South Australian Liberal director Graham Jaeschke, the former head of the Queensland party, has been be parachuted into the top job in NSW. The news was confirmed on Saturday after midweek mutterings. Jaeschke presided over the 2001 disaster that left the Sunshine State Libs with just three seats. Could someone like that get William Street? The answer is “yes”. The Queensland results were the Queenslanders’ own fault. They fight too much.
With the notable exception of the appointment of Julian Scheezel in Victoria by the Costello/Kroger camp, the Liberal Party federal secretariat has had a key behind-the-scenes role selecting state directors. They say Jaeschke is okay. He’s being sold as a compromise candidate, acceptable to both the Prime Minister and state leader John Brogden, although his appointment has supposedly sparked spats amongst sub-factions of the right-wingers who dominate the NSW Liberals.
Some South Australians have attacked Jaeschke over his management of factions in that state. Perhaps they should look at their own behaviour. They will need to find a replacement as a matter of urgency, as South Australia is the next state to face an election. There’s no deputy to walk into the role, the executive is bitterly divided, and the party headquarters is about to be turned upside down in a major renovation that has some members worried about cost overruns and delays 12 months out from a poll.
Factional strife is running high down South, with the pre-selection for the safe state seat of Unley expected to become an execution. There is already talk that Steve Ronson, a former staffer to Finance Minister Nick Minchin, the leader of the local right and a one-time state director himself, could be handed the job in a blunt show of force. That would mean war. Civil war – on the eve of an election. Come Easter next year, South Australian Liberals may well be left with little more than the ruins their Queensland colleagues still inhabit.