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New South Wales

Sep 20, 2012

Abbott, O’Farrell look on as NSW Libs shoot for the foot

Just when Barry O'Farrell is trying to build transport networks and balance the budget, a long-simmering factional brawl within the NSW Liberals is threatening to derail his plans. And Tony Abbott's.

Spare a thought for poor old Barry O’Farrell. Just when he is trying to build transport networks and balance the budget, a long-simmering factional brawl within the NSW Liberals is threatening to derail his plans.

Despite the NSW Premier coming out last month to say that there was no place for “wannabe Joe Tripodis” in the Liberal Party, the hard-right faction wasn’t listening. They’ve initiated a court action that has the potential to affect next year’s federal election.

All of this in a week in which South Australian Senator Cory Bernardi has highlighted what the far-right of the Liberal Party can look like — homophobic, xenophobic, climate change deniers. (Interestingly, the teenage Bernardi represented Australia in rowing, a sport in which you move backwards — which may reflect his world view.)

Yesterday a member of the Robertson branch of the Libs, Denis Pogson, initiated legal action in the NSW Supreme Court aimed at stopping a meeting of the party’s state council from going ahead on Saturday. Most sensible people would assume the members of the Robertson branch are devoting every waking moment to the removal of Labor members Deborah O’Neill and the neighbouring Craig Thomson, but this is perhaps not the case.

Far right-wing powerbroker Chris Hartcher, the 66-year-old Minister for Resources and Energy, is reportedly behind the action, which is designed to force the all-powerful state executive of the party to change the constitution to allow “plebiscites” or direct election of state and federal candidates. It is also seeking to abolish the “special powers” of the state executive, which allow it to override the branches to impose their own candidates when the branches preselect someone particularly unelectable.

Hartcher and his faction argue that if the rules were changed it would enable more “grassroots participation” in community politics. However, the centre-right and left factions of the party, which control the state executive, are afraid that it would lead to branch-stacking. This is a vulnerable time for the party, as it has not yet preselected candidates in up to 12 federal seats. The mooted changes would also mean the hard-right could unseat vulnerable sitting members, including Philip Ruddock and Bronwyn Bishop, along with the youthful Alex Hawke, who used to be an acolyte of right-wing MP David Clarke and is now a bitter enemy.

All of which is a major headache for Tony Abbott, who complained that the party’s poor showing in NSW in 2010 was a direct result of the factional in-fighting and consequent delay in preselecting candidates. The party is particularly unhappy with this public airing of dirty laundry, with one lawyer yesterday anxiously approaching me to ask how many media were in court and where we were from.

One thing you could say for Joe Tripodi — at least his factional manoeuvring never reached a courtroom. If Antony Roberts and Chris Hartcher really want to be known as factional powerbrokers, they are going to have to learn to twist a few arms in private.

Justice William Nicholas will bring down his decision this afternoon.

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26 comments

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26 thoughts on “Abbott, O’Farrell look on as NSW Libs shoot for the foot

  1. B.C.

    It appears that the court has found in favour of Robertson FEC and against the Liberal Party.

  2. SBH

    “if the rules were changed it would enable more “grassroots participation” in community politics.”

    Of course it would, just like it dos in the ALP rotflmao

  3. Edward James

    It is really hard to promote these political clowns as the best tools to displace Labor. When they carry on like this in full view! Uncle Fester is loosing the plot almost as quick as he has lost supporters. Edward James

  4. Karen

    @ Edward James – have you considered that, perhaps, it is these political
    clowns (your words)
    that need to be displaced, given that you profess to sit in the middle
    by referring to both parties as ‘not much preferred’. Or, is it that you
    have always supported the Liberal Party and are too ashamed to admit
    to it?

  5. Recalcitrant.Rick

    It sounds like the use of the word “tools” in Edward James post
    describes them perfectly!

  6. Edward James

    @ Karen. I have no respect for our political allsorts while they continue to accommodate systemic abuse of my due process and corrupt conduct. There is a limit to what I can do on my own. But I do what I can. I noticed the Labor Party was copping a deserved beating Nationally from constituents who have simply had a gut full. I am more than happy to assist them with my own paid announcements in papers. Whatever it takes to help unhappy voters get rid of as many dead wood Labor Party members as possible. Ask those political Liberal clowns if I am a supporter, they will laugh in your face! And the same goes for Labor, they have never got over the really unflattering photo of their last AG John Hatzistergos which I keep publishing. I am doing what I can on my own. Crikey has been really good. Our council has a body count of five, they misled the state coroner during his inquiry. I have promulgated that assertion more times than I can count, over years. Only a very few people have taken any notice. I am limited in what I may write here. But believe me I do not hold back in several local papers. Edward James

  7. Edward James

    Too right Recalcitrant Rick. I started out cap in hand way back in 2000 Thinking all I needed to do was expose shonky conduct happening at Local council and it would be sorted in no time. I expect there are plenty of Crikey readers who know the score first hand. Why do so many people say let it go you will go broke it is destroying your life. Are they sincere or are that just trying to protect their favorite politician? Edward James

  8. AR

    As bad as the public face of MM & his unlovely cohort, this is an indication of the troglodytes and vermin roiling below the brittle surface, eager to break through.
    If Ballyhoo, Fatty O’Barrel & Campy Newman aren’t warning enough, then this country will get the government it deserves.
    Unfortunately, I’ll cop the electorate’s just desserts. And what a desert of decency it will be.

  9. Karen

    @ EdwardJames – given how bad the Libs have been across the Eastern seaboard, in particular, one would think you could also have devoted equal energy to ‘getting rid of the rotted, deadwood’ currently in office, I would have thought. The fact the you haven’t suggests you are a closet conservative. Why not admit it?

  10. Gavin Moodie

    Philip Ruddock and Bronwyn Bishop are not right wing enough for the hard right! They seem determined to make the Liberal Party as unelectable as the tea party Republicans.