Well done, Miranda Devine! The Sydney
Morning Herald
columnist has verified the Epping Liberal preselection dirt a
whole bunch of us were chasing – that the religious right’s candidate, Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions,
Greg Smith, SC, is a one-time ALP member.

Smith is only a recent convert to the
Liberal communion, and will need an ex cathedra dispensation from the state
executive to stand – but as they live in fear of the hard right’s fire and
brimstone, it should be forthcoming. Smith, 58,
is an Epping resident and one-time ALP member who joined the Liberals only

Devine also spells out a few home truths
about the whole Epping debacle, to which the NSW Libs would be well advised to

You would think
Pru Goward would be a dream candidate for the state Liberal Party, which hasn’t
exactly been flush with talent over the past decade or so. Her friend, the
Prime Minister, must think so, since he wrote a letter yesterday praising her
as a candidate of “considerable ability … consistent with my belief the seat
of Epping deserves a top-class Liberal field”.

But having
succumbed to the persistent wooing of the NSW Liberals to stand for Epping,
Goward now finds herself unwanted and publicly humiliated.

Goward, the
federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner, is unlikely to do anything as silly as
pose for the Women’s Weekly
with a red feather boa, but the parallels with the ALP’s handling of former
Democrats leader Cheryl Kernot come to mind. A high-profile, independently
successful woman is wooed by a party keen to increase its appeal to women, and
is then spurned.

After all, if
you were to construct the perfect Liberal candidate for Epping, a largely
small-l Liberal electorate filled with so-called “doctors’ wives”,
you would probably emerge with someone like Goward, 53. Articulate,
intelligent, a former Walkley-award-winning journalist, well-regarded across
the political spectrum…

As the Sex
Discrimination Commissioner, she has been a pragmatic feminist, treading the
line most women live, between self-respect and love of men, and is acutely
aware of the issues of real concern to women and their families. But instead of
duchessing her into the seat with great fanfare and attendant good publicity,
the party has embarrassed her. A good news story has become a public relations

Absolutely. But it’s also been politics as
usual. Very few politicians are prepared to stick their necks out for aspiring
pols. Even if they’re prime ministers.

John Howard is the most senior NSW Liberal.
He has bewailed the state of his state’s party. Half are obsessed with gays.
Half are obsessed with God. All of them are obsessed by each other’s
obsessions. All while NSW’s economy and infrastructure are crumbling.

But Howard hasn’t seriously put his
authority behind his biographer.
Is even he scared of stirring up jihad amongst the NSW holy warriors?

If that’s the case, then it’s a sad state of
affairs. Just the way it also seems sad – and a little naive – that an
otherwise excellently credentialled candidate like Goward seems to rely on great
and powerful friends.

Peter Fray

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