It’s getting to the pointy end of the Labor preselection for the seat of Wills and all signs point towards dirt being thrown in one direction — towards Peter Khalil, supported by Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and seen as the leader in the race. A pamphlet sent to Labor members in the electorate yesterday detailed his role as director of national security policy for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq in 2003, and quoted his views on the Israel/Palestine conflict. Featuring a picture of Khalil on a background of dripping blood, the brochure is entitled “The Truth”, but no one has owned up to being the distributor of the sheet.
While the dirt sheet on Khalil has focused on his work in the Iraq war, little attention has been paid by his rivals to his more recent employment history. Until mid-last year Khalil was the corporate affairs director at SBS. One of the organisation’s biggest fish, who frequently represented the broadcaster in Senate estimates and the like, Khalil left the organisation quietly after SBS’ ad averaging push failed in July 2015. He’d been one of its biggest proponents, but it was shot down in the Senate, with the Labor Party voting against it.
The battle to take over from Labor stalwart Kelvin Thomson has been mired in accusations of backroom deals between factional heavies, but there are some connections that haven’t been as obvious. Also working in the corporate affairs team at SBS under Khalil was Katerina Theophanous, daughter of former Victorian MP Theo Theophanous. While Khalil has no shortage of people in his corner — including Shorten and David Feeney — we understand that Theophanous Senior’s influence has been important for Khalil. While it was expected that factional bosses would bring in the numbers for Mehmet Tillem, we hear that his lack of outreach to members has put many offside in the electorate.