Bronwyn Bishop wants to save us all from the forces of evil at Islamic State. How’s she going to do that? Does she hide a secret weapon under Australia’s favourite beehive? Is she going to Syria to shirtfront the elusive leader of IS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi? No, she wants another term in Parliament.
Only Bronny can keep us all safe, it seems.
Last month articles appeared in various newspapers about how Bishop’s local branch members from her electorate of Mackellar attended her Christmas party and listened besotted as to how she was cleared of any liability for the Choppergate scandal that cost her the speakership (and helped speed Tony on his way). Her branches, according to Bronny’s unnamed hagiographer, were unanimously behind her.
So why is Bishop being challenged for preselection? As with all things political, all is not what it seems.
Bishop almost had the Liberal powerbrokers bluffed as to her support, and they were lining up to give the 73-year-old one more term. That was until her local members got wind of the proposed deal between the prevailing factions dominating NSW Liberal politics: the moderates and the soft right. Her support among her loyal locals has dropped to as low as 25%. They believe her day is done, so it is her own branch members leading the charge to get her out. Her branches are revolting.
Bishop has always been a creature of the right — the hard right. The hard right has deserted her. Why? Two reasons. For some years now Bronny’s refrain each time an election cycle came along was “Just give me one more term”. She was rumoured to have done a deal with the right that should have allowed Senator Concetta “Don’t Mention the ABC” Fierravanti-Wells take Bronny’s seat in the House of Reps. But it has been alleged she may have reneged on this deal. Then she resisted standing down from the speaker’s role for so long she caused irreparable damage to the then-PM, Tony Abbott. Remember Tony — the ideological love-child of John Howard and Bronny? After his defending her for too long she had the temerity to vote against Tony in favour of Malcolm. That really pissed off the right.
So Bronny has burnt her bridges with the factions and can only watch as her votes head south. Who are her main challengers? There are a couple of non-entities, and then there’s Walter Villatora, who was Tony Abbott’s campaign manager and is the leading light in the push for plebiscites. Walter’s campaign got off to a big start last month when various media reported he was moving into Bronny’s electorate to take her on (that’s despite the NSW division’s rule against talking to the media). Then there’s the moderate candidate, Jason Falinski, who is a past president of the Young Liberals and now a senior adviser to a NSW government minister.
One scenario giving Mackellar-watchers the creeps is the possible result of a three-way contest in an exhaustive ballot. Assuming the other candidates drop out leaving just Bishop, Villatora and Falinski in the ring, there is potential for Villatora to come out on top, to the dismay of the factions. Should Falinski, who is favoured by the locals, drop out before Bishop, then the majority of his votes could flow to Villatora on the basis it would become an “anyone but Bronny” vote. That would result in Villatora being preselected — and that result would please almost no one except Walter himself.
The biggest problem for the voters of Mackellar is that the only person in Australia who sees Bronwyn as being relevant is Bronny herself. Among her locals she’s as popular as a Chokito bar in a swimming pool.