You might say that – I couldn’t possibly comment. Are similarities emerging between Morris Iemma and Francis Urquhart? Iemma, like Urquhart, rose from nowhere to become leader. True, we’ve only seen an alleged suicide bid involving an embarrassment to Iemma, not an actual death – but it’s early days yet. Just have a look at Urquhart. There’s a pretty strong similarly to the NSW Premier.

Rearranging the sun chairs? Ah, those Sydney northern beaches Liberal rumours! Speculation is growing along the sun-drenched shores that retiring Davidson State MP Andrew Humpherson may be drafted to take on Bronwyn Bishop for the federal seat of Mackellar. Bronny’s star was eclipsed sometime last century. Still, she has stuck to her seat like a limpet on a local reef – even though many locals consider her well overdue for retirement. So enter Humpherson. Andrew Humpherson lost preselection for his seat a week and a half ago. A non-factional player, he is being seen as the major casualty in a grass-roots revolt against Peter Debnam’s edict not to challenge sitting members. Crikey understands that a number of locals and other Liberals have canvassed the proposition of Humpherson going Federal with support from his own Forest Branch and many of the Pittwater branches where Bronny is not popular.

The ACT Liberals brawl over the bucks. The conventional wisdom that the continuing (continual?) ruckus in the ACT Liberal Party is all about rampant egos and ambition is not quite on the money. It is, in fact, all about money, local pollie watchers say. This week, the party dumped its deputy leader of just a few months, Richard Mulcahy, amid claims by new leader Bill Stefaniak that Mulcahy had told certain people that he planned to take over the leadership, a claim the dumped deputy denies. Stefaniak became leader earlier this year when he switched sides to help depose Brendan Smyth – who appears to be behind this week’s moves to mulch Mulcahy, have a supporter, Jacqui Burke, installed as deputy and seizing for himself the posts of whip and manager of opposition business from Mulcahy supporter, Vicki Dunne. Matters came to a head two weeks ago when an email from ACT Liberal Party president Gary Kent to MLA Steve Pratt was leaked to the media. The email addressed concerns that Pratt and other MLAs were actively undermining Mulcahy over allegations relating to his former position as executive director of the Australian Hotels Association. Six of the seven Liberal MLAs have signed statutory declarations, demanded by the party’s management committee, that they did not leak the email. No action is being taken against the non-signer. Why? At the heart of it all is money. The Liberal fundraising group, the 250 Club, was selective in its allocation of campaign funds at the 2004 election, forcing the resignation of finance director, Jim Murphy, a prominent Canberra wine retailer. Murphy is adamant that 250 Club funding will be directed to “business” candidates, which has placed him and the 250 Club at odds with the Liberal Party organisation. A sleeper in the current ruckus, but one which will certainly out, is another money issue: an as yet unsubstantiated allegation by a Canberra developer that he will spill the beans about an “inducement payment” to a former Liberal minister in the ACT unless certain conditions are met. A threatened statutory declaration has not yet appeared, but it still might.

Peter Fray

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