The PM might be getting his way in dealing with NT indigenous communities, but he certainly isn’t in his own backyard. The far-right are knocking off his favourite MPs one after the other. Some weeks back, Alex Hawke’s stacking of the seat of Mitchell was so thorough that sitting member and Howard-loyalist Alan Cadman was forced to withdraw.Now, in what should be the safe seat of Macarthur, popular local MP and Howard loyalist Pat Farmer is facing a challenge  from NSW Upper House member Charlie Lynn. I first met Lynn when he was candidate for the western Sydney seat of Werriwa in the January 1994 by-election after John Kerin retired. I was part of an ALSF  contingent campaigning in what was billed a test of John Hewson’s leadership after the disastrous election result. Lynn scored a small swing against Labor’s incoming Mark Latham. Macarthur has always been a seat where the PM has gotten his way. Leading up  to the 1996 election, Lynn was the endorsed Liberal candidate and would have easily won the seat. However, Howard wanted former NSW premier John Fahey to run. Fahey was handed the seat after the PM leaned on Lynn to stand down. Lynn was offered the MLC spot as a consolation prize. Fahey then retired in 2001 for health reasons. Instead of recalling Lynn, the PM recruited long-distance runner Pat Farmer into the party and then into the seat. Farmer worked hard to maintain a healthy majority. Although relying on far-right support, Lynn is not ideologically with them. Some years ago, when yours truly wanted to be endorsed as Liberal candidate in a state by-election in Auburn, Lynn advised me not to accept any consolation prizes. “These b-ggers will always stab you in the back. The factions are all as bad as each other. They gave me an MLC spot but I keep getting challenged.” Lynn’s upper house spot is secure for the time being. But he knows that his refusal to toe the hard-right line on numerous issues could see them turn against him. Further, one can hardly blame him for seeing Macarthur as his right. This is a preselection battle between two eminently decent people. Sadly, there will only be one winner.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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