By Stephen Mayne

Christian Kerr reported yesterday on the oddity that was TheDaily Telegraph’s Canberra heavyweight Malcolm Farr weighing into the factional fights besetting the NSW Liberal Party as the Right increases its grip on the party.

The theory doing the rounds is that Farr was simply retailing a brief from Joe Hockey, a man who should be flat out ensuring government consumers are being well served in his new gig as human services minister but is never short of time or an opinion when it comes to factional battles. It even sounded Like Joe:

The Liberal Right is set to get overwhelming control of the party state executive at coming elections, and it has been backed by a push into some branches. ‘It’s got a real threat of spilling over,’ a senior NSW Liberal said yesterday of the takeover. ‘We’re on the threshold of an almighty war [no pun intended, we presume] in NSW because of the very aggressive tactics. We’re not going to sit back and watch the party take a massive leap to the Religious Right. This merger of religion and politics is unprecedented in Australia. And that’s the game they’re playing.’

Hockey is a leading NSW moderate and Group heavyweight and is marshalling the forces to try to balance the emerging power of the conservatives, who are now being demonised as the “Religious Right”.

Two forthcoming showdowns in the NSW party will be over the election of a new country vice-president and city vice-president. Outgoing Senator and Group lynchpin John Tierney is widely tipped to be a candidate for the country vice-president.

Flyers are already doing the rounds which are said to quote from the bible and we trust he’s not using his generous Senate printing allowance to push his campaign for an internal party position after he retires from the Senate on 30 June.

Maybe Tierney’s wife, who is CEO of the Telstra-financed Lifeline in Newcastle, is funding the campaign now that the Howard government has forced Telstra to continue funding the counselling service.

Tierney will be challenging the incumbent country vice-president Scott McDonald, the candidate in New England last year, who is one of those unassuming middle of the road Liberal members who doesn’t play dedicated factional games and has therefore annoyed the Group by voting against their wishes on some issues.

The likely Group candidate for the city vice-president position is Gabrielle Upton who finished even further down the Liberal Senate preselection contest than Tierney who at number three didn’t get across the line.

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