When I was first approached by the Four Corners crew to go on the record, they told me they had already secured a large number of other NSW Libs to do the same. From talking to them, I thought perhaps three or four people would speak out.
But watching the show last night, I was truly gobsmacked to see all these former factional hacks I hadn’t seen since the last factional meeting I attended in early 2002.
Betty Mihic, Fran Quinn, Ken Henderson – hardcore Howard loyalists with rock-solid conservative credentials.
They are the last people I’d expect to go to the media. And they would probably expect me, who they’d remember as editing the conservative anti-Group magazine pro-Action, to be the last person they’d expect to see talking publicly about factional politics.
I guess what shook many of us up was John Brogden’s suicide attempt. Before the nasty whispering campaign happened to John, it had already happened to people within the conservative faction. Before the neo-conservatives could take on the Group, they had to drive out their internal opponents.
The NSW Liberal Party was a broad church. Within that church, the conservative wing was itself a broad church of conservative Christians, ex-DLP people, economic rationalists and small “c” conservatives.
People like Ken Henderson and myself were small “c” conservatives. We resented the influence of Hansonism in the Party. We were allergic to racism. We opposed the Group. But we still had friends in the Group. And we believed the Group did have a place in both the organisational and parliamentary wings of the party.
The allegations cannot be dismissed as just the rantings of small-time disgruntled former members or failed preselection candidates. They’ve been made by people who seriously care about the party, who don’t want it railroaded by narrow sectarian agendas.