If anything illustrates the depth of political poop the NSW Liberals find themselves in, it’s the possibility that they could lose what should otherwise be the safe seat of Lane Cove. Lane Cove was traditionally regarded as the safer side of the Bennelong electorate. It was former Liberal Opposition Leader Kerry Chikarovski’s seat for many years. The Iemma government’s incompetence in handling the Lane Cove Tunnel should alone deliver the seat to the Libs.
Sitting member Anthony Roberts is from the NSW Right. But he wasn’t always that way. Like many in the ruling class of the NSW Right, Roberts has shown the ability to be malleable and ductile in his ideological allegiances.
His official website biography says a lot about his life since John Howard won the federal election in 1996. What it doesn’t say is that Roberts spent years in that small “l” liberal faction known as “the Group”.
At a time when the Right dominated Liberal campus politics, Roberts was one of the few “wets” who showed how to take over a university union without upsetting the UTS Trotskyist establishment. Like many in the left, Roberts opposed VSU, preferring the watered-down version of Voluntary Student Representation (VSR).
With Roberts set to potentially lose Lane Cove, all this seems like ancient history. The NSW Young Libs, controlled by the Right, have sent their “flying squad” to help secure Lane Cove.  Should Roberts survive, one doubts he’ll stay with the Right. Ambition tends to trump ideology in the NSW Division of the Liberal Party. A Iemma landslide will trigger much intra-Liberal soul-searching, with the finger pointed firmly at David Clarke, Alex Hawke and their cabal of ideological hardheads responsible for imposing socially conservative and inexperienced candidates in seats such as Epping and Hawkesbury where for years the electorate was accustomed to ideologically neutral or wet sitting members.
It’s a shame Roberts might suffer for the sins of the Right. Apart from being a hard-working local member, he’s served on Lane Cove Council for years, including two stints as Mayor. Even ideological opponents agree that, as Debnam’s Parliamentary Secretary for “Waste watch”, Roberts worked hard behind the scenes providing Debnam with political mud to throw at the Iemma government. Too bad not much of it stuck.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey