Things are crook in the federal seat of Cook. Last week members of the Cook conference of the NSW Liberal Party overwhelmingly selected Michael Towke born in Australia of French and Lebanese parents, to be their candidate for the Cronulla-Sutherland seat of Cook in the upcoming federal elections.

Towke, who is a local, won the fourth and final ballot decisively — 82 to 70. In the first ballot Towke secured 74 votes of the 152 votes available. His nearest rival received 28 votes with the favourite of the Prime Minister’s Office, Scott Morrison, being eliminated in the first ballot securing only eight votes.

Towke’s win resulted in retiring (read “he feared defeat at preselection”) member Bruce Baird, a left-winger and anti-Howard, from declaring “this result is a f_cking disgrace” and storming from the Sharks Leagues Club, the venue for the contest. Baird was joined in his rush from the club by left-aligned NSW Liberal President Geoff Selig screeching “I don’t want to talk about it”.

Selig’s employer prints most of PBL’s magazines and had, without apparent regard to his conflict of interest, backed candidate David Coleman Director of Strategy, New Media for PBL. Selig had been at PBL boardroom lunches with local branch preselectors to encourage them to vote for Coleman. Coleman avoided elimination in the first ballot by only one vote but was eliminated in the second ballot.

In the weeks before and following nominations and since Towke’s preselection victory the full force of the left wing of the party who campaigned for blow-ins from outside the Shire have lodged a barrage of accusations against Towke through leaks to the daily media and with the corrupt left wing stacked NSW Secretariat to divert Towke from his preselection preparation and now to prevent his endorsement by the NSW State Executive.

Many local Towke supporters believe the push not to endorse him is also coming from the Prime Minister’s Office and believe with disgust that the left’s disendorsement push would not be happening if Towke was not of a Lebanese parent. Towke’s supporters are demanding he be endorsed or nominations be reopened and a fresh preselection held and have stated that any other outcome will result in a meltdown of the party in NSW, with key local Liberal identities preparing to back a well-known independent candidate coming from a recent and successful sporting career.

Staff of the NSW Secretariat of the Liberal Party has been complaisant in the stacking of the Miranda Kingsway Branch of John Ajaka MLC. A covering note attached to many incomplete and dodgy Liberal membership applications clearly indicate corruption from within the Liberal Secretariat with the words “Spoke to V_ (a staffer). She said it was fine to accept the Members (twenty four proposed) from the Membership Forms and S_ (a staffer) will backdate them”.

A complaint of this activity was lodged with President Selig six weeks ago with no response to date. The NSW Secretariat is headed by Director Graham Jaeschke and Deputy Director Scott Briggs who are both left aligned. Indeed Scott Briggs has been reported widely in the Shire telling preselectors “anyone but Towke” for Cook! This is not the first complaint lodged with Director Jaeschke of stacking of the Miranda Kingsway Branch with new members from across the Georges River.

The majority of branch executives, preselectors and members of the left wing controlled Miranda Kingsway Branch and the Caringbah Branch now reside across the Georges River, outside the Cook electorate and they would not be eligible to vote at the federal election for the Liberal candidate standing for election in Cook. Things are indeed crook in Cook!

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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