian State President, 23 votes to 20 with one informal vote.

The informal vote was in all probability that of the outgoing President, Anthony Paynter who is from the right but being from Queensland was subject to great pressure from Muller to cast his vote in favour of Chappel.

Had there been a contest for the presidency, the vote would have been very similar to that of the vice presidency.

In a remarkable about face, the Federal Director of the Liberal Party Lynton Crosby, allowed the Tasmanian delegates to participate and vote at the Convention. He had previously ruled them out. Their late admission was unknown to all but a few beneficiaries of their inclusion. As was always going to be the case, the participation of the Tasmanian delegates resolved the outcome, voting as they did on block for the Muller/Chappel ticket.

Who paid for their registration, travel and accommodation is unknown however no doubt their acting President Joe Aston will oblige Crikey: Not that Crikey sees anything exceptional or untoward about all this.

The New South Wales Young liberals have been courting the Tasmanian movement for some time and their reward was to be received in full measure at the convention. Interestingly the one person who was capable of influencing the Tasmanian Young Liberals in their deliberations is Senator Eric Abetz who besides being the ranking federal Liberal parliamentarian from Tasmania and a “hard right liberal”, has a long history of involvement in student politics.

It seems inconceivable that the Tasmanian delegates would have voted for Chappel without Abetz’s imprimatur short of him being asleep at his post. Given that Costello’s supporters were backing the Muller/Chappel ticket this invites speculation as to Abetz relationship with both Costello and Howard.

There is a strong view in the Liberal parliamentary party room that Howard will eventually come to the conclusion he cannot win the next election and that he will depart sometime during this term. The prospects of another Tampa or Bin Ladin appearing in the midst of the next election campaign are highly unlikely. Consequently Ministers and “aspirational members” see their career prospects now resting with Costello. Abetz is as pragmatic as the next member.

The positions of President and Vice President of the Young Liberal Movement in the normal course of Liberal Party affairs, are of no consequence. However the outcome of this year’s elections has significant ramifications for the parliamentary party, not the least in New South Wales.

The New South Wales Liberal Party Executive is evenly divided with each faction holding nine positions which has until now prevented the left from getting its way. Under the New South Wales Liberal Party constitution, members of the Federal Executive of the Liberal Party are ex-officio members of its State Executive. Chappel as Vice President of the Young Liberal Movement is a member of the Federal Executive and ipso facto, now to be a member of the State Executive.

In betraying his own faction, Muller has handed control of the New South Wales Division over to the bitter enemy of his faction. Unlike the Labor Party lay organisation which has a substantial voice in the determination of policy deliberations, the control of the Liberal Party organisation is all about preselections and party endorsements.

There are likely to be a number of federal seats up for grabs at the next round of preselections, perhaps including that of Bennelong. Control of State Executive does not mean control of the electorate branches but it is an enormous advantage in these contests. The anger and ill will of the New South Wales right at all levels of the party towards Muller is manifest.

The election of Muller and Chappel will also impact on the Federal Executive of the senior party. It is because of events at this forum that Muller was able to mount a campaign against his own factional ally, the previous Vice President, Daniel Clode. Clode in the normal course of events was expected to succeed Paynter to the presidency.

Clode helped destroy his own prospects by unwisely doing the bidding of Howard at Federal Executive by voting in support of Howard’s proposal for federal intervention of the Queensland Division. This motion was bitterly opposed by the Queensland Division in particular and the right in general. Clode is subject to considerable influence by Gerard Wheeler, an adviser in the Prime Minister’s office.

Queensland Liberal Senator John Herron who has unselfishly again taken on the unenviable position of State President, having previously held the position in the early eighties, is outraged that having done so, Howard is determined to interfere with his efforts to get the Division back on a stable footing.

Herron has good reason to mistrust Howard having been duded by him over a promise of an overseas appointment when Herron lost his Aboriginal Affairs portfolio. Howard had promised him a position in Canada. Herron sold up and packed up and on the verge of departing, was informed by Howard that the deal was off.

Senator Herron is a thoroughly decent man and it would not have occurred to him that every Howard government political overseas appointment has the same common elements. Everyone has been for personal service and devotion to John Howard. None has been for commitment and dedication to the Liberal Party.

Herron perhaps should have been alerted by the different treatment he and fellow Queensland Senator Parer received from Prime Minister Howard over the government’s Ministerial conflict of interest code.

Herron a prominent and highly skilled surgeon in Queensland prior to entering parliament, wished to continue doing occasional voluntary weekend surgical work so as not to lose his right to practice. Howard ruled a conflict of interest and demanded that Herron stop operating immediately. The people of Queensland lost Herron’s services for ever and he lost the skills of a life time’s training.

Senator Parer on the other hand was a flat mate and devotee of the Prime Minister’s. When he was caught as Minister for Resources and Energy with a family company that had a $2m investment in the coal industry, the Prime Minister said that Parer had no conflict of interest.

Herron’s future trust in Howard was tested at a meeting called by Howard for the purpose of clubbing the State organisations into agreeing by legislation to all public funding going to the federal body rather than the State bodies as presently applies. The legislation was to apply only to Liberal Party public funding.

I deviate for a moment to recount the events of this meeting. This eclectic gathering took place in parliament house earlier in the year. Those present included Howard, Crosby, Herron, Senator Alan Ferguson a former State President from South Australia, Senator Ellison, Senator Eric Abetz the relevant Minister, Julie Bishop and Geoff Prosser who is highly regarded in the Western Australian Liberal Party.

Howard argued that all public funding should henceforth go directly to the Federal Party and that part of it would then be repatriated back to the State organisations. His justification was that the Queensland Division was effectively insolvent and the other States were severally and jointly liable. The connection between public funding and the Queensland’s finances is not clear.

When asked what guarantee the State Divisions had that they would ever see their money, Howard said that they would have to trust him. Herron told Howard that he could not trust him personally and he would not trust him on behalf of the Queensland Division. Howard replied that Herron and he had to put their personal differences aside. Herron said it was not a question of a personal matter, Howard simply could not be trusted.

Predicably the ever obsequious Ellison babbled on in servile support of Howard. Julie Bishop with all the intellectual courage which has been the hallmark of her short political life said that Howard was going to get his way so they should agree to his request. Abetz who was to have carriage of the legislation seemed to be all over the place, no doubt struggling with what Howard wanted and what was right.

The other parliamentarians present were not anxious to commit themselves to what they knew to be a most unpopular proposal for interference in and diminution of their State Divisions.

Albeit an excuse for the personal ambitions of Muller, in this climate Clode’s support at the Federal Executive for Howard’s proposed intervention of Queensland, gave Muller the ammunition he needed to attack Clode’s credibility with the Queensland delegates in particular while enhancing his own credentials.

On a telephone hook-up of the right wing faction immediately before the convention Muller did precisely that. Clode withdrew from the contest and hence Muller was elected unopposed.

How the outcome of this year’s Young Liberal Convention plays out in the senior party will unfold in the months ahead. In the meantime it has been an instrument of intrigue and machination for the parliamentary party.

Yorrick Young Liberal is an insider of Shakespearean proportions. Feedback to [email protected] .

Young Yorrick – “dishonest & mischievous”

It is interesting, but not surprising, to see attempts by Yorrick Young Liberal to reinvent his own version of history.

In his prelude to the Young Liberal Federal Convention, this correspondent claimed all the Tasmanian votes would go to Xanthos and the Western Australians would decide who took the crown. Additionally, Yorrick posited that the Tasmanian’s disqualification was “for some obscure reason”.

Given that the Tasmanians were allowed back in, Yorrick plays out questions of illegitimacy of their inclusion, and claims he said all along they would decide the vote.

“Yorrick’s” analysis is just as flawed after the event as prior to it. Muller was always going to win the Federal Presidency, with incremental support from Victoria beyond Chappel, given his de facto Victorian credentials, and sympathies from Western Australia based on a firm federalist stance, which would have resulted in a vote of at least 20 (and as many as 26)out of 38 votes with the Tasmanians out, and at least 26 (and as much as 32) out of 44 with them in.

To suggest Gerard Paytner broke ranks with the Queensland delegation is dishonest and mischievous. The informal vote came from a mistaken South Australian ticking the box for Tony Chappel (rather than numbering both boxes), which many would have argued should have been counted as a formal vote for Chappel at any rate.

The suggestion Clode dropped out due to some late hour deal is also flagrantly incorrect. A week after he nominated for the position of Federal President, Daniel Clode was offered the ACT State Director’s job. At this point in time, Clode informally indicated to people that he would be unable to continue as a candidate for President.

This left the NSW right in a serious bind. They had been promoting Clode’s candidacy on the basis he was VP and it was his turn. With his exit, that argument fell to bits. Initially, Xanthos was the alternate candidate. However, supporting Xanthos would have put the Vic Right delegates firmly back into the Chappel camp. At the end of the day, a deal was done that Xanthos would not be a candidate in exchange for Vic Right support for the VPs position. The Vic Right refused to support anyone else other than Muller for Pres. WA, seen as shaky, were locked in by offering them the opportunity to run for the VPs spot. Given the certainty of a Muller victory, it was decided not to antagonise the Queenslanders further, and to pitch for their votes by withdrawing from the Presidential ballot, turning a victory into an unopposed victory.

As to the personal slurs on Muller and Abetz, I think people should judge those in a similar vein to the quality of the analytic commentary.

Greg Boyington

And this from “Young Liberal Insider”:

Dear Crikey,

I read with interest (and plenty of laughs) the recent writings of petty Young Liberals.

To add further clarification to “Political Wannabe’s” comments. Xanthos may never have been employed by David Davis but Xanthos most certainly works for Davis.

Davis, along with a select group of senior supporters, is the controlling factor in the cut-throat factionalism that has swept through the Victorian Young Liberals with more ferocity than the NSW fires!

In a deal satisfying both parties, the Vic Young Liberals have seen an unprecedented rise in membership, with constitutional – yet faceless branches, springing up throughout the state and surprisingly there has been more YL interest in electoral committees/policy assembly, 05hmmmm??? If the pieces fit???

The Young Liberals have most certainly lost focus and with the direction of Xanthos/Davis and the inexperienced but alas easily elected executive, I doubt they will every find it.

Care to chime in on the debate? [email protected]

Peter Fray

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