Monday’s anonymous contribution from “Dino Sawyer”, who attended the recent NSW Young Libs conference, has prompted a quick response from Andrew Elder, a veteran Tiny Tory. He displays his apparently peerless knowledge of the Liberal Party, which he claims has “been tested often, bested never”, to debunk young Dino Sawyers account.
We sparked a lively debate after running the following piece from an anonymous contributor, “Dino Sawyer”, who attended the recent NSW Young Libs conference.
Sealed section 9 December 2002:
TINY TORY ELECTION BOILOVER
A Tiny Tory writes:
“It’s up there with the North Sydney Bears winning the NRL premiership, or Carlton getting the wooden spoon (oops!), but Right stormed home to take control of the NSW Young Liberals last weekend.
For more than 20 years, the Left has held a stranglehold on the NSW YL leadership, and they have guarded their treasure zealously during that time. Fake branches were created, ballots rigged, attendance books changed, members stacked in, people signed up who never even knew they were members, etc etc. For 20 years, all to ensure that the Left kept control.
But on Sunday morning, John Brogden was no doubt gagging on his Weet-Bix after the Right took not only the YL presidency but the entire executive. I bet the Left are a bit sorry now that they instituted a ‘first-past-the-post’ election for every position, eh?
The winner, Alex Hawke, is a Senator Helen Coonan staffer and used to work for Ross Cameron, MP. He took the top job by 55 votes to 50 from J-Bro’s Senior Adviser, Lucy Wicks. J-Bro was, of course, a former YL president himself in the 1980’s, although Wicks may have not been to the taste of too many Little Libs, given that she was organiser of the ultra-Left, ultra-Feminist ‘Blue Stocking Womyns Collective’ SRC ticket back in her Sydney Uni days in the early 1990’s. That ticket, ironically, also included Verity Firth, now a staffer for hard-Left ALP MP Anthony Albanese.
All the ‘Whitesmoke’ crowd (the past-Presidents of the Left who select the next Left candidate) were there, no doubt expecting to gloat in their predictable annual triumph: Trent Zimmermann, Gladys Berejiklian, Shayne Mallard, Tony Chappell. All saying ‘goodbye’ to outgoing YL Prez Benjamin Franklin (that IS his real name!) and ‘hello’ Lucy Wicks. Or so they thought.
This comes after another Coonan staffer, Natasha Maclaren, almost won last year when, with the vote tied, she missed having her name drawn out of a hat during the ballot for the Presidency. Maclaren is now Vice President of the YLs.
This all leads to another observation: since Marise Payne, who was very gay-friendly, there have only been two female Presidential candidates pre-selected by the Left, Berejiklian and Wicks. It is well known that a ‘gay mafia’ runs the YL Left in NSW and has displayed a significant degree of misogyny in the past. They only allow women to run in years when the Left are in electoral trouble. Berejiklian only just won when she ran, and Wicks lost. The Left is happy to take ‘pretty, little things’ and then slap them down when they want a share of the real action.
Of course, all this has parallels for the ACT pre-selection. If Wicks’ loss was really a reflection of YL disenchantment with Brogden, then what does it mean if the ACT division knocks back Gerry Wheeler? Especially if they go for Carnell, whose only role in the Liberals seems to be proving that there is somebody in the Liberals more Left-wing than Marise Payne?
The YL election result also adds a whole new dynamic to two other areas: NSW State Executive and the broader YL movement. The loss of the YL Prez means that there is effectively a two vote turnaround to the Right on the State Executive, and that will become three votes when Tony Chappell is no longer the National YL Vice President early in the New Year. And may become four if the NSW YLs can get either the national YL President or Vice President position.
That’s gotta hurt! It means the Left will now have to rely upon the supporters of Bill Heffernan’s and Rhondda Vanzella’s factions to get what they want. And there is no guarantee of that.
Also, the ‘winner take all’ voting for YL elections means that all six YL Federal Council Delegates go to the Right. The theme of the 2003 National AGM can be found in one word: REVENGE.
Ever since Grant Mueller (Qld Right) did a dirty, treacherous, deal with the Left to get the National Presidency (which gave Chappel the Vice President position in the process) the national Right have been determined to ‘whack’ the banana benders and their fellow-travellers from Victoria for their treachery. They did it with the Australian Liberal Students’ election and now they will have a preponderance of power to give the Right ‘rats’ a beating that they will never forget.
All in all, an interesting result.
But I will leave the final word to one YL wag: “Brogden can now expect the same loyalty and support from the Young Libs as the Young Libs have shown to John Howard over the years”. Take that as you will.
ANDREW ELDER RESPONDS
Dino’s missive brought this detailed response from the exasperated Andrew Elder:
(Aaaargh, I can’t help myself)
Dear Crikey and David [Miles – publisher of little-known political website],
The “Tiny Tory” piece on the NSW Young Libs and David Miles’ outburst are so uncannily similar, I will treat them both as of a piece. They make the same mistakes and end up in the same logical cul-de-sac (Logical Cul-De-Sac, I think, runs off Struggle Street). Both are clearly feeling the effects of his (their?) faction’s victory celebrations, to the point where certain facts about the NSW Young Liberals, their history and their priorities, have been distorted.
First, let me present my credentials/biases:
a) I was an active member of the Liberal Party from 1986 to 2000. I was active in Young Lib politics during this time. Apart from Dino Sawyer every person named in the TT/Miles pieces is known to me, and I to them.
b) I was (and am!) a moderate liberal but was never in the Group, though I tended to vote for them.
c) I knew John Brogden and supported him. As a poverty-stricken student I travelled halfway across Sydney and spent $70 on a taxi fare to vote  Brogden in a pre-selection; and if it weren’t for the fact that Brogden would be ashamed to receive my assistance, I’d happily do so again. What hope the Liberal Party has to broaden its base beyond Howard is largely vested in that man (see below).
d) Everyone has their opinion and what follows is mine; but no NSW Young Liberal of the final decade-and-a-half of the twentieth century has a better memory than me. No one (see ** below).
Memory skills put to work
Brogden has been given a raw deal by both Crikey and David Miles’ Capital R. Once you correct the facts, all you have from Miles and Crikey’s Tiny Tory is invective.
1. The “Group” claimed every NSW YL President since 1980, until this weekend it would seem (unless Alex Hawke sees the light – no offence to Alex or his fans, but stranger things have happened in politics). However, in my first NSWYL Executive elections I faced a choice between two right-wing candidates for President: a loud, obnoxious one and a quiet, dull one. “The Group” supported the former, and he got up; but then he tripped over his own contradictions and the Group moved against him in early ’87 (thus moving to the position I had taken at the start: a pox on both of them). It takes a high level of double standard to claim both the rise and fall of that candidate as two consecutive victories, but some do and I’m not amongst them. I would argue that every NSWYL President since John Brogden has been a victory for the right, as strong moderate leaders would have knocked the incipient triumphalism out of them (as Brogden did).
2. John Brogden was President of the NSW Young Liberals from 1992-93, not “in the 1980s” as Dino Sawyer claims. Brogden visited branches and was the one NSWYL President in my experience who genuinely impressed and inspired ordinary, new branch members. I was President of a YL branch then and there was no greater asset in retaining people who’d “just come along for a look”. This was due to more than mere charisma, he took a genuine interest in people and gave them credible reasons why they should get more involved. Brogden will reduce Carr’s majority to single digits at least, if not put Labor in deficit (and I say that as a liberal, but not a Liberal), which surprises no-one who witnessed his performance as the best NSWYL President of our generation.
3. Brogden was up for re-election as NSWYL President in ’93, and should have been, and would have won in a canter. Keep in mind that the NSWYL Right did not get their act together until after Brogden’s Presidency. In ’92 they ran two candidates against him (like the Libs and Nats in the Victorian election, only worse). One torchbearer of the right at that time – a disgruntled ex-member of the moderate powerhouse Epping-Eastwood branch – rang Brogden and left a threat of violence on his answering machine. Only after Brogden did the Right produce leaders who could walk upright and speak in complete sentences.
4. Brogden is an avid student of Liberal Party history and honoured John Howard’s place within that history on a regular basis. When Brogden was NSWYL President (’92-’93), Howard was history, but Brogden still invited him to functions. The Federal Leader then was John Hewson and it would have been outrageous not to have given Hewson full support, which Brogden did. YLs today may wonder how Hewson could be in the ascendant over Howard, but to do so would fall victim to that old political wail of “taking this out of context”.
If Alex Hawke was President then, he’d have been right behind Hewson and would have been wary of embracing Howard to the extent of upsetting the (then) Federal Leader. You can’t be a conservative unless you respect history and historical context.
If Alex Hawke is reluctant or even slow to throw his weight behind Brogden in March ’03, he will always be stunted in his capacity to lead (and, like the NSWYL Right of today, Liberals are right to look to Alex Hawke as a leader for their future). If there is, as Sawyer claims, “YL disenchantment with Brogden”, then Hawke must jump on it with both feet or it will be a cancer on his Presidency, if not his career.
5. The rot set in when Shayne Mallard was elected NSWYL President. Mallard was born in 1963 and could not run for President in 1994, because you can’t be a Young Liberal after you’re 30, so Brogden was pushed aside and Mallard had a go. To put this act of political genius in its true light, imagine dumping Steve Waugh as Test captain and replacing him with Kim Hughes, so that poor “Kimmoye” could have a go.
Mallard “preached to the choir” and gained no swinging votes in that election. He faced a candidate who was genuinely interested in people and was a nice bloke, in a dorky out-of-touch way. He inherited a great legacy of goodwill from Brogden, but through the application of his personality he overcame it. During his term he progressively alienated even staunch moderates, to the point where he hid in a flower shop for five years until everybody (except me) forgot just how much he sucked as a chairman of meetings, as an advocate for policy, and as a meeter-n-greeter of new members.
He was succeed by Jason Falinski, who is the irrefutable answer to the question “how stupid can you get?”. Falinski was a practitioner of Wile E. Coyote politics. He would spend hours, days digging a trap for the Right, to the exclusion of all else (such as building branches and promoting positive policies). At the crucial moment the Right would push him into his own trap, whereupon he’d go into a sulk and the loyal moderates would have to pull him out, with self-pity where gratitude should have been. From there, he’d go and build another – very similar – trap. He could not string a sentence together, and his supposedly devastating comebacks were nothing but about five stale old pieces from the Jim Killen/Fred Daly Bumper Book Of Gags. By this time the Right were starting to coalesce and the moderates were starting to congeal, which drove them further and further toward “the dinosaurs” who put them in this predicament in the first place.
There were some others but if I can’t remember them, they must have been pretty damn irrelevant (see ** below).
History students will know that 23 years of Liberal-led Federal Government ended with Billy McMahon, a pretentious and poncy little man. Observers of the NSW Young Liberals believe that 22 years of moderate administration ended with Ben Franklin. Now it isn’t very nice to say that Ben is also very pretentious, and extremely poncy. That said, my Grandma said that if you can’t say something nice about someone you say nothing at all; so let’s follow Gran’s advice and say nothing whatsoever about Ben Franklin (apart from his lovely singing voice, I’m told).
6. Is Dino Sawyer related to Peter Sawyer? You’d think so with all that Big Gay Conspiracy stuff. It’s hardly surprising that gays should be drawn to people who didn’t consider homosexuality to be some kind of pestilence (the same people who tried to give John Hannaford one single achievement in his term as NSW Attorney General, but good old Planta’s mediocrity came shining through), and who weren’t frantically trying to do deals with Fred Nile and the gun nuts. Falinski wasn’t gay but he wasn’t much of anything else either; ditto Andrew Constance. I haven’t asked him, so I have to ask: is Alex Hawke not, um, gay-friendly?
7. In the early-to-mid ’90s the NSWYL right used to complain long and loud about the numbers of political staffers on the Executive, and how they were using public resources to engage in the dreaded politics. After 1996 this complaint faded somewhat. Today, one can be a Champion of the Right and a staffer too (with Natasha and Alex on Senator Coonan’s staff, who’s looking the boss’ personal details?), no doubt upholding the tradition of not using public resources for – gasp! – base politics.
Is there any coincidence (paging Mr Sawyer here) between Alex Hawke’s residential address and his address on the electoral roll?
8. Congratulations Alex, and commiserations Lucy.
The incoming NSWYL Executive have their work cut out for them, but it remains to be seen whether they will pick it up and actually DO it (the success of the NSWYL Right is, as I’ve said, largely due to the stupidity, incompetence and laziness of those they replaced: if you’re as bad as them you’ll lose your legitimacy and will repel members with potential). The only people who gloat are those who don’t deserve to win in the first place. Remember this well, NSWYL Right supporters. Mallard, Falinski, Berejiklian and Franklin did little more than gloat.
9. Young Liberals and Liberal Students have a responsibility to correct the deficit identified by Gerard Henderson in “The Sydney-Melbourne Herald” today: http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2002/12/09/1039379782722.html – I am totally confident that they will dodge, blunder past, miss, and otherwise fail to meet this responsibility.
** If you wonder whether David Miles, Alex Hawke, John Brogden, Tony Chappel (even got the spelling right), “gay-friendly Marise Payne” or even-more-gay-friendly Shayne Mallard could ever have anything in common, it’s this: all of them have taken me on in tests of memory and historical knowledge (especially Liberal Party history) – and lost. Badly. I’ve been tested often, bested never. It ain’t boasting if it’s true, and it is. Any NSW Lib reading this article (as if Liberals read – check out the dust on the shelves on the Robert Nestdale Library) should remember: just agree with me, it will save time and make you look less stupid.
DAVID (“WHO?”) MILES RESPONDS
Thank you for your interesting an insightful piece.
Nothing in my piece on CapitalR.org was a statement of anything other than what I believe is fact. Of course, the battle of ideas in politics will always see people disagree on their versions of history.
At no time in my article did I mention Mr Brogden – other than in the second last paragraph where I stated that Alex Hawke would be working to get the Liberals elected in March.
As for the comparison to the Crikey piece – one of the things I have always been criticised for is for being willing to put my name to something I am prepared to say. At no stage would I dignify Crikey with the benefit of my writings.
CRIKEY: Sorry, David. You just have.