The Liberal Party in Tasmania has never been too keen on its members publicly lashing the party’s leadership – unless of course you happen to work for one of the state’s biggest employers which also happens to fill the Liberal Party’s coffers with well timed donations from time to time.
Just ask Brendan Blomeley, who on Saturday faced the Party’s Executive committee over comments he has made in recent weeks about Will Hodgman, the Liberal’s leader in the State Parliament. Blomeley’s day job is as corporate affairs manager for Federal Hotels, a vast tourism and gaming empire in Tasmania. When Mr Hodgman launched an attack on Premier Paul Lennon alleging that Lennon and his government had been less than transparent in their dealings with Federal Hotels, Blomeley went to town.
He accused Hodgman and the Tasmanian Liberal Party of not being fit to govern. And he orchestrated a major business attack on the Liberals by the tourism lobby, the employers’ lobby groups and other senior corporate types on the island.
In launching his tirade against Hodgman and his team, Blomeley put his party membership on the line, it seemed. Last week the Party’s State President Dale Archer threatened that Blomeley, who fancies himself as a state or federal MP one day, might be kicked out of the Party. “The complaints received about Mr Blomeley will be discussed by the executive this weekend and ultimately a decision will be made,” Mr Archer said. “The complaints could be referred to a disciplinary committee and that committee can make recommendations. The most serious recommendations could be the suspension or rejection of Mr Blomeley’s Liberal Party membership,” Archer warned.
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Well the Party did meet last Saturday and despite Archer’s dire warnings, it has decided to do nothing about Blomeley’s comments. So why the back flip within the space of a week?
Could it have something to do with the fact that if the Tasmanian Liberals had decided to kick Blomeley out of their ranks, then they could have kissed goodbye to any further donations by Federal Hotels? Federal Hotels has been a generous supporter of the cash-strapped Tasmanian Liberals in the past – it gave $20,000 in 2005/06 — and no doubt the Party, with an eye to raising funds for the next state election in 2010, decided that it better go easy on Blomeley.
The kid glove treatment of Blomeley is in stark contrast to what happened to me in 2002 when I criticised the Howard government’s asylum seeker policies and Eric Abetz’s grip on the Tasmanian Liberals. The Party’s executive committee swiftly disendorsed me and sent me packing. What a pity I didn’t have a gig with a major party donor at the time.