The Sydney Morning Herald today reports on the latest intra-factional action in the dominant NSW Liberal Right faction under the appropriate headline “Holy warriors pitch for Liberal seats”.
And yes, this is indeed a political crusade. NSW Upper House member and Opus Dei supporter David Clarke with a small but powerful cabal of supporters are battling the “soft right” and threatening the preselections of Philip Ruddock and other allegedly moderate MP’s.
The Herald claims Clarke’s “soft right” opponents include his former staffer and Federal MP for Mitchell Alex Hawke. Yet Hawke himself appears to be playing a role in toppling another “soft righter”, former Howard enforcer Senator Bill Heffernan, whose Senate term doesn’t expire until 2011. In a scathing radio editorial on 21 July 2009, Alan Jones describes Hawke as being among “the wet-behind-the-ears marshmallows … Young Liberals”. Jones asks whether Hawke really “represents mainstream Liberal thinking”. Jones lavishes praise on Heffernan for his experience of “life west of the Great Dividing Range”. Ah, the irony of Jones praising a Senator perhaps best known for his arguably homophobic comments concerning a former High Court Justice.
Hawke’s alleged ally in the soft right, NSW Party President Nick Campbell, is a former Heffernan staffer. But as one Liberal source told me: “Campbell is one of those blokes who will tell every candidate in a party ballot that he supports them”. If Campbell believes he has a chance of taking Heffernan’s seat, he may back Hawke. If not, there could be a three-way tussle.
One interesting figure mentioned in the Herald story is Edin Dyga, staffer for ultra-conservative NSW State MP Greg Smith who supports Ruddock’s religious right opponent. In his 2007 maiden speech, Mr Smith described himself as “unashamedly pro life and pro family” though he went onto say that “while I may exercise my right to a conscience vote on some issues I will never seek to impose my religious views on others”.
Smith’s staffer has expressed less conciliatory views on an e-mail group called “Ozlibs” which yours truly once moderated. In a post dated 9 May 2006 Dyga referred to “the Holy Crusaders (Peace Be Upon Them)” and says Muslims “should be thankful the Holy Crusaders (Peace Be Upon Them) didn’t continue down south and have fun with your metropolitan al wakf [religious trust], Mecca”.
Then on 12 November 2005, Dyga remarks: “The only religious system that has been in the core of Australia’s development as a nation has been Christianity. Since settlement, Australia has become secular — far too secular for my liking, but that’s just my opinion.”
Dyga’s views may have changed since then. But if they reflect a wish by the religious right to roll back secularism, they’ll effectively make the Party unelectable. They’ll also be answering Nathan Rees’ prayers.
Meanwhile, a NSW Liberal insider writes:
The Nick Adams situation is set to heat up further within the Liberal party.
Rumours are swirling after the Sydney University Liberal club AGM last night that the Right-wing conservatives are planning on kicking out Alex Hawke at the next election, and retaking back the faction for true Conservative values. Libertarians are growing uneasy with the people in charge who have broken away, and would like to see a return to David Clarke’s rule.
The SULC meeting was so bad that members were left fuming after the meeting descended into chaos and screaming matches when some of the members were fighting over who is and who isn’t a genuine member. It became an utter farce by all accounts!
Nick Adams is set to take on Alex Hawke in the seat of Mitchell by challenging his pre-selection with a locally endorsed conservative candidate.
Conservative and right-wingers alike are sick of Alex Hawke and Scott Farlow being attacked by Alan Jones on primetime breakfast radio, and are eager to see him go at the next election. It reflects badly on the Liberal party image, and there are mumblings within the state executive that they are sick of being tarred with the same brush. Essentially one bad apple poisoning the apple cart.
People are sick of Mr Hawke’s bad treatment of fellow Liberal party members. A revolt is set to take place, and the people who are responsible for this will be replaced. Meanwhile Nick Adams issued a controversial press release last week on climate change and the emissions trading scheme.
Councillor Adams is believed to be at loggerheads with his federal and state counterparts on climate change. A few don’t like his outright denial of climate change, whilst others are supporting him. The party is heavily divided.